Tell Me About It: ‘Our choices are limited and she is rushing for a decision’
PROBLEM: I am six months into a very serious relationship. We have seen each other nearly every day since we started dating each other. I love her and she loves me, but the problem is she is from New Zealand and we have limited time before we have to save thousands of euros for her to either emigrate here or I move to New Zealand.
I am worried we are not being adults about this and it’s causing tension, arguments and its affecting our relationship. Our choices are limited and she is rushing a decision – I believe it to be because she doesn’t want this to end and needs me to decide what we are going to do as soon as possible.
ADVICE: The difficulty here is that you are trying to make a decision without enough experience or information to support it.
In the normal trajectory of a relationship, you would get to know each other, introduce each other to your families and social groups and gradually take the steps into deepening the relationship.
Your own experience of each other, combined with positive reinforcement from your community of people, leads eventually to an easy decision to commit to each other.
Your current decision is hard because it is based, at least somewhat, on a guess and it means that there will be an imbalance built into the relationship at an early stage. One of you will have to give up home, family and lifestyle to commit to the other and this means that one person is risking a lot more in order for the relationship to proceed.
In this situation, the person taking the risk needs lots of reassurance that this uncertainty is worth taking and that the reward might be worth it.
If you love each other, as you claim, then spending time finding out about your partner’s needs should be a pleasure not a threat
We need fairness in our relationships so discussions need to be had about how both person’s needs can be met by the relationship over time, eg if one person sacrifices for the other now will the other’s requests and needs take priority at a later stage? You question your ability to behave in an adult way and I wonder if this is where we want everything and are unwilling to sacrifice anything – as in a childhood tantrum?
Loving always involves sacrifice, eg where one person gives up money for another to succeed or one gives up their time so that the other is supported. Usually we do not suffer for this but rather delight in watching the loved one doing well from our efforts.
Adults know that anything worth having will be demanding of us and it will require us to commit time and energy to its development.
The point at which you are at is not a competition where one person wins and the other loses. A strong couple needs to support whichever person has the greater need at the time. If you are a genuine couple, then you both need to get behind the insecurity of your girlfriend. There may be many causes behind her insecurity and while you say your options are limited, perhaps now is a time to slow down and investigate how much of the rush to have your lives sorted is actually about this relationship.
From what you say both of you feel unlistened to and neither of you feel that the other really understands how difficult their position is – so you continue to argue. If you do not have enough information to make your decision, then you need to gain more knowledge of why this is such a crisis and that requires questioning and real listening.
Many couples manage their relationship through lots of upheavals including working in different countries or one person studying abroad for a period of time
If you love each other, as you claim, then spending time finding out about your partner’s needs should be a pleasure not a threat. What are you afraid of by engaging with her fears? Is it that you will feel over responsible for her happiness if she continues to struggle?
It is worth noting that we (as adults) are responsible for our own happiness and if she believes that you are the answer to her worries, she will find only disappointment and suffering ahead.
However, it is your job to help your loved one to come to self-awareness and understanding and one of the main ways of doing this is through communication: questioning and listening.
If you do not engage with her out of our own fear of being burdened, then both of you will be paralysed by fear and the relationship will end.
Many couples manage their relationship through lots of upheavals including working in different countries or one person studying abroad for a period of time. It requires lots of commitment, loyalty and love but it can be done if both are willing to put in the effort.
You are now at this crossroads and while you may not have quite the information you need to make such a decision you nonetheless have to take action, otherwise it is over.