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I officially came out about a year ago. I dated a few girls until I met my girlfriend. We’ve been together almost a year, and my emotional and physical connection to her is amazing; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. As we are approaching a year, however, I’m starting to realize that logically, we are total opposites. Finding her made me realize I wanted a family someday when I never did before; in one breath she says this is what she wants, and the next she is saying the type of life she wants to lead isn’t one where children would work (traveling, moving from place to place, etc.). I’ve always known that I needed someone who was better with finances than myself, yet I fell for a girl who can’t get this part of her life in order. No matter what I suggest she do (and I’ve held back a lot) she always has an excuse about why that won’t work — it’s like she’s not willing to change this. And since I want a child and it’s absolutely going to cost us money, this concerns me. The list really, truly goes on unfortunately. So here I am, absolutely smitten with a girl who, when I look at it logically, probably isn’t right for what I want. I feel like I answer my own question over and over, but I need guidance and someone else to tell me I’m not crazy. Or maybe tell me I am crazy. Do I pass up this amazing love that I’ve been waiting forever for? Or do I spend my life wishing things would change when they might not (and probably won’t)?
Hello. You should break up with your girlfriend. I know. Stay with me.
The minute you start to worry about all the life stuff together is the minute it starts being relevant. In some relationships, this happens almost instantly. In others, it never happens at all. There are plenty of healthy relationships between partners who only agreed to be partners because they’d established they want the same things in the areas they consider important. And there are so many healthy relationships that never look forward, that opt out of the relationship escalator, that are content to stay at the same level — still growing forward as people and together, but not necessarily growing more enmeshed. Both these scenarios are fine and can be beautiful but they are not yours. You’ve been together a while, and from the boxes you are concerned about checking — children, finances, the type of life you each want to lead and what that might look like together, enmeshed — the problem is this: your relationship and your girlfriend have been working for you so far, but you don’t know whether they’re going to work in the future. It sounds like to move forward, one of you either has to resign themselves to living a sort of life they don’t want, or you have to break up.
Here is what will happen if you stay together: you will still be together, for weeks or months or years or decades. You are smitten now, but being smitten is not enough to make up for giving up so many other things you want. Resentment will, sooner or later, overtake your love and your relationship and your life. That amazing physical and emotional connection will wither. You will see your girlfriend as holding you back, as stopping you from living your best life — and if you’re hesitating to leave now, after a year, imagine how you will feel in two or five or ten more, when you’ve rearranged your life and goals around this person who, “logically, probably isn’t right for what [you] want.” You might find a way to make this situation work, but you might never be truly happy or satisfied or content with either your relationship or your life. You will still break up eventually, but you will be so much more enmeshed, and you will talk yourself out of it time and again because of sunk costs or because of how hard it will be or because you just don’t know what to do next, and it will be so, so much harder.
Here is what will happen if you break up: it is going to suck. It is going to suck so much. You are going to have to look across the table at the person you love most in the world and tell her that you shouldn’t be together any more because you have different answers to different life questions and you’re ready to consider those questions. (You do not need to be ready to act on them, but a certain point knowing in your heart that, say, you have a different opinion on having children than your partner becomes too much to handle.) She may or may not agree. You are going to cry, and she is going to cry, and the second the words are out there you are going to wish you could put them back in your mouth because anything seems better than facing all the feelings you’re suddenly having. Face them. Pack up your life together. Do the hard scary thing. When you are faced with it, when it is happening, it is amazing how easy the hard scary thing can be.
My ex-partner and I had a ten-year age difference, and before we had our very first date we had already discussed, in brief, the big things that would end us — for her, maybe wanting to have kids soonish, while I do not, and for me, being poly and kinky, while she is not. I am grateful that we did not let these discussions stop us from dating and living together for almost three years, because our relationship shaped the person I am and want to become and because I will always hold the best of what we had together in my heart, but I am also so so grateful we broke up when we did, because at a certain point you have to admit you know who you are and what you want even if that means not knowing who you are and what you want, and you have to go for it, for your life, as hard as you can.
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