There are points in all of our lives where we come to major life decisions that will greatly impact our future – switching jobs, moving to another city or country, or making some radical change in our everyday lifestyle.
For all the new opportunities, pursuing them often involves some degree of sacrifice. When faced with these choices alone, we are often told to follow our instinct and choose the option we feel will make us happy. But in a serious relationship, such decisions no longer affect just one person.
Here are some things to consider before taking the leap.
Take an honest look at the relationship
If you’re involving your partner in serious life decisions, chances are the relationship is already quite serious. But this may be the time to answer – definitively – the question of how committed you really are. Ask yourself – can I see myself with this person in 5, 10 years? Be brutally honest with your answer.
Remember, some relationships can ‘coast’ for years, with vague doubts at the back of your mind. Critical decision points are a good time to face any such doubts and evaluate whether it’s worth the investment you’re about to make.
Uncover who has more at stake
You might have to adjust to a longer commute or switch gym memberships so that your spouse can pursue their career or be closer to an ailing family member. It’s easy to determine whose needs are more pressing here. But often the comparison is not so clear-cut.
Try not to underestimate the the sacrifice you may be asking your partner to make. Make absolutely sure that you are both on the same page and understand each other’s needs. The only way to do this is by talking – and being completely honest! If there’s a problem, you need to tackle it well before resentment can set in.
Analyze past decisions
It’s one thing to say that a couple should weigh up the consequences of bog life decisions together. But if these decisions keep favoring one partner over the other, there might be a deeper problem.
Perhaps you are always the one making the sacrifice, afraid of risking the relationship. How does your partner feel? A power imbalance where one partner’s needs always take precedence is dangerously unhealthy.
Be open to negotiation
If one partner’s career is more demanding, for example, it would help to work out a long-term plan so that both partners feel they are having their needs met and respected. For example, if your partner’s career always takes priority when relocating, how about devoting part of your joint budget to allow you to travel to see your family frequently?
And while reciprocity may not involve making the same kinds of sacrifices for each other, it shouldn’t involve keeping score and engaging in “tit-for-tat” retaliations either. The important thing is that both partners approach major decisions together. and are equally invested in each other’s happiness with the result.
Consider expert help
Finally, it’s important to clearly understand your own thoughts and feelings. If you are experiencing both practical doubts about the decision at hand and deeper doubts regarding your relationship, the two may run together in your mind, making it hard to approach the problem. A good therapist can help you untangle these strands, and deciding to seek counseling together with your partner could make future joint decisions that much easier.
By Katherine Caputo, Google Author