Q: My girlfriend and I have been together for almost a year and are moving in together. She’s younger (27 to my 33), but because she’s more mature than I was at 27, I’ve overlooked it — until now. We started the move-in process at the end of summer, after I was stressed because of repeated family visits. She understood, but instead of offering to wait a few weeks, she kept pushing to look at apartments. I worry she’s so eager that she’ll ignore my needs. And now I’m still stressed and slated to move in with her. Argh! All I want is a few weeks of hikes on the weekend and eating right during the week, not scrambling to pack and find movers. She’s good at compromise, but if we got this far with me being stressed 24/7, can I trust future compromises? And if I can’t trust her and am so nervous about this move, should I be in this relationship?
Butterflies or Warning Signs?
A: The person you need to trust at compromising is you. You’re the one who agrees to the terms, or doesn’t agree and holds out for what you need.
You told her you were stressed, she said she understood … and didn’t offer “to wait a few weeks,” OK. But did you ask her to? Did you articulate what you needed, or did you stop at saying how you felt? And did you take her (non)response as the last word?
This is the core of every compromise you will make in life — not just the one you were looking for now in this situation with this girlfriend. You need to decide on the minimum you will agree to; think of what you’re willing to offer (if anything) in exchange for that; speak for yourself accordingly; and then not accept less than your minimum — with the full understanding that it might cost you in other ways.
In this case, that would have meant: deciding you were not ready to undertake a move and needed a few weeks to catch your breath; committing to be all-in as soon as the rest time was up; and stating these two points clearly to your girlfriend.
Then, if she kept pushing you, you would have: kindly but firmly acknowledged her urgency and her reasons for it; asked her to respect your needs nonetheless because you wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t important; and refused to give in on your baseline request of waiting until X date to start apartment-hunting with her.
In a relationship, that is the way you keep your priorities and sense of self from being swamped by your partner’s.
If the price of holding the line where necessary is a breakup or, worse, a soul-sucking, peace-of-mind killing, good-time erasing, endlessly recurring argument, then that’s your indication that you two don’t fit, because you aren’t able to give each other what you need while getting your own needs met.
None of this is about her maturity or trustworthiness in forging a compromise. Each of us is the author, ultimately, of any arrangement we agree to just by virtue of agreeing to it.
So if you’ve found yourself caught in a rush to move against your will, then, yes, that could be a sign you shouldn’t be “in this relationship” — not because of your girlfriend herself, but because you’re not (yet?) willing or able to stand up for what you need and invite the consequences, whatever they may be.
Washington Post Writers Group