Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

My boyfriend of one year and a few months (we dated in 2019, broke up, and then got back together because he was in the military and gone) and I have been fighting a bit recently. My entire family (parents, sister, and niece) just picked up and moved to another province. I’ve always wanted to move out of my city to somewhere warmer with more fitness-permitting weather, but he refuses. My parents offered to let us move into their basement suite until we got our feet off the ground, and I would’ve quit my job immediately if not for him not wanting to.

I traveled a ton growing up and want to go backpacking more around the world, move to a new city and live the beach life I’ve always dreamed of. He’s a small-town farm boy who said that even a year of traveling would be “abandoning” his family, so I’m torn. He doesn’t want to leave friends or family ever. I’ve always dreamed of getting out of my city and pursuing my dreams, but I love him and have seen a future with him (marriage, kids, etc.). Whenever I mention the province, he gets upset and thinks I’m going to leave him. I offered to compromise and move somewhere totally random where neither of our families are, just to experience something new, and that’s off the table, too. I have seasonal depression, and moving would greatly help me (I feel), but he thinks that’s a dumb reason. It’s tense now. I just feel a little lost and sad that this just might not work out because we’ve talked of marriage and life together, but it might not mesh. Help!

Signed, Wanting More

Dear, Wanting More

I very much relate to the position you’re in. I’m from a small suburban town just outside of Orlando. Most of the people I went to high school with still live in our hometown, including my high school sweetheart. But as long as I can remember, I’ve never pictured myself creating a life in the same town I was born.

I ended up moving away, and it was the best decision I ever made. I went to college in California. After college, I traveled the world. I lived in China, Spain, South Korea, and France. Of course, that all sounds fun, but it was a scary decision to make. I followed my dreams anyway because there’s one motto I’ve always lived by: I never want to wake up at 50 or 60 years old and wonder “what if?”

“What if I’d traveled when I wanted to?”

“What if I moved out of my hometown?”

Regret is a heavy thing to live with that you can’t undo. I can sense, just from how you wrote your question, that you feel the same way I did. You crave not just adventure but to expand your worldview. Not everyone wants that for their life. Some people are okay with things remaining the same. It’s something that people like you and I have a hard time relating to. But it doesn’t make us right and them wrong. It’s simply that people want different things out of life.

It’s not easy to admit that you and one of the people you love most want different things. But at some point, you have to admit this for the sake of your happiness. Your boyfriend is steadfast about staying in your hometown, and if you did the same, you’d be giving up so much. You’d give up going to this new town with your family. You’d give up scratching the itch for traveling. You’d give up seeing the world outside of what you’ve always known.

The thought of leaving your boyfriend might hurt, but ask yourself what would feel worse: the pain of getting through a breakup or the resentment that would build over the years from not living the life you’d imagined for yourself?

Look, I’m not saying that you should break up with your boyfriend right at this moment. Have another talk with him. Explain that traveling the world is something you value. Try to come up with a compromise. Maybe that’s you doing some solo travel. Or maybe your boyfriend and you can live somewhere new for a few months.

Relationships need compromise. If he isn’t willing to help you fulfill your dreams by meeting you in the middle, that’s not fair to you. Just from what you said, your boyfriend’s words and decisions seem a bit selfish (although very much guided by fear). It’s one thing for him to worry about losing you, but he can’t keep you a prisoner in your hometown and expect your love to flourish.

Love isn’t enough to make a relationship work. I once thought I’d marry and have children with my high school sweetheart, but that didn’t happen. We had wildly different visions for our futures. We did each other a favor by letting the other go. We found partners who wanted the same things as us.

Sometimes, the hardest decisions are the right ones. From the way you asked your question, it sounds like you know what the right decision is.

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