Advice for a couple looking to reconcile their city vs. country desires
Q: My girlfriend and I have only been together for about six months, but we already know that we’re going to make a life together, and we’re discussing marriage. The only problem is that I am passionately convinced that I need to live in a big city (such as the one where we live now), while she is adamant that she eventually needs to be someplace quieter and less stressful. We feel the way we do for professional reasons, as well as personal ones. She’s willing to go with my choice, for a time, as long as I return the favor later in life. And no, some kind of suburban compromise won’t do—it would just drive both of us equally crazy. But can we really make the time-splitting work? Is such a long-range plan realistic?
A: If you're beginning to consider marriage, it’s important to fully understand each other’s long-range goals and aspirations, and for each of you to decide what compromises you’re willing to make. Is it realistic for you to make the move your partner desires? Can you be content in a quieter living arrangement? And what would it take for you to make such a move? For example, if it’s important for your career to live in the city, could your career change enough to make living in a smaller town an acceptable choice? Also, what do each of you consider a realistic time frame for “returning the favor”? Make sure that your ideas about the timing of any moves are roughly the same.
As your relationship progresses, try to spend time with your girlfriend in her more ideal, quieter world. For example, if she grew up in a small town, go back with her for visits, and get a feel for what her desired future lifestyle really looks like. Is it what you envision when you imagine yourself making a move out of the city? Can you really see yourself in that world? Consider these questions carefully, but also remember that your relationship is relatively new. It’s easy to get carried away at this stage, so try not to rush into anything, least of all a lifetime commitment. Get to know each other better, talk about making a thoughtful plan, and give yourselves time to see where your careers are heading.
In the meantime, enjoy your courtship in your current living situation, and consider making small efforts to address her need for quiet. Seek out places that will calm a harried soul: homey restaurants, parks, gardens. If you are able to afford it, plan out-of-thecity getaways to country settings or other places of refuge, such as spas.
It also could be fun for the two of you to create your own country setting in the environment in which you spend the most time together at present. Some ideas to consider: Rugs and drapes help block out street noise; neighborhood gardens are great places to cultivate a green thumb; rooms filled with live plants nourish the spirit. You can hang artwork that promotes a pastoral feeling, paint the walls a soothing color, or even pick out a table setting that you would choose if you were furnishing a cabin.
Compromises that strike a balance between partners’ needs are the only way to successfully be together for the long haul. When it comes to reaching those compromises, and living peacefully in the interim, little gestures can make a very big difference.
Susan King is a wife and entrepreneur in Minneapolis, Minn.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.