Here are four compatibility tests to identify conflicting life and career goals in your relationship.
In Hugh Lofting’s classic Dr. Dolittle books, the Pushmi-Pullyu is a cross between a unicorn and a gazelle. The poor creature has heads at opposite ends of its body. When it tries to move, each head starts off in the direction it faces-resulting in gridlock and frustration.
It’s a funny image, but also sad-especially when you consider how many relationships can be described in exactly these terms: two heads facing in opposite directions, neither able to move forward without requiring their partner to walk backward. For the Pushmi-Pullyu, it was a matter of anatomy, not subject to mere compromise. Likewise, some relationships start off with a structural imbalance that is a blueprint for conflict down the road.
In the early stages of romance, that may seem trivial. Chemistry often trumps deeper compatibility. “It will all work itself out,” we tell ourselves. It is true that genuine love can smooth out the rough edges as a relationship matures. But it’s wise to be realistic about what those rough edges are made of before you begin a lifelong journey together. Conflicting goals that seemed unimportant early on can come back with a vengeance as the relationship mellows with time.
That doesn’t mean you should abandon ship at the first sign that you and your partner have differing dreams and priorities. You may well find trade-offs that work for you. The point is, you are unlikely to see effective compromises unless you look for them. Ignoring a mismatch from the outset is asking for trouble. To avoid that, here are four important elements to examine:
Work. When both partners hope to succeed in a demanding career, it is not uncommon to reach an impasse in which one must defer to the other. Take a hard look at the ways in which your professional lives complement or conflict with one another.
Location. If your dream is to live in a cabin in the woods and your partner wants the bright lights of city life, you may be like the proverbial bird in love with a fish: Where will you make a home?
Finances. This point covers more territory than simply how to manage your money. Your philosophy about material prosperity in general can either unite or divide a new relationship. What do you each believe about the relative value of time and money? Do you share values about conspicuous consumption? When is enough “enough”? What is your attitude about giving: how much and to whom?
Politics. Many successful couples have peacefully coexisted coming from opposing ends of the political spectrum. They agree to disagree. However, not all political issues are so easily set aside. Identify incendiary topics early on and be sure you can live with your partner’s stance on them.
Here’s the bottom line: If achieving your long-term dreams and goals in life requires your partner to abandon his or hers-or vice versa-proceed with caution. Life as a Pushmi-Pullyu will be filled with struggle and strain.