My partner and I want different things from life

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you

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My partner and I want different things from life

What happens when your partner wants different things from life? It can force one into agonising decisions. We help a reader find the right words to start a conversation.

Q. I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years, but we share a very different view about how we want life to turn out. He wants to move to Japan permanently, and I don’t feel like this is for me. All of my family and friends live in the UK. I love him, I really do, and this is killing me on the inside. I don’t want to leave my family behind, but I also can’t stand the thought of us separating. I have suffered from depression for around five years, and this is really starting to take its toll on me. Name supplied

A. I can feel within myself the urge to wave a magic wand and make these feelings go away for you. However, I suggest being stuck is not necessarily a bad thing. If the frustration could speak, it would say ‘pay attention here, this really matters’.

My invitation is to approach gently, like taming a frightened kitten, rather than chasing the stuck feelings away. If I understand this correctly, you’ve been suffering from depression for the entire time that you’ve been in this relationship, but things feel as if they are coming to a head now. In your longer letter, you ask, ‘Where do my hopes and dreams fit into all this?’ – the fact that you are starting to ask that question sounds encouraging, but perhaps you will need practice to find the right words.

The Relate website suggests a structure for emotionally charged conversations. Person A speaks for a minute using words which begin with ‘I feel…’, then person B reflects back exactly what they heard and asks, ‘What was the most important thing that you wanted me to hear?’ The process has several other steps, and is then reversed, so you each get a chance to speak and be heard. Don’t be afraid of tears, they are another signal that this matters. If the relationship is not ready for this, the website also offers online, phone or face-to-face contact with counsellors. By writing to me, you have shared some of this inner torment with the outer world – now you have started, please continue.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

Photograph: Getty