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I’m in a new, exciting relationship, but I’m beginning to realize that perhaps we are incompatible because of our incredibly different lifestyles. Yet, I’m still so drawn to this person. Should we continue dating?
I have a theory that most couples are unlikely couples. That it is actually pretty common, at least at a relationship’s beginning, for there to be significant differences over politics or philosophy or theology or hobbies or housecleaning or whatever. Here is stuff that looks as though it ought to be a deal breaker. And yet, here also is a gravity that draws and keeps couples together — at least for a while.
The unlikely couples who last beyond the first three or six months of wild infatuation — beyond that time, to use your language, R, of being so drawn to one another — are the ones of who decide that what they gain by being together is greater than what it costs them to be together. And thus, they commit to the hard and ongoing work of managing their differences. They learn the skills that every couple must learn if they hope to celebrate anniversaries with two digits in them: how to negotiate, how to share responsibility, how to compromise.
So, how do you decide if this person is worth the hard work of making your two incredibly different lifestyles merge? Well, I don’t think that there is a secret except to keep on dating, to spend a bunch of time together. (Given how drawn the two of you are to one another, that shouldn’t be a hardship.) Try out some of the incredibly different things that your new flame is into. And find out if he or she is invested enough in you to be willing to try out the equally incredibly different things that are part of your life.
Then ask some of your friends — the ones whom you really trust — what they think about your new boyfriend or girlfriend and about the effect that he or she is having on you. Ask yourself the same questions. Is this relationship making you shine, does it make your step lighter, does it make you a more generous and compassionate and happy person? Or does it kind of weigh you down? Imagine different futures. Is a scenario in which this relationship is over a relief? Or, by contrast, does the picture of the two of you together for the long haul make your heart sing?
As you and this new person in your life continue your explorations, hold things lightly. Maybe the two of you will be together years from now. And maybe not. Either way, that’s OK. While finding out that he or she might be your long-term partner would be wondrous news, there is also goodness and growth and joy in simply spending a while with someone to whom you are deeply drawn, someone who is a whole lot of fun and with whom you learn about yourself and about God and about life. That’s the sort of person upon whom you will look back years from now and say: we couldn’t have been more incredibly different. But the experiences that we had together, the stories that we shared. What a gift those days were. What a gift they remain.
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