What happens when our ambitions don't match?

My boyfriend and I are thinking of getting engaged, but from our discussions of the future, we increasingly seem to be mismatched. I am pretty ambitious and want to work hard to create a good life, including condos, cars, etc. My boyfriend, however, wants a simple life and is satisfied without material rewards. My friends tell me how lucky I am to get such a down-to-earth guy, but I find myself wishing he had more drive in life and ambitions that match mine. I'm tired of being the leader in this relationship. I know we both love each other dearly, but is there really any future for two people with such different outlooks on life? --iVillager samy_09


Brenda Shoshanna

Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, therapist and certified divorce and family mediator. She has written five books, including Zen and the... Read more

Two people can love each other dearly, respect and admire each other and yet not be suited for a marriage. The most important aspect of a good, long-standing marriage is having mutual goals, values and directions. That ensures that the two of you will be moving in the same direction and will be able to offer each other companionship and support (not opposition) along the way.

Many people decide to marry hoping that they will change the person, or that in time, because the person loves them so much, they will decide to change themselves. This seldom happens. Sometimes a person does grow or change, but never because someone else wants them to. Personal growth and development only arise from an individual's experiences and can take many years to unfold.

Next: The Negative Effects of Mis-matched Ambitions -- on Both Partners

To enter marriage -- or any long-term relationship -- with the hope of changing your partner is a great mistake that can cause friction, conflict, and frustration within the relationship and feelings of low self-worth for your partner. When you feel your mate is not the kind of person you want to be with, the other person feels that nothing they do can ever make you happy. But there may be nothing basically wrong with your mate -- just with this particular match. In fact, your mate could very well make someone else quite happy, and you could be satisfied as well with someone who had more of the qualities that you want in a relationship.

What you need and want in a marriage is not there in your present situation. If you realize this now, you will save the both of you a lot of grief and struggle later on. Make sure you let your partner know that this has nothing to do with your love for him but that your life forces are pointed in different directions. There is a beautiful saying that goes, "Love is wanting for the other what he wants for himself, even though you may not be the one able to give it to him."

More expert advice for your relationship problems:

Do you have a question for the Relationship Saver? Join Dr. Shoshanna on the Relationship Saver message board and bi-monthly chat (every other Monday at 8pm ET).

Need Advice?
Get answers from iVillage experts and other moms just like you!
Question Details
  1. Pick a subject:
Connect with 1,039,394 members just like you
Share your knowledge, ask questions.