Getting back in the groove after making a sacrifice
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My girlfriend of three years and I recently moved to another state because of her job. Financially it was the right decision and it was also a big step up in her career. It was a big change for both of us. Neither of us know anyone here, and we’ve had to start over completely. With her job, she’s made friends quickly, and seems not to have missed a beat. I moved because I love her, and want to be with her, but I feel like I’m the one making the sacrifices and she doesn’t get it. She stays at work late, and often goes out after with her colleagues. I’m invited, but it’s not really my scene. I’m still trying to find work, and haven’t really found my community here yet. I want her to make me a priority since I just gave up everything for her. How do I get her to understand?
Jeff: It sounds like you’re experiencing a bit of an identity crisis, having given up your job, friends and familiar surroundings. This can certainly cause some frustration and resentment, but blaming your girlfriend or expecting more from her as payback for your sacrifices might not be the best way to get your needs met. It would certainly be fair for you to share how lost or disconnected you’re feeling as a result of the move, but it also would be helpful for you to ask yourself if this is a familiar situation you find yourself in and if this is a pattern of behavior that you’ve experienced before.
Instead of expecting your girlfriend to rebuild your life for you or feeling like she owes you something for what you’ve given up, take some time and figure out what you need in order to thrive and flourish in this new situation. What can you do on your own and what specific things can you ask of her that would help you in your process? If this feels like a familiar pattern, you might consider that you may tend to depend on someone else to create comfort and soothing for you when things get messy — especially when you’ve agreed to the chaos.
Lori: Taking a leap of faith in a relationship, like starting life over somewhere new, can leave any partner feeling vulnerable. In her book “Daring Greatly,” Brené Brown explores how an imbalance of vulnerability can lead to tension in a relationship. When one partner feels more exposed than the other, there’s a natural desire for the vulnerable partner to level the playing field. But what’s key here is understanding that what you see as your and her levels of vulnerability is just perception. You’ve created a story of having everything to lose and her having everything to gain. And with this story, you’re creating a rationalization to pull away from her — to leave her as hurt and exposed and as vulnerable as you feel right now.
You loved this woman for three years, and felt confident enough in her and the relationship to relocate. So I ask you: What else could be the story? What if she’s completely vulnerable as well with having to prove herself in a new position — one that she’s scared to lose since she asked you to sacrifice everything for it? Or perhaps she loves you so deeply that she wants to be her best for you and your future: a hardworking, successful, healthy, go-getter. Or maybe instead of falling into your pity-party, she’s trying to invite you back into an alive and vivacious world. Be proud of her, find your own best self, and level the field by rising to meet her.
Lori and Jeff: It’s okay to feel a little lost or unsure, but it’s important for you to find your own feet. Invite her to be part of your journey without pressuring her to write the road map for your new life.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.