I had dinner with a friend from school the other night. She's from a small town in upstate New York and had never eaten in a kosher restaurant before, so we decided it was high time! It was funny because she was telling me that a) her boyfriend didn't believe that we didn't mix meat and dairy, and b) her mother was very concerned about what kind of food would be offered in such a restaurant. She assured them that the food would be normal.
We had a very interesting conversation, with a wide range of topics. She's a full-time student, so she is already doing her internship. She is training in an inner-city high school in the city. The stories she told me about the issues she has to deal with are absolutely mind-blowing. I know I lead a sheltered life, but our conversation just drove that fact home further. I don't even want to delve into the details, because some of them really terrify me. It really is scary and horrible what some kids go through. I was incredibly fortunate.
Then we started talking about her relationship with her boyfriend. They have been together for 5-1/2 years now. He was her first, and has been her only, boyfriend in her life. They have been living together for the past year and a half, since they moved to the city together after college.
She would like to get married and start a family. He won't discuss it. He says he's not ready to think about it, that they have plenty of time. He has all kinds of future plans for his career, but he won't even talk about their future. She is starting to get nervous that their visions for the future don't really coincide, but she is admittedly scared to really dig in and find out.
She doesn't really like living in NY very much; she really wouldn't want to raise a family here. His career plans basically depend on him living here and he doesn't have any plans to leave the area. She would like to start a family in the next few years; he thinks it can wait for another 15 or so. She wants to get married. He won't talk about getting engaged.
In the past, he has made his decisions about where to go to college and work based on what he wanted to do. She followed him and made her decisions based on what he wanted to do. No prior discussion, no compromises. He made up his mind, she followed.
She loves him; he's all she knows. She doesn't have so many friends, she hasn't met that many people in the city. A lot of her friendships from high school have faded.
She's starting to realize that things aren't so good, that their visions and hopes and plans for the future don't really coincide. That she cares more than he does. That while he probably loves her, she doesn't know what he would do if she put her foot down and made a move based on what she really wants, or pushed him to make a real commitment.
But she's scared. She kind of knows, but she doesn't want to know. She doesn't want to force a discussion because she's afraid of where it will leave her. She knows a break-up would hurt like hell and she's scared that she would never move on, never meet anyone else. And because she doesn't have so many friends here, she knows she would have a really hard time.
We talked about it for a long time. I obviously can't tell her what to do, and I wouldn't want to. But I did emphasize the fact that what she wants is important, that she is important, and that she can't just allow all of her priorities and dreams be swept away because he doesn't want them. We spoke about the fact that, at some point, they are going to have to discuss their future and their plans, and that she has to be ready to know what she can and can't compromise on when they do. And that yes, break-ups suck and she has to be ready to deal with the possibilty of it and she has to be willing to go through with it before she forces the conversation, because it's a possibility that breaking up will be the outcome.
She asked me about living alone, as I've done a lot in my life. I told her that yes, it can get lonely. But it also gives a person a sense of independence and pride in oneself.
I was actually happy to hear that she has been thinking about these things. We'd never had such an open discussion before, but from what she had told me about their relationship in the past, I had been concerned. And I told her that. I'm still concerned because I think, no matter what ends up happening, it's probably not going to be an easy, fun road ahead and she is going to have to make some difficult decisions.
Update I got an email earlier this evening from my friend. She said after our conversation, she got brave and had a not-so-easy discussion with her boyfriend about her needs and desires and compromises. And she said it went better than she expected - they are now on the same page with things and she feels a lot better. Things aren't perfect, but she was happy to have had the discussion. And I am very happy for her.