I have been with my boyfriend for two and a half years. We now live together and both work full-time jobs, do well financially, love to travel together, plan the future (marriage, home, kids) and according to our friends, we are a great couple. I'm 24 and he is 26 and we are happy, however I've been feeling more frustrated lately about certain things. We disagree about spending money. While we do have a joint account that we use for rent, bills, and groceries, we have separate accounts for our own needs. He doesn't spend much and does not see the value of anything material — he thinks shopping for expensive things is ridiculous and feels we can do more with our money than purchasing beautiful handbags, shoes and accessories. I love fashion and shopping. I have no debt and I pay my credit cards in full. There are times I need to rein in my self-control when I see something out of budget, but I never shop beyond my means.
Another area is health. I am definitely careful about what I eat and have maintained a healthy weight since high school. I love chocolate, the occasional fries, and indulging when going out. He's the opposite. He wants to eat the healthiest foods at all times and never eats fried or fatty foods when we go out. If I cook something too high in butter or too salty, he asks if I will cook with less next time. He also pushes me to exercise so I can stay healthy. I take two to three workout classes a week, and I feel that is enough for me.
Overall, he just wants me to be the best I can be. He's a very smart person with three degrees from Stanford and a great job. He loves his family, he's a good friend, and he truly does care about me; it's just that he is critical without realizing that what he says makes me feel pressure to be perfect. He really sees it as helping me, and always asks me to help him be better in any way.
I want this relationship to work. I've thought about breaking up, but I break down just thinking about it — I love him a lot and I know he loves me too. Is there any way to make this work? What should I do? — Feeling the Pressure Pamela
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Dear Feeling the Pressure Pamela,
I don't blame you for questioning your relationship. As we all know, no one is perfect, so when you're dating someone that wants you to be just that, it can feel incredibly overwhelming, even leaving you critical of yourself for no good reason. Everyone has different opinions on materialism, but the fact of the matter is you're entitled to do whatever you please with your own money. If you're paying your bills on time, and not dipping into your shared account or retirement funds, I don't see what the problem is. Treating yourself to nice things, if you can afford them, is perfectly normal if you ask me.
My concern here, Pamela, is your boyfriend's issues with control. It's very clear from his strict eating/working out regimen that he's disciplined and he's trying to push you to be the same way. Giving into your vices every once in a while is healthy — that's what makes life fun!
If you want this relationship to work, he must understand how you feel and what it is that makes you tick. Having such a controlling boyfriend will only lead to greater problems down the road so it's imperative to get to the bottom of these issues sooner than later. If your likes and dislikes stray too far from one another, this relationship just might not be the right fit. While love is extremely important, compatibility is really what it takes to have a successful relationship. Good luck.