Moises: Will having different values ever work?

R: Hi, Singlestalk. My girlfriend and I are so different. She’s a nurse and is working on her papers to settle permanently abroad. I’m the eldest in the family and we have a successful business here in Cebu. I’m taking over when my dad retires. She’s not thinking about settling down until she’s 35. We’re both 25. That’s still 10 long years and I’m just waiting for her to be ready. I’m pretty stable enough to start a family. But there are still a lot of things that she still wants to do for her family like letting her brothers finish school, or building a house for her folks. Even our religious beliefs are fundamentally different. We’re now in our second year and these differences are creating friction. Is there a future for two people taking two seemingly diverse paths?

DJ: The best relationships I know are between two people who can be themselves. Being different from each other is a chance to look at things in a new way. Any healthy relationship involves compromise. Relentlessly trying to change another person to fit one’s ideal, though, is a tough battle to win. Just my opinion. What’s challenging about changing one’s core values is the reality that there is no right or wrong way. It’s just that they’re deeply rooted. But I am seeing an overlap in your situation which is cool. She isn’t settling down soon because she loves her family. You’re not leaving the country because you value your family. Love of family is an area you both share. Work from there.

How willing are you, for instance, to postpone your goal of getting married? How open is she about sustaining a family in the Philippines? Differences can derail a relationship if these are areas where they are held very strongly by you or by both of you. Is the exchange mostly friendly rather than combative? Or are they highlighting your ability and willingness to talk through these diversities? Does she have lots of other qualities that you are attracted to?

I once mentioned a relationship I shared with a celebrity. We obviously loved each other. However, she felt that what we had was at the expense of her career. And it was important for her. She dreamed about it all her life. Needless to say, she chose to leave in the end. It was the worst heartbreak ever. But now in hindsight, I can say it is okay. We’re separately growing and are becoming better persons given the diverse paths we chose.

When a relationship is starting, both parties are usually willing to make some sacrifices. But since the relationship has been going on for two years, you may not always see fireworks like you did in the early stages of your relationship. Don’t freak out. But hopefully you are not feeling that you are giving up more than your partner. While love ideally is unconditional, it is economics, too. Giving up too much can eat the relationship away. It can also lead to feelings of being exhausted and unhappy.

I suggest you both talk about your relationship expectations and ways you can support one another. Then work from there. Values are different from interests. If you like to watch “Darna” and she prefers “Lolong,” you can always enjoy the series separately. But if you’re stubborn about having children and she’s firm about not having one for example, that can be a problem. Respectful differences are healthy. To alter someone’s belief to stay healthy is not.

Weigh the similarities against the differences and see whether the balance is one you can both work with. Opposites attract but they don’t always have staying power. However, if both of you can also get past these somewhat unsettling realities, you’re more likely to be ready to have a happy, fulfilling lifelong partnership. You’re still dating. Get to know more about each other. Take this chance at long-term happiness.