Q: I am deeply in love and in a relationship with a man who is ten years older than me. Despite the age difference, we have a great time and lots of fun. My biggest problem with him is that I’m in my 20′s and life is just starting for me, but he has NO goals, NO ambitions, and NO passion. I appreciate that he is a hard worker, but he is constantly stuck in dead end jobs at minimum wage. He also has a culinary degree, but chooses to work small construction jobs here and there to make ends meet. I don’t understand him! He says he is past the age of dreaming and now he just wants to pay the bills. Finishing college and having a career along with a family is my number one priority and something I am working hard for. Is his lack of passion for life going to drag me down? I understand paying the bills is important, but following your dreams and personal journey (I feel) is waaaay more important.
When Your Boyfriend Isn’t Ambitious…
A: One of the key elements to a successful long-term relationship is compatible life goals. You and you boyfriend need to be on the same page with regard to careers, kids, location, and plans for the future. If you have lofty dreams and goals but your boyfriend just wants to live a quiet life, then yes, your boyfriend will drag you down.
And, you need to remember that your boyfriend’s values, opinions, and character traits will rub off on you. That’s why it’s incredibly important to know who you are and where you intend to go, and not let a relationship prevent you from living life fully.
I was once in love with a guy 11 years older than me, who had no ambition or motivation to do anything but work part-time with the post office. He said he wanted to be a writer, but he never moved ahead with it. My sister gave me some bad advice: she said to stay with that boyfriend even though he had no ambition at all. She likened him to a wall and me to a swimmer – I could push off him to achieve my own goals and dreams.
Fifteen years later, that boyfriend (who I broke up with shortly after my sister gave me that advice) is still doing nothing with his life. He is in the exact same position as he was back then – he hasn’t even taken a vacation outside his city. I’ve earned two university degrees, lived in Africa for three years, started businesses, wrote ebooks, went back to university (I’m pursuing my Master’s of Social Work at UBC), and gotten married. And traveled, and bought and sold a couple of houses.
If I wouldn’t stayed with him, I think I wouldn’t have achieved half the things I did – because we soak up the traits and values of the people we spend the most time with.
Will your boyfriend will drag you down because he’s not ambitious, or will he be your strongest supporter? Many successful men are married to women who aren’t ambitious in their own right, and yet the men are wildly wealthy and powerful. So, being attached to a partner who isn’t ambitious doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be held back…but your boyfriend’s lack of ambition will have an effect on you. I can’t predict what that effect will be.
You need to listen to your gut. What is your gut telling you about your boyfriend’s lack of ambition? Put all thoughts of love and how much fun you have with him aside for a few minutes, and think objectively about your goals for your future. And remember that following your gut can be painful and difficult in the short term, but it’s better in the long run.
While you’re finishing college, start thinking about what you want to do with your life. You have decades to pay bills, have kids, get married, and settle into a boring routine job. Right now is the time to LIVE and follow your heart! Go have adventures – move overseas, meet interesting people, explore the world, challenge yourself, take risks. Live as though this is your last year on earth…because it could be.
If you’re not sure what your goals and dreams are, read I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It by Barbara Sher — it’s excellent.
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For tips on staying “who you are” when you’re in love, read How to Be Yourself in Your Relationship – Self-Identity and Love.