Dear Trish: Manage these challenges and your relationship is likely to be all the stronger for it
PROBLEM: I have been in a relationship for the past three years and we are now planning to get married and have a family. I met my partner online and when we met, he told me about his work, which was an area I knew little about, but it sounded very interesting. However, after a few dates in restaurants and bars I started to notice a pattern: a number of people were looking at us and on occasion we would be approached by strangers.
It turns out that I am dating a minor celebrity. Most of my family and friends had never heard of him, but others had very strong opinions about him. In the past few months his work has become very intense and the spotlight has been firmly on him. I have always been a private person and I really don’t like any extra attention.
My partner’s approach to his career makes him quite a divisive character. Those who know of him either hold him in high regard or feel it is their right to berate him at any given opportunity. He says that he really doesn’t mind “what people think and that it goes with the territory” and tries not to let it interfere with his life. He is very protective of me when we are in public and will avoid having in-depth conversations with strangers. However, on rare occasions he will engage in brief exchanges, some of which can turn unpleasant. I find it very upsetting to hear people critiquing his work, and equally I don’t like seeing people fawning over him.
I have recently almost stopped going out in public with him. Our wedding is in a few months and I am just worried that as his career grows, which I hope it does, we will be the constant focus of public attention every time we leave our home.
Recently I have been approached by the leading company in my field of work and have been offered a job in the UK that comes with an attractive salary and an exciting challenge. My partner is really encouraging and supportive and says that he will go wherever I go. He has already circulated his CV and it seems that he will have no difficulty in securing a really good job. He is also highly unlikely to become so well known.
This is a very difficult decision. I had never really thought about emigrating before and I have weighed up the pros and cons and there are both benefits and drawbacks, but the thoughts of anonymity are winning out. I just don’t know if it is fair to take my partner away from his parents, siblings and colleagues just because I dislike public attention.
ADVICE: Your letter is interesting in that it highlights some of the challenges of relationship – your partner may have involvements in people, work or hobbies that you find difficult. These challenges usually offer a kind of test of the relationship and if this can be managed or overcome, then the relationship is likely to be the stronger for it. Your partner seems to be very clear that he puts the relationship first: he monitors his behaviour in public when he is with you and he is willing to move countries in order to facilitate your career.
Your challenge is to handle your own thoughts and anxiety about his willingness to change his life for you. You are not making him do anything. He is choosing to move countries with you, and he seems to be confident of securing a good job if he does so. You are not responsible for his actions, but you are responsible for your own responses and thoughts.
No doubt, this relationship will challenge your desire for privacy again in the future and then it will be your turn to be the bigger person and to accept that this is what your future husband attracts, and you will have to learn to tolerate it. Love always stretches us; we have to consider someone other than ourselves and there is always some level of sacrifice involved, but this is not usually difficult for us as we get such pleasure from seeing our loved ones thrive and succeed.
You are lucky to be offered this opportunity in term of your career, and doubly lucky that your partner is willing and capable of making this move with you. The need is to enjoy this time and relish your success. Feeling guilty and being afraid that your partner might regret this move in the future is futile – if the relationship is strong, you will both face this difficulty should it arrive and overcoming this fear will be a huge contribution to your future marriage.
Trust in your partner and in your own ability to make decisions and enjoy what life presents to you in the knowledge that you have a robust relationship that will support you.