Aligned values are an important factor in a successful relationship. These are the deep and meaningful things like fairness and morality. But above this are our life goals. They might reflect our values, but how we chose to embody them is highly personal.
How we go about pursuing our goals is then built on a stack of everyday decisions. The ‘how’ is unlikely to be a deal breaker, as long as the ‘why’ behind it is understood and supported. The ‘why’ doesn’t need to be exactly shared, but different ‘whys’ do need to be compatible. If you’re both heading on the same path, it doesn’t really matter if one of you is running and the other is riding a bike. If you’re riding bikes in the opposite direction though, you’re clearly going to end up in different places.
There are a lot of things that I do differently to my partner. I’ve found ways of compromising on the small things so that I stay true to my bigger goals. This obviously wouldn’t work if we held completely opposite values, but it does help us both live the way we want to.
Neither of us are huge materialists, but I’ve definitely embraced minimalism more than my partner. I’m typically challenging myself to own less (see my post on going too far) but I’m not living with a hoarder, which for me would be a deal breaker. I have my own idea of what my version of minimalism is, so how can I make sure I keep working towards that? We share the same space and many of the same items, so I need to stay respectful of the way they want to live and not just go on a declutter frenzy when they go away for the weekend.
Firstly, we have separate spaces for our personal things. We have separate wardrobes, separate bedside tables and separate sides of the bathroom cabinet. We don’t interfere in how the other organizes their own space, unless someone’s stuff starts spilling out and affecting the other person.
Next, we talk about any shared purchases that come into the house. No impulse buys or ‘if you get this I’m going to get that’ games. Everything gets discussed, the options are weighed up and we come to a decision together. This might seem a little exhausting but it works for us. Sometimes we agree to try something out on the proviso that we will assess at a later date if we are actually using it.
Finally, we have a shared vision on how we want our environment to look. This does not mean we both want to paint a yellow feature wall in the living room. It’s more about having a visually uncluttered space that’s ready to relax in or start an activity. It’s not perfect, but we are there about 75% of the time.
Again, we have aligned values with our finances that are not pulling in opposite directions. We are both savers and don’t treat money frivolously. But we do have different goals as to what we want to do with our money. My partner is much more focused on paying down mortgage debt to realize freedom, whereas I also have a target for investments. Both strategies will deliver financial freedom in the long term, but have slightly different psychological pulls.
This year I’ve agreed to focus on paying down our mortgage to reduce the capital before interest rates go up, and give a more ‘guaranteed’ return in a period of stock market yo-yoing. I’m still putting cash into investments but in much smaller amounts. I’m also putting more into my superannuation as I’ve had fewer working years to build this up and I’m playing catch-up.
Our approach to finances is that we have separate bank accounts. We pay into a shared account for the mortgage and automatically debited bills, and split any other shared costs. We usually take it in turns to pay for fuel, groceries and meals out. This works for us as we maintain complete control over our own finances, but we trust each other to contribute to our goals that will give us a freer combined financial future.
This has probably been the toughest one to stay true to my goals on! It’s really hard when you’re trying to cut down on carbs and your partner cooks up a melted cheese sandwich….
Breakfast and lunch are easy because I eat them at work, but evening dinners are harder. My approach is to communicate that I’m trying to make changes with what I eat in the long term, that I’ll allow myself the odd deviation when circumstances dictate that it’s too hard to be strict, but that it’s not a temporary diet. I’ve then talked about the kinds of meals that I’m trying to eat and seeing if they fit with what my partner likes to eat. Some things are quite easy – for example swapping out white rice for brown in our usual stir-frys – but some meals only I’m going to eat.
I just need to give fair warning (sometimes in the morning!) that I’m going to be eating something I know my partner doesn’t like, so they have time to make their own thing. For those days when I’m tired and tempted by the big bowl of pasta they are cooking up, I just need to have some quick alternatives. Once I’ve actually got something in front of me I’m much less likely to give in.
The longer I’ve been on my new ‘diet’, the easier it is and the more that our new routines get established.
We both have things we like to do together, but there’s lots of things that we don’t share a liking for. Even with common interests, sometimes one of us just doesn’t feel like it.
It’s really tempting when you become a couple to lose a bit of your identity and meld into one another’s lives. Over the years I’ve recognized the importance of making the effort to get out and do things that you enjoy and socialize with other people, when it feels much more comfortable to just stay at home together. We try and be respectful of one another’s calendars and routines, and give each other a bit of encouragement when it comes to being consistent with hobbies.
This is an area I’m trying to build on this year, as I’m trying to strike a better work/life balance and develop a more sustainable pathway to financial freedom. Proactively making more time to do the activities I enjoy, and not just patching myself up with ‘self-care’ is taking some effort and I’m not quite there yet.
Do you struggle with any differences in lifestyle choices with your partner or housemates? How do you handle them?