By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 21, 2007


My current relationship really has the opportunity to grow into something significant. Problem: I am not economically stable enough, or even professionally compatible with my girlfriend. In both cases she far surpasses me. It's made me feel as if this relationship has an alarm clock that will go off, and then it will all be over. How does one not focus on these issues in a metropolitan, career-oriented city such as D.C.?


Unless she is a hunter and you are a deer, I'm not sure why it's necessary that you be "professionally compatible."

As for the unequal career success, sure, that can be a serious problem -- but give yourself (and the girl) a chance. She isn't a career-oriented city; she's a person. One who may very well not care who makes more money than whom.

If she does care, then please be clear with her about two things: first, what you can promise her, in the form of your goals and your progress (even, or perhaps especially, if they are "nothing" and "nothing"); and, second, what you can't promise her. You can't become someone you're not. She can either accept you as you are, or seek someone else who moves at her speed.

If you're the one who's unhappy with your status, then you need to be clear with yourself about the following: This is your opinion of you, not hers; and your opinion, not hers, is the one that needs your attention. Think hard about your place in life. Once you get past the big five -- food, shelter, clothing, health insurance, shoes -- careers are about nothing more than making peace with yourself.


Do you think a couple should sit down with a professional before they exchange vows? Or do you think that if they have something to discuss with a pro, they shouldn't be getting married in the first place?


The problem with the latter mind-set is that it pushes people who do need a pro to say things like, "We should be able to solve our problems ourselves" -- and every time that bell rings, a divorce lawyer gets his wings.

Obviously all programs and providers are different. In general, though, premarital sessions aim to prod couples to think beyond the wedding, about questions they may not have thought to raise, about themselves and each other.

If the sessions succeed, then you have a better marriage (or a marriage thought better of). If they fail and a mismatched couple falls short of self-recognition, then I suppose I could argue the betrothed are worse off for the false sense of security they get from "passing" premarital counseling.

Still, it's hard to see any extra thought as bad, especially when the alternative is no extra thought at all. That's my general pitch for premarital counseling.

Since something in your phrasing makes me wonder if you're part of a couple with a recurring argument (and no consensus on how to approach it), I'll also make a specific pitch. If one person wants couples' counseling, and the other person wants the person who wants it, then go. Give it a real effort, too -- both in choosing a counselor who's competent and compatible, and in being honest while you're there.

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