I have never been this simultaneously happy and conflicted in my life. I received a scholarship to an awesome graduate program that is far from where I live now. I'll start this fall. It's going to be a great new experience, with new friends, developing skills, and a ton of interesting work. I am also in a long-term committed relationship with a very sweet and loving guy; I am his first significant other, and he seems completely content to stay with me until death-do-us-part. He is ready and happy to move with me wherever I go, to help me pay for school, and to just be an all-around huge support to me.
The only problem is that I am not sure I want him to come with me. For all of his kindness, he does have some aspects of his personality that really conflict with mine. He does not handle stress well, and shuts down during disagreements or arguments. I do well under pressure, and I can't help but feel that he is comparatively immature. He is sensitive, and I tend to dish out some tough love. I like space, and he likes to be as close as possible. We currently live together, which amplifies all of these issues.
My biggest fear is that these personality clashes (specifically his low stress tolerance) will cause me to not adjust well and do poorly in graduate school. I am a very committed student, independent, and I value my education experiences (probably a little too) highly. I can't trust that he'll be able to handle the stress of a move like this. I don't want him to come – at least, not until I have settled. And there is even a part of me that wants to start fresh and not have him come at all. But he is so sweet and I do love him, so it would be awful to let him go and realize that I had made a huge mistake because of an issue that hasn't happened yet. We talk about marriage, and that is something I definitely want in life. But if he always handles stress this poorly, I don't think that is something I would want for myself for the rest of my life. Please help!
– Fearing a Disaster
It sounds like it's time to get honest with him about these concerns. Does he know that his reaction to stress ... stresses you out? How does he think he'll respond to so much change? If you haven't asked these questions, do it now. It's less about the move and more about your daily relationship. He should know that you have doubts. If you're talking about marriage, he might not understand that you're on the fence about the entire thing.
As you talk about the issues, please remember that this is about compromise. You can work on things, too. Yes, you're the one with more relationship experience, but you're still learning how to be a good partner. Those lessons never stop. Maybe it's about being less "tough love" with someone who prefers a softer kind of communication. Maybe you can figure out better ways to talk about things that might cause stress. The point is: it should feel like a shared effort. If you can't commit to any kind of change, you should start fresh.
If the two of you decide (together) that you do want to keep this going, there's nothing wrong with you settling in at school before he gets there. He should have a sense of when you'd want him there – maybe a specific date on the calendar.
For now, though, you should be paying for school yourself. I wouldn't share those expenses until there's real commitment.
Readers? Should the LW start fresh at school or make this work?