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Do you want the same things?

The test of any relationship comes with time: as we get older, so our views, aspirations and ambitions change. Relationship psychotherapist Paula Hall looks at how to help your relationship face the challenge.

The first attraction

Having things in common is often a major part of the initial attraction to our partners. Some anthropologists will tell you that at an unconscious level we even go so far as to choose partners who look like us.

As a relationship develops, each shared experience gives us the chance to check out if we're compatible. Do we share the same taste in music? Do we laugh at the same jokes? Do we like the same people?

If we seem to have plenty in common, we'll begin to explore each other's aspirations to see if we have a shared future together.

What our ambitions say about us

When we begin to talk about our dreams and ambitions, we're sharing the things that are closest to our hearts. We're saying something about our personal values and about our priorities. For example:

  • If you won £1million, what would you do with it? Or, to put it another way, what are the things that make you happy?
  • If you could have only three things with you on a desert island, what would they be? Or, what are the most important things in your life?
Each to their own

The person who says "f I won a million, I'd buy us a new home" is saying something quite different from the person who says "I'd buy myself a sports car".

The person who forgets to mention their partner as one of the things they'd have on a desert island with them had better be ready to defend themselves.

When dreams change

Your partner always insisted they hated travel, but has now announced a desire to emigrate to Peru. How can that happen?

As we get older, most of us become wiser and more self-confident. Our tastes change and so do our priorities. It's this capacity to change that makes it possible to be happy with the same person for 70 years. And when both partners change and grow together, it can be a life-enriching experience.

But change can also a little scary. We may fear that our partner is growing away from us. For a time it may seem we have less in common, that we don't know them as well as we thought. But even if your dreams are off course for a while, it doesn't mean they won't come together again in the future.

Talking together

The most important thing is to share the same personal values and priorities in life with your partner. And when couples talk about their underlying motivations and needs, they often discover that they do.

For example: If you want to abseil down Mount Kilimanjaro and your partner wants to write science fiction, you both want to satisfy a personal need to accomplish something that takes stamina, perseverance and skill.

Or if your partner wants to work as much overtime as possible while you want to have more time at home, underneath you may both believe that the children come first and want to do what you can to provide for them.

Practical exercise

If your goals in life seem to be worlds apart, don't give up yet. Sit down together and identify what need within you that goal is going to satisfy. You may well find that your goals are the same as your partner's - it's just the paths that are different. Have a look at Your hopes and dreams to find out more.


If you do this exercise when you're feeling angry or upset with your partner you will get quite a different picture, so make sure you're in a reasonable frame of mind.