For people who have to frequently drive the Coquihalla Highway in the winter, they no doubt check the drivebc.com website for road conditions before they head out. They may find some closures or vehicle incidents and need to consider taking the Fraser Canyon route. Hopefully, they will put off their travel plans if all the roads seem treacherous and they can put off their trip for a day.Sometimes in a relationship, there are also obstacles people come across that may need to be re-assessed. Sometimes, a detour is necessary. Much like driving to Vancouver in the winter, taking it extra slow or considering a different route with respect to relationships just means a change in plans. Recently, I have been hearing of a number of relationships that have dissolved. I feel sad when I hear such news. For many of us who have gone through a divorce or tough break-up, the news can take us back to that time in our lives — and can sting. I think that’s a healthy connection for us physiologically, to remind us to not take our relationships for granted and to work hard on them to avoid what we have already been through.  

The reasons for some of these break-ups are surprising to me. I was expecting to hear the usual culprits of infidelity, addiction  or finances. But a familiar refrain was “We were going in different directions.” This had me thinking and wanting to dig a bit deeper on the topic because, depending on the direction you were planning on going, is there not a possible detour that can be used? At what point in a relationship do you realize you are going in different directions? I understand if a young couple gets together and, after the six-month mark, it turns out one person really wants to have children and the other person does not. That’s a big one. No detour there. It doesn’t make sense to try to force a person to change their mind, as they could end up resenting you. Another possible different direction is for folks in their 50’s or 60s who are starting a relationship later in life with someone new, with both deciding to keep their separate residences and not live together. (I wrote a column on this topic last year called Living apart together.)If, after a few years into the union, one person has a change of heart and wants to move in and the other still does not, that could be a different direction. There is more potential for a compromise in this one, so, depending on how important the relationship is to you, maybe a detour is possible. There are some different directions that definitely fall into the deal-breaker category. For example, if your spouse of many years suddenly starts smoking, partying every day or gambling, I don’t think Google maps will help with that and it’s more likely an intervention is necessary. I think some people tend to use “different direction” as an easy excuse to get out of a relationship.  The hardest part of being a matchmaker is when one of my couples dissolves after a long time together. It’s only natural that there are going to be break-ups. In fact, truth be told, I have far more couples split up than remain together. (Did I just admit that? By the way, I am still holding strong with 28 long-term couples still together.)

Before you decide for certain if you are going in different directions, consider this helpful suggestion prior to it getting to that point. These questions are for all couples of all ages, regardless of whether they are living together:1. Have a weekly meeting. After dinner, put away all of the dishes and sit down at a clean table with no distractions. That means phones off, TV off and the only thing you have is a pen and paper. Here are some examples of questions. You can add your own the week leading up to your meeting. It’s important to remember this chat is not meant to be accusatory, but is intended to serve as a genuine check-in on your plans. a) Still planning on having kids in the next couple of years? b) Still on track to retire in a couple years? c) Are we still planning on relocating to be closer to grandkids? d) How is our relationship? Romance? Date nights? Intimacy? e) How are we both doing with our health and fitness plans?Actually meeting weekly allows you to stay on track and feel you are both going in the same direction. If, at any point during these sessions, something presents itself that comes as a surprise or a red flag, that’s a great opportunity to address it. Perhaps you consider counselling. By staying the course, you won’t need that compass to determine which direction you are both heading. The important part is you are heading there together.  It’s also crucial that you hold each other accountable. Don’t simply agree and make statements you think your partner wants to hear. If you are truly not on the same page, honesty is better now before it’s too late. If you need direction in finding a perfect match, it doesn’t require a map, a download or even a compass. You just need to send an email to holmes@wheretheheartis.ca.