Separation anxiety on July 6, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost four years, and we have a very close relationship. We have even talked about marriage. Now, he is seriously considering a job that would require him to be out of the state during the week. He would still be home on weekends, and hopes to eventually work from home several days during the week. He’s in a “golden handcuffs” situation with his current job; there’ll be a big financial payoff if he sticks around a few more years, but he’s dissatisfied with the job, and feels unrewarded. This new opportunity would pay a higher salary, but the long-term successof the company is questionable, and he’s heard many negative reports about the man who would be his boss.
Anyway, I want to be the supportive girlfriend, and I truly believe that if the new job is the better opportunity, he should take it, regardless of the “sure thing” he has with his current job. Happiness is worth more than money, I say. However, the thought of being apart all week does not make me very happy. I’m not saying that it couldn’t work, but when you’re used to seeing someone every day, it’s a bitter pill to swallow!
Worse than that, though, is his lack of concern over this issue.Throughout all of his deliberations over the job, he never mentioned our relationship. Finally, noting that I hadn’t had much to say on the issue, he asked me for my opinion. I said that although the job sounds good, I couldn’t believe that he hadn’t even considered the impact this would have on our relationship. Even a “Gee, I’ll really miss you — we’ll have to make up for it on the weekends!” would have been nice! His response was that he really didn’t believe that it would have an impact on the relationship. H E L L O? Is he simply more secure and well-adjusted than I am, or do you think that his career is so important to him that it doesn’t matter whether our relationship will suffer? He’s always talked as though family and friends were his top priorities (with me falling somewhere between those two categories…) but now I wonder if that is true. I’d really love to hear your input on this, because I doubt that either of us are being totally objective at this point.
Take heart. My guess is this: it’s not that you’re not a Priority, it’s that you’re a Given. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
The following Major Generalization is NOT AT ALL meant as a flip boy-bashing insult: Man (and I do mean Man) simply is not trained to think about the impact job decisions will have on home life. Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer; OF COURSE lots of guys think about this stuff. I’m not saying they’re loutish, clueless Company Men. I’m just saying that when men first had Jobs to earn them money, they also had Wives to do the rest. Two entirely different spheres in two entirely different orbits; no conflict. To the degree that we inherit certain die-hard reflexes (or lack thereof) from Society, well, that’s one of them. Just the way most women do not naturally/automatically think about the impact the Designated Hitter Rule will have on the number of bunts and pitch-hitters (even Breakup Girl had to look that one up). Or, to put it another way, Gloria Steinem and I have said it before (she beat me to it), we’ll say it again: “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.” So, this observation may help explain why “BUT WHAT ABOUT US?!?!?” was not the first question out of his mouth.
Then again, you know what? The same exact situation could arise in a same-sex couple, one in which the gal gets the faraway job,whatever. In these cases and yours, it’s like this: when he’s facing major flux, he does not question — or, in fact, he clings to/steadies himself on — that which, as far as he’s concerned, is, thankfully, NOT up in the air. You see? If you look at it this way, it’s actually kind of reassuring.
Still, if he actually believes that this new schedule would have no impact on the relationship, then he’s got another thing coming. And going. THIS is where your focus needs to be. Basically, there’s more than one new job here: his, and yours. As in, it’s up to both of you to make this work. If you’re downsizing the time you’ll be together, you all better schedule a restructuring meeting. Talk about concerns, expectations, actual schedules; he — and you — will indeed have to do some extra work to take this Given on the road.