I've been dating my boyfriend for a year. We live together, mostly happily.
I work full-time in advertising. He’s building up a business. I'm very supportive, helping him develop a stronger brand voice.
I do most of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and lunches. He helps when he can.
But every four weeks, we have the same fight.
I’m frustrated because his attention is always diverted elsewhere. I want him to make a priority of some time with me. He claims he’s too busy.
Yet he often engages in "working dinners" with friends (same industry) that seem more like nights of drinking.
He also makes time for non-work-related relationships.
He thinks the "in between" time together (before and after work, when others are around, etc.) should be sufficient.
I understand having other commitments, but not his only being with me at 10pm. He comes home tired and stressed, and is on his phone till 12am when we go to bed.
Just ordering a pizza and watching a movie together would be fine.
Am I being a jerk asking for attention and time when he's already so busy?
Seeking Middle Ground
You’re not being a jerk and neither is he. But your cyclical head butting on “together-time” is a warning bell.
His “busy” mode is natural for this phase, work-wise. However, denying time for a pizza together (i.e. companionship) chips away at the relationship.
Your frustration builds and you feel hurt. That’s the signal for any couple to look together at what you’re really building – a business, only?
Or, a meaningful life together of not only achievements but also mutual emotional support?
Make the conversation about that. You’re not just seeking crumbs from his precious time.
Reader’s Commentary “Not all marriages are a perfect love affair in which couples "must" beg compatible.
“We married in our late 30s, so different in cultures and lifestyles. She’s Aboriginal, I’m a “white man.” She’s a healthcare professional, I’m a lowly construction tradesman.
“Sex was often and great during our first year until our only child was born.
“After, she didn’t like sex. Her desire diminished. We’re still together 27 years later.
“I'm still a very sexual person, but learnt to cope without it, never cheated. We’re still far apart on politics, our different life styles and friends, and rarely agree on things to do together.
“But neither us ever mentions divorce. We’re not unhappy with each other. We can both survive financially without one another.
But we chose to grow old together because we care about one another.
“Missing sex was extremely difficult for me. But I look at the big picture. A beautiful daughter (now grown), a spouse who really cares about me, and visa versa.
“We may not be the ideal couple. But I shake like hell at couples being told to move on if they’re not compatible.
“You may think I'm missing a lot by staying in this relationship. It’s not for everyone. But I’m telling you that I found a person who’s completely opposite me but she fits, and we’re happy.”
Ellie – Thanks for describing what compatibility can be about: Love (which doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s description), respect for the person rather than a set of “must-agree” beliefs, comfort, loyalty, family attachment.
The people who ask me how to deal with not feeling compatible, rarely include a similar list. They say they’re unhappy. They don’t describe their partner as a “fit.” I often suggest counselling to re-consider “moving on.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who learned that her new husband wants them both nude whenever they’re at home, and using the toilet with the door open (July 22):
Reader – “At 75, I now believe that couples should live together before marriage. It goes against my Catholic upbringing.
“But, if it were accepted, we wouldn’t have the case of the unfortunate soul who discovered that she’d married not just a nudist, but a nudist control freak.
“What is he going to be like when they have children?
“She should not just take a break, she should RUN!”
Ellie – Just as in the Reader’s Commentary above, I don’t want to answer people with a set formula.
Some newlyweds might find it humiliating (or even frightening) to end a new marriage so fast.
A “break” hopefully gives her a chance to get away from his control without causing a rage reaction. If he does overreact, Yes, Run!
Tip of the day:
Repeated frustration, fights, and too-little bonding time, weaken a relationship.