No woman is a good woman?
November 25, 2007 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Is keeping myself out of a relationship the right thing to do at this time in my life or self denial of a life pleasure?

Here's the story and it may get long so apologizes in advance.
I'm 22 [male, single] and made a conscious choice at the end of my last relationship (~4 months ago) to not allow myself to get into another relationship until my career is more established.
As far as my career goes I'm a flight instructor. I work a lot, and would at the drop of a hat move for a better job (I moved from Arizona to Florida for this job, but also because of my last relationship, but I'll get into that later). As of right now, I see myself working this job for the next 9-12 months, until I can get a more career job.
I'll assume most of you don't know how pilot jobs work, so I'll break it down quickly for you. I fly helicopters, after all my training I finished with ~250 hours [of flight time]. I'll be a flight instructor until I reach ~1000 hours. As a flight instructor, you work any time you can. Every hour you fly brings you one step closer to the 'real' job. As such [excluding Thanksgiving] I've had three days off [not by choice] since I moved to Florida ~3 months ago, and normally work 6 to 12 hour days. Once at the 1000 hour mark I can move onto a career job where I'll make okay money and will have a more normal, more livable schedule.
Am I doing the right thing by putting my personal life on hold well I get this part of my career track out of the way?
I've been in relationships before (2, one for five years all though high school, plus a year after, and my last one for about eight months). My last relationship is really what cemented this idea for me, we actually broke up because I was putting my career on hold to stay with her.
Because she was unwilling to move (as she is in school), I decided to stay with her. We sat down one day and came to the conclusion that our relationship was holding me back from what I wanted to do in life (not to mention what I had spent a large sum of money learning to do). We split and within two weeks I took the first job I could.
I'm a commitment guy, my [last] ex and I had planed on getting married and all that stuff, but with her wanting to be a doctor (and not yet even in med school) and me sitting on my bum not doing what I wanted, we knew we needed to change something.
As a commitment guy (as I've been described by friends and family), I don't date for fun. I don't have the time or means to do that. I date to find a partner, a spouse. Now I'm not saying I want to get married soon. I don't want to get married before I'm 28, what I am saying is I'm not into going to a bar, picking up a girl and taking her home for the night. I enjoy being in a relationship, I miss being in a relationship.
All that said I'm torn between sticking to the choice I made 4 months ago, or now, knowing that I'll be here for the better part of year, letting go and seeing what happens. Like I said though, there is always the chance that I could move next week and be in the same boat I was in with my last girlfriend.
What does the wise hive mind have to say about my little life?
posted by blackout to Human Relations (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It sounds like you should stick with your current plan. You're working hard for something you care about, and you've decided that you don't have time for the kind of relationship you ultimately want. Putting the possibility of that relationship on hold while you get your career to the next level makes sense, in that context.

I guess I'm not sure why you're asking the question. Are you worried that you're not normal, and that normal guys just want to get laid and don't care about their careers? I wouldn't worry about that.

Of course, there could be alternatives. Could you stay on your current career track, but not force yourself to work such long hours? It might take you an extra year, but hey, that's not so bad. That could get you to our goal, but with more balance.

Or, are you miserably lonely? If you are, then maybe you need to rethink your priorities.
posted by alms at 8:32 PM on November 25, 2007

You're forcing yourself into a false dichotomy by saying "dating for fun" isn't for you. Just because you're not ready to marry a girl doesn't mean you have to pick up one night stands in seedy bars.

Surely you see relationships as more than a prelude to marriage if you're not planning on getting married for years. You can get the support, the fun, the caring, the love, the joy without bringing an engagement ring and flat lease agreement on second date. Do make clear that you're really working a lot right now and that you're not looking for a big relationship with similarly sized commitments. This shouldn't put off a reasonable 22-ish year old gal.
posted by stereo at 8:37 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

oh possum. what a dilemma. are you lonely at the moment?
posted by taff at 8:37 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are times when I see people in relationships and think, "Why don't I have that?" Then I stop and remember why I'm waiting, and realize I quite possibly will be better off in the long run. You seem to have some good plans that will pay off - you don't need things distracting you from that. Re-evaluate in a year or so, but for now, single might just be the way to be.

(on preview, I agree with alms)
posted by niles at 8:38 PM on November 25, 2007

Best answer: Do you have someone in mind? Details would be important.

If you don't have anyone in mind, just work, flirt, rinse, repeat. Your prior decisions in the matter essentially mean nothing until you are forced to make a choice between a job and a woman. Maybe in a future situation, you can have both.

I guess what I'm saying is that there is no need to answer this question unless you have a need to do so. If there is no one you have in mind right now, it would seem that you are asking if you should ensure that you don't get hurt by deciding that you aren't going to date for a certain amount of time. That is a certain recipie for failure.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:51 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I definitely second stereo. It is wholly reasonable to not want to get into anything that distracts from your career path right now... but dating comprises a very wide spectrum between "celibate monk" and "dating potential marriage partners, on the path to eventual monogamous lifetime commitment."

You say you're a commitment guy who doesn't date for fun. Is that "doesn't" a "won't"? or a "can't"?

It sounds like you believe your only two options to be "Stall career in order to date someone that I won't marry for 5+ years" or "Be lonely for the foreseeable future while I work to get to 1000 hours... despite being a guy who likes being in a relationship."

I would suggest you consider a third option: "Figure out whether I am a guy who can date casually*, and then look for a girl who is also interested in something light and commitment-free, so I can have the best of both worlds during this phase of my oh-so-young-life.**"

* You might not be. Some people aren't, and only you'll know. But 22 is young to be already locked into "I only seek one type of relationship, ever."

** I don't mean to be patronizing. You actually sound very mature and well-reasoned, and I don't mean to imply that you are too young to be considering such serious issues. I just wanted to point that you've got your whole adult life ahead of you, you're just barely out of minority age, and yet you seem to already be 100% sure of who you are; maybe it's worth giving yourself a bit of room and leeway to figure out who you are still becoming.

I say this as a former world-weary 22-year-old who knew exactly how life would unfold... only to eventually become a newly-wondrous 33-year-old who has come to realize that actually, I had no bloody idea.

posted by pineapple at 8:56 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

My last relationship is really what cemented this idea for me, we actually broke up because I was putting my career on hold to stay with her.

Not every relationship has to be a carbon copy of your last one. You sound very prudent, honest, and level-headed. Why not be honest with the next person you meet and say from the outset: "Look, I'm interested in both my career and a committed, long-term relationship. This means that I will likely be working a lot and possibly moving around a few times during the next few years." Then let your prospective partner decide for herself whether or not this is something that she is amenable to.
posted by googly at 8:58 PM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To answer the question(s), no I don't think I'm lonely. I've always been a solitary kind of person and enjoy being so. On the other hand I sometimes think that, right now (at my age) is the time when I should be finding that person.
I guess if I really think about it and be honest with myself, I fear that I'll just keep working and working and wake up one morning when I'm 35 and have no one beside me.
posted by blackout at 9:22 PM on November 25, 2007

You could see dating, now, as a way to meet friends who _could_ be serious partners later, or who might not work out romantically long-term but would stay good friends.
posted by amtho at 9:43 PM on November 25, 2007

agreeing with googly.
be honest and upfront with prospective partners about your career plans. i once met someone who said he prioritised his job over his girlfriend, but intended to quit his job (or cut back, a lot) when he got married.
i suppose relationships are about compromise, to some extent - but also, it's not as if your career and relationship prospects are that mutually exclusive to begin with. a better and more stable career could also make for a better and more stable way of supporting a future relationship/marriage - so it can be seen as a relationship investment as well, in that sense.
posted by aielen at 9:45 PM on November 25, 2007

Best answer: I think you'll find that there is, as you suspect in the back of your mind, a big "funnel" process going on with people in your age group, all around you, blackout. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, for the period 2000-2003, the median age of first marriage for men was 27 and for women, 25, and these numbers have been rising steadily since 1970. So, although 50% of women your age will be married in the next 3 years, 50% also won't be. That's the "funnel" of which I speak.

The women that are delaying their first marriage are presumably doing it for reasons that may be very similar to those you cite for postponing your own search for relationships at present. They're studying, starting careers, traveling, or doing other things with their lives, which they expect to have a greater payoff later, financially, or in terms of life experience. So, you can sort of think of staying on the side lines at present as "waiting for the herd to thin," as it proceeds through the age funnel. If you begin seriously looking for a mate 3 or 4 years from now, and consider only those who haven't yet married for the first time, you're going to be considering a pool of women, who, on average, will be better educated, or have more experience of the world, than those who don't wait, and are getting married now.

This could bode very well for you, blackout, although the kinds of women you'll be dating then may well be more intelligent and self-assertive than those who might marry at a younger age. If you like women with better educations, careers and/or street smarts, hold out, and get your career well launched. If not, you may need to look back at younger women from some future vantage point. If you got to the ripe old age of 27, would you think a 22 year old bride too young?

You're in a highly competitive field, where earnings and job security are heavily back loaded, in career terms. Being successful basically means being more committed to this career, over a longer time, than the next guy with dreams and flight case full of airmen's charts. So, focus. Build hours. Stay available. Follow opportunities.

There are women getting away out there, lost to you forever in the big demographic funnel, everyday, but there'll be plenty of good ones left in 5 years, I bet, blackout. And if push comes to shove, you may just need to reach back into the funnel for women younger than yourself, in your sunny, secure future. Worse things happen.
posted by paulsc at 10:35 PM on November 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

Best answer: 9-12 months is a very short period of time, even though you might not think so right now. it'll pass in a flash, especially if you keep yourself busy & are as content with your own company as you say.

and at the end of it? you'll still only be 23, far from being an old maid, but with a lucrative and sexily-exciting career to boot.

also, i believe that the longer one keeps oneself single, pursuing other interests, working on oneself & cultivating good friendships, the more fireworks there are when you finally do meet somebody you really want to go out with. you also become more & more content just doing your own thing, which makes you less likely to jump at the next cab off the rank out of boredom or desperation (an easy trap for a serial monogamist), but are willing to hold out for somebody a bit more special.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:13 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think it would be wholly impossible to find someone who would be a good fit for you even with your current situation. I'm sure I'm not the only woman in the world who has no desire to get married anytime in the near future if ever, and who is a pretty solitary person and does well in relationships where there's a lot of time apart, as long as there's occasional quality time together.

It does sound like you're doing the right thing for you in staying largely focused on your career right now, but I would guess there are women out there who would respect that and still be good partners for you as long as you're up front about your current situation.

All that said, I'm a big fan of a period of single-ness in one's early or mid-twenties, to spend some time working on the things important to you and learning what you're like without a partner. A partner is a wonderful thing, and I don't think it's something you should deny yourself if you're lonely now. But if you go the other route, maybe you can reframe it to yourself as spending some quality time learning who you are rather than as denying yourself love.
posted by Stacey at 5:27 AM on November 26, 2007

I'm with Ironmouth. If you don't have someone in mind, then why worry about it? You don't want to date around, so don't. You're 22. So, in a year when you're 23, you'll still have a lot of time to find that special someone. I say go with the flow and if there isn't a girl you have in mind, keep on working on yourself. But if you have your eye on someone, pursue it with honesty, don't cheat yourself from advancing your career and who knows? Maybe you'll end up with the best of both worlds!
posted by smeater44 at 11:21 AM on November 26, 2007

Best answer: I'm 32 and my husband is 37 and in the same field as you are, except he's still in flight school (quite possibly with the same company...) He's also a stay-at-home Dad to our young daughter. He loves flying, but time is limited these days--it's tough for him to compete with the younger single guys for hours. His one wish is that he had done this when he was younger. Life right now is a complicated balancing act that he is willing to going through because flying is his dream.

Your life is in the most un-complicated stage it will ever be in. Don't go complicating it with mental drama--just work! You don't have a girlfriend right now, so stop agonizing over it. Advance your career now, while you don't have any real-world issues mucking it up. Your hard work will pay off ten/fifteen years from now, when you're hanging out with your wife and family, enjoying your success.

ps 22 year-olds ALWAYS over-analyze their lives. Relax! It sounds like you are a smart guy on the track to success. Your personal life will work itself out.
posted by lisaici at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2007

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