How do I deal with my boyfriend's insane work schedule?
March 29, 2008 7:52 AM   Subscribe

How can I deal with the fact that my boyfriend is never around?

My boyfriend recently came into a lot of work and doesn't get home until late at night most days, with only an occasional day or two off. We have been dating for several years and have always spent a lot of time together. While it doesn't seem like it's going to be like this every single day for forever, it does sound like he's going to have periods with this amount of work on and off for most of the foreseeable future. He loves his work and so I know that I should be happy for him, but I just find myself feeling jealous of his work and his coworkers and wondering why he is alright seeing me literally only a few hours per week. I feel like if I could just come to terms with this jealousy and the resulting anxiety, I could do what everyone suggests, and pick up a hobby, hang out more with the (admittedly few) friends I have, etc., but I just sit around pouting and feeling hurt. Really, I just miss him a lot. FWIW, we do live together. Any suggestions for maintaining a relationship when one member works a whole lot?
posted by lxs to Human Relations (32 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I know that therapy is the best answer to this question, but unfortunately not a financial option at this point.
posted by lxs at 7:53 AM on March 29, 2008

Okay, this is a long shot but.... have you told him about how you feel? Have you asked if he can help you think of a way to make the time apart not affect you so much???
posted by damnjezebel at 7:54 AM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: We've talked about it and the discussions always just get heated because he is defensive about how much work he has and how much he likes his work.

And, what I'm saying is that I realize hobbies and friends are what I'm supposed to be doing, but I can't get over the hump of sitting at home feeling totally insecure, wondering why he doesn't want to see me, if he's meeting someone else, if we're going to break up, so on so forth.
posted by lxs at 8:14 AM on March 29, 2008

Best answer: I dated a guy in law school for a while. I had an easier time with him not being around than I did with him constantly prioritizing school over me in a way that I thougth could be avoided with some better planning. It wasn't a good time. You shoudl make sure your boyriend knows that this is compromise time for you, him not being around a lot and so you'd like to figure out ways that you can still get together time that matters to you. This may be something like date night (uninterrupted, no matter what work says) a future vacation plan or just regular communication about when he'll be home and when you guys stay in touch. I found that for me, knowing that my bf was keeping in touch and that he was busy but still doing what he said he was going to, with me, helped quell some of that "omg he's never around" problem.

At some level, you are going to have to find ways to fill your time and at some other level you're going to have to just adapt to having more "you" time and less "us" time. You probably also want to make sure that this is the relationship for you. After a few years of law school, it really became clear that my bf *wanted* to prioritize school (and eventually his job) more than his home life or partnership and so we parted ways because that wasn't the way I wanted to move forward in a relationship. You may want to spend some time assessing how you feel about this work relationship with your bf if it actually winds up being more permanent rather than temporary.
posted by jessamyn at 8:15 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: While it doesn't seem like it's going to be like this every single day for forever

Concentrate on this. I've been living in another country to my long-term girlfriend for a year now and we have at least one more to get through. I think it's harder on me as she's more independent and her job/life keeps her busier. The thing that gets me through day by day is the knowledge that this situation won't last forever. I try to enjoy my own work and time off and friends to the best of my abilities. Every now and then I do get down about the situation, but I try to make the best of it by concentrating on the good parts of my current situation and realising the temporary nature of the bad parts.

As something practical, I'd recommend you set one day/time of week where you two spend the entire time together. Just the two of you doing something fun. Make it something that you both look forward to.

You'll be getting a lot of advice to become a person who isn't at all dependent on your boyfriend. I agree to that to an certain extent, but I've only been able to take it so far. I am capable of having fun on my own and being independent, but that doesn't mean I don't miss my girlfriend and I do feel my life is somewhat lacking without her.

Good luck.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:20 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

First off: Do not worry. This is a rough patch, but you will get past it. Semi-anonymous poster on the internet promises you. I find that if you approach situations like these in a "Have no fear, this will pass and we'll be back to cuddling on the couch and watching Top Chef in no time" attitude, you will feel a lot better and feel less anxiety about filling your time. If you believe you can make it through this and laugh about it later, the whole thing will go much more easily for you both.
posted by lizzicide at 8:24 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I could have written your question myself, lxs. And there is no easy answer, but you've got a few of them right there.

One solution that I have found really helps is a dedicated "date night" once a week. On that night, the two of you must agree to go out and do something nice together, just like a real date, as if you were just getting to know one another. You can have fun picking out activities during the week, whether it's just a movie you want to see, a new restaurant you want to try, or a trip to an amusement park.

But yes, you do need to find your own "me" time, to be sure your life is less dependent on his. The time he spends on his work, you can also be spending on something important to you. It's hard to let go of the natural jealousy you're feeling, but think and talk it out. He's not trying to hurt you by working; if anything he is trying to improve his career and his life and, in the long term, both your lives.

Make more friends. Join a book club. Take a night class. Join a pub quiz team. Take up painting.

And then you know that, at least one night a week, your boyfriend is all yours, his attention entirely focused on you.

(If he won't agree to date night, there's a whole other problem brewing.)
posted by brina at 8:26 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think you're learning something important here, something that you should take with you into the future, for your own good.

Too many people let their relationships define them -- and then when the other person's not around much or the relationship ends, they have nothing. They don't have their own inner life or friends. A proportion of relationship AskMe questions are from people in your predicament -- they need their partner to fill up space in their life that would better be filled with, well, themselves.

Don't be that person. Don't let your life revolve around your relationship. Think about what you would be pursuing if you weren't in this relationship. Think about what interests you, what makes you happy and do it. Go forth and make an effort to make friends.

This isn't about filling up a void for when he's gone, though. If you think of it that way you are doing yourself a great disservice. Create your own rich life. Can't "get over the hump of sitting at home feeling totally insecure"? Well, I'm sorry, but no one can help you if you don't. There's no other way to get past these feelings if you refuse to do anything. You recognize a hump to get over, and there's no other way to get over it than to stand up on your own two feet and do it.

Whether this relationship is your last or not, the things you will gain from living your own life will benefit you immensely. Everyone needs friends. Everyone needs their own interests and passions. They are not just an object to fill up the space when your boyfriend isn't around. In the end you make a much better partner if you care about more than just the relationship itself.
posted by loiseau at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2008 [32 favorites]

My husband is gone a lot, and often at odd hours. Sometimes he gets worn out and has to go to bed early, so I’ve seen him only a little while before he crashes. Then it’s me and the cat.

He has a habit of sending me text messages throughout the day, starting with “Good Morning!” before or soon after I’ve gotten up. He also sends “I love you,” at random times and these are all programmed into his phone, so it’s not like your boyfriend would have to take a lot of time out if he did something like this. If he’s feeling creative, he writes his own: “LU” for “Love You” and “BZ” for “busy.” Is this something your boyfriend would be willing to do at a set time, when he gets a break here and there?

I have found that I like spending a certain amount of time on my own. I have control of the TV remote, I decide what and when to eat. I also spend a lot of time on Metafilter, and other websites, reading about all kinds of neat stuff. I chat with people thru Gmail as well, friends and family members. I moderate an email list of like-minded women.

Today I did my “day of beauty,” dyed my hair, trimmed my nails, got some pretty pink polish, and also got a lot of chores done that I probably wouldn’t have done if he were home. I also called a couple people and had my neighbor over for a short chat. And I’m not doing the “beauty” stuff for him, I’m doing it for myself.

A big dealbreaker for people is: when someone walks in the door after working long hours, whether or not they get a nice welcome. I have been on both sides of the equation, having had a demanding corporate job and am now working out of the house. A real turn-off is someone bitching at you. Men in particular show their love by working long hours and identifying with their jobs. A common male complaint I’ve ever heard is “but I was working, doesn’t she appreciate that?” So I make an effort to ask how was his day (and he does the same for me) and then let him chill out, which is the same thing I’d want.

When he gets a day or even 1/2 a day off, he’ll say, “I’m at your disposal, what would you like to do?” So it’s like date time, except I can get him to help around the house, go for a drive, see a movie or go out to eat. He hates shopping so I don’t demand that of him and go alone or w/my friends instead.

What I’d like to know is where the anxiety over what he might be doing while out long hours comes from. I’ve been in that position in prior relationships, and it’s not fun, is it? My husband is a big old teddy bear who wouldn’t dream of doing anything untoward (and knows I’d have his nads in a sling if he did). Do you have anything valid or real to suspect he might be seeing other women on the sly? Why would you suspect that if you know he’s at work? I’m not accusing you of being paranoid, I’m just wondering where the idea came from...
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:23 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

When my partner was out of the house all hours, I took advantage of it -- to fart as loudly as I wanted to, to talk to the cats in odd voices about politics and other crazy cat lady topics, and to pee with the bathroom door open. (Yes, I am a delightful pretty princess.)

Your dynamic may differ in that you can already do this with your partner around, but if there's something you can only do while he's gone, revel in it. See it as an up-side to his being away.

Positive self-talk will probably also help you. Remember, this too shall pass.
posted by subbes at 9:31 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

The usual laundry list -- take a class, pick up a hobby, volunteer, blah, blah, blah, can be kind of intimidating. It seems like an awful lot of commitment, you know? But the thing is, once you start doing those things and stop sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself, it's a lot easy to do more of those things, precisely because you're not sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself. It's a little circular, but the way to break out of the cycle is to break out of the cycle. But how?

Start small.

Don't sign up for a class in your new hobby and invite all your friends to join you. That's too much work. Do one thing.

Quick, think of a place in your town that you've thought of going to. A museum. A restaurant. A park. Is it open right now? Good. (If not, think of one that is.)

Now, stop reading this comment, turn off the computer and go there.

You're still reading this, aren't you?

Part of the reason I'm suggesting doing something nowNowNOW is that making a 'plan' can seem like so much work, and when you're feeling pouty and down, you don't want to work. But if you can work up even one burst of interest and go out and DO something, that'll help you break the cycle you're in.

So, don't think about this stuff too hard. Call a friend and see if they're free to hang out. Go for a walk in the park. Don't wait until the perfect moment, just do something.

It will help, I promise.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:40 AM on March 29, 2008

Pertaining to what loiseau said, I am also working (i.e., not a housewife), either for a client or doing my own thing. I paint (badly), take photos, and write fiction when I'm not working for a client. I just happen to have less working hours than my husband, and mine are all at home, so it makes for some nice cabin fever. Angst is so good for the writing, tho'.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:43 AM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: Marie Mon Dieu - I really don't have any reason to suspect he's doing anything, when I'm totally honest with myself. The two long-term relationships I was in before this one were terrible, and both of the guys I dated cheated on me repeatedly, were generally scumbags, etc. I spent several years in therapy about this (until I lost my health insurance) but it still really gets me where it hurts and it's hard not to apply all of that to this relationship.
posted by lxs at 9:52 AM on March 29, 2008

lxs, I hear ya. I got mad at my husband once for not being where he was supposed to be and turns out he was at Wendy's getting his favorite: a chicken sandwich. So I learned his love was food and not lookin' at other women, but we had a lot of talks and worked it out.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:56 AM on March 29, 2008

I understand your position, since I'm married to a man who's starting his own business and seems to be always, always at work, or always doing his work at home. Most days he's out the door at 8 AM and then I don't see him until six or seven if I'm lucky, nine or ten if I'm not, and then he always seems to have more work to do after he gets home. I don't have many close friends in the area either, and we've always spent a lot of time together and are pretty dependent on each other. This is how I deal with it.

1) Accept that what he's doing is valuable and important to him, and that he isn't trying to make you unhappy: you're valuable and important to him too, even if it might not feel like it to you. To me, it's good that my husband is doing what he loves, even if I miss him like crazy and I get upset seeing him so stressed so often, because he's happier now than when he was unemployed or when he was doing work he didn't like. I would bet that from your boyfriend's point of view, his working long hours has nothing to do with "I don't want to see my girlfriend" and he'd be rather horrified to know that's how you're thinking... Heck, if he's anything like my husband, it may have more to do with "I want to create a stable future for us." I don't want to make it sound like "Accept that you are #2 and his job is #1" because I don't think you are in competition, although it certainly feels like it sometimes. Rather, try to understand that you occupy different places in his life: that he loves you, and that his work satisfies another need of his, completely separate from what you do for each other. If it went on for years and years, he never made any real time for you or considered your needs, you had kids and he neglected them, or anything like that, I'd think differently -- but it sounds like this is a new and temporary development and he's not usually a thoughtless workaholic.

FWIW: my husband thought point #1 was the most important part of my whole post, so if your eyes are starting to lose focus, you can stop reading, I guess!

2) Keep yourself busy. You know this, so I won't belabor the point... What I wonder about, though, are the negative thoughts you report having. If you're really worried that his working means he doesn't want to see you, then I don't think any amount of work, friends, volunteering or hobbies will make that go away. Have you talked to him about those feelings? If you have a rational basis for those feelings, then probably a lot of what I'm saying about accepting and supporting him just doesn't apply, but if there isn't any real basis but your insecurities, that probably makes things so much worse for both of you, and is probably harder on him than you think. Obviously I don't know the answer, but you didn't mention anything like "we're still dealing with the fallout from his affair with a co-worker" -- on the contrary, from your post, it sounds like you have a pretty strong relationship (you've been together for years, you live together, you have historically spent a lot of time together)... If my husband came home and found I had been worried all day about whether his work meant he didn't love me, he'd probably be heartbroken and guilty, and then the little time we do have together would be poisoned. My heart goes out to you -- feeling like that would probably be damn near well unbearable for me now, and this isn't something I'm really insecure about now, but I used to be (when he worked less, hah hah)...

3) Try to find out what you can do to support him. At the moment I work and tutor part-time, so I do the housework and cooking, so that's not something he has to worry about on top of everything else -- plus, I think if I didn't feed him, the only time he'd eat would be when clients or friends take him out to dinner. And he feels guilty enough that he doesn't spend enough time with me, so I don't harp on it: instead, I tell him the good parts of how I feel about his work (i.e. he's admirable, smart, does great work and I'm proud of him). YMMV here: he might not want you to clean and encourage him (and I'm not trying to say that you have to do housework to be a supportive partner), but maybe he would like for you to plan fun things for your date nights, or give him a massage and let him talk about his day, or give him a half hour to himself when he comes home, or whatever. Ask him.

4) Contact during work hours. He works on his computer, and so he keeps AIM open, and I usually have AIM going during the day as well. So when he's gone, we can still keep up contact -- not nearly enough to be bothersome to him or me, but enough to say hi, trade links, update each other on our days. If we didn't have that, I'd probably want to be able to call him, maybe on his lunch break, and update that way. That might be seen as clingy, but I don't think it would be unreasonable most of the time, since you're used to spending so much more time with him. He uses Twitter, too, and I like being able to read that.

5) Make the most of the time you have with him, and insist on having it. I accept that his work is important to him and I support him -- and that's fine, but I'm important to him too! On a day-to-day level, have breakfast with him, spend some time just talking in bed when he gets home, call him during his lunch. And yes, I agree with a lot of the others -- date nights are critical. We like to go out to dinner and a movie, but we can just as happily stay home and call that a "date night" (we're a little boring) -- the object is to have time together without any obligations to anyone else. Part of what I've had to learn is to be a little flexible about our time together -- for example, if he has to leave work late, it does me no good to be angry and hurt, because he wasn't being thoughtless, and he certainly didn't do it to hurt me. So maybe I'd get the hour right after work like we planned, and maybe I'd get the hour an hour after that -- and if it was the second, spending that hour sulking about how he was late would make him guilty, and it wouldn't make me happy. But in my opinion, if you're trying to be supportive and flexible and loving, you're pretty much owed some time together: you're not a doormat, and he shouldn't take you for granted. Talk openly about what will make you happy -- I think you will get somewhere if he's not feeling defensive, if he feels like you appreciate his work.

If you want to talk about it more, feel free to MeFi mail me.
posted by shirobara at 10:19 AM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

I don't have precisely the same situation, but both my long-time boyfriend and I travel frequently for work. He's been gone since February, and won't return for another few months, but we are doing very well.

He calls me every night, and we go out of our way to find ways to love and nurture each other- some ideas would be him putting aside 20 minutes to call you every night, no matter how busy he feels, and you appreciating that gift of time as the loving gesture it is.

We also read kids books to each other- I mail him my old favorites, like Miss Rumphius, Perfect the Pig, and Cloudy with a chance of meatballs and he's mailed me his old favorites, Where the Wild things Are, the Very Hungry Caterpiller, etc, and we read them aloud to each other over the phone.

We send each other postcards. This works even if you're in the same city, more so, even: find really wacky funny ones and send them to him.

I send him letters, hand-written, every week or two. This is a really great way to feel connected.

We send each other flowers more infrequently, but when the other is feeling down, or when we're celebrating some significant event.

And I get on with my life. He's a huge part of it, and to be honest, I battle with loneliness when he's gone, but I also have things I really like about my life without him: I go to my knitting group way more often. I finish up projects that I never finish when he's around. I go to an almost exclusively vegetarian diet (he's the biggest carnivore ever) and experiment with new recipes- this week I made a wild juice out of carrots, beets, and so much ginger my eyes water- tonight I'm making Vietnamese Fresh Rolls. I try to get ahead on my own projects so that when he gets back, I'll have more time to spend with him.

I bet this is more harder when you're in the same city- with us, he's totally out of reach, eight time zones away- but can you imagine that he is just as out of reach as my boyfriend is, and appreciate his rare day's off rather than being upset that there is so much less time for you to be together?

Also- should you think about whether you can deal with this in a relationship? My boyfriend and I assume that as long as we are together (and we hope it is a very, very long time) we will spend at least 1/4 of the year apart on various projects. It doesn't make it less difficult to deal with the absences, but we both knew what we were getting into.

Anyway, best of luck, and if you're in the Bay Area and want to join my Board Games group or my Knitting group (or just get a cup of coffee), me-mail me.
posted by arnicae at 10:29 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

He sounds like a workaholic to me. (Been there, done this.)

Now, to be fair, I don't think he is (a) wanting to avoid you, (b) is seeing someone else, (c) has any plans to break up. His being at work a lot probably just means he REALLY LOVES WORK. So, I don't think the rival is anyone else. I don't think you need to be insecure on that level- which is to say, I don't think there's cause for it.

That's the good news. The bad news is, he loves work so much that he's happy with how things are. For him, work is the priority and he'll see the girlfriend whenever, and he's fine with that. And regardless of whether or not you have hobbies or friends vs. you're just sitting waiting for him to come home, it sounds like relationship is a higher priority for you than it is for him. When I was with the aforementioned ex, I tended to have a billion hobbies/friends and appreciated having "time off" to go do other things, but even I would get annoyed when I saw the workaholic ex Once In A Great While. I won't even start about getting dumped for the Valentine's date so he could work.

It HURTS YOU that he does not have you higher on his priority list. I hate to say it, but it doesn't sound like he WANTS to change this, so the onus is on you to either suck it up or find someone else who wants to be around more. The latter would probably be easier if you are a person who likes having a boyfriend around and wants more attention than a few hours a week.

In the event that you don't break up:
* Try your damndest not to take it personally, stop thinking that he's probably boinking a co-worker or whatever. It's reasonable to be jealous of work here, but don't take it to the personal rejection point.
* You REALLY DO need to focus on something other than sitting at home feeling hurt and rejected all the time. Please, sign up for a class, grab a friend, go to the library, I don't care. Just do something to change that situation. At the very least, sit around the bookstore feeling hurt and rejected instead at home. You need to change your emotional routine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:36 AM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]

shirobara's idea about keeping IM on during the day is a great idea, if he works in an environment where that's feasible; it can be a wonderful way of staying connected throughout the day without being a terrible distraction. Either way, though, you're really going to have to do what everyone's saying: make your life about much more than him. Make yourself busy. Take up cooking, make new friends, be the person occasionally who comes home and is too tired to do anything but fall into bed. You'll be happy because you'll be accomplishing more, and you'll also be happy because you'll better understand what it's like to be in his shoes - to really care about someone but still sometimes not have the time and energy to put into the relationship that it perhaps deserves.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:46 AM on March 29, 2008

I think I know how you're feeling, and I'm glad I'm not the only one!

I'm in a long-distance relationship and we normally spend a lot of time just hanging out together with Internet video calls. My boyfriend has recently started working a lot more (school and work), so we don't spend as much time together.

I'm also studying in a foreign country, and I haven't made many new friends, and the city I'm in is a bit of a dump and hard to get around in. Predictably, a large part of my life currently is... the boyfriend.

Now that we're spending less time together I find myself with a lot of time on my hands. He works with computers and we still leave video calls on a lot but his attention is obviously not on me. A lot of the time I wind up surfing the Internet to kill time while watching him work.

I've been feeling
1. hurt and pathetic because it seems like I want to spend time with him a lot more than he does with me, and because it feels like I'm pestering him whenever I talk to him and
2. lonely and bored because I don't have many things to do besides talk to him

We've been having these short "dates" for a couple hours every night, and I find myself spending the whole day just killing time until those "dates", which are more intended to be a conclusion to our days. A couple of days ago I told him I didn't want to make those dates anymore, in an effort to force myself to find something else to do. He didn't take it well at first but after a bit he understood.

Without a nighttime date to look forward to yesterday I got a lot of stuff done, took a long walk, read a little etc, which was a much better day than sitting around on my ass waiting for him. I think the root of the problem was that, with the amount of time we had spent together previously, I'd built my routine around him, and had nothing to do when he wasn't with me. I couldn't think of anything to do so I'd just spend my time waiting for him, which made me feel lonely and rejected. My advice would be to just stop waiting on your boyfriend and go out and find some things of your own to do! Make concrete dates to spend time together with him instead.

This isn't much different from what everyone else is saying but I was hoping that I could help by sharing my own experiences. Also, I was feeling angry and hurt because part of the work he sets aside time for, besides homework and professional work, is being a leader in an online team game; he sees it as his responsibility to his teammates, whereas I see it as needlessly time-consuming (it's VERY time-consuming). I know I have to accept that he'll have his hobbies; he can't be spending every moment of his free time with me, so I'm trying to be OK with that. But I brought it up to him just to let him know how I was feeling, and I'm glad I did.

I was reluctant to talk to him about this at first because I didn't want him to think I was pathetic (spending all my time waiting for him fits the bill) but we had a good discussion and got a lot of things out in the open.

I'm not that sure where this "answer" is going anymore, but I read your question and felt that I could identify and wanted to share. Me-mail me if you want to talk!
posted by Xianny at 10:57 AM on March 29, 2008

"wondering why he doesn't want to see me" - lxs

Are you sure that this is the way he feels?... I'd be willing to bet a large amount of money that he didnt just randomly decide "Gosh, I really love my job and hate my girlfriend, so I'm going to work my ass to death so I dont have to see her." (I'd be willing to bet he misses you to, but is forced to set those thoughts aside to focus on the short term goal of the extra work he is doing)

FWIW... I'm a classic workaholic,..and I've been in several relationships where the woman became intensely insecure because she thought I was prioritizing work over her. I tried time and time again to explain to her that it WASNT because I thought work was more important than her. I chose to work incredibly hard BECAUSE I valued her and wanted us to have a better life. (in other words, working incredibly hard helped secure my job, earn more money and give me the resources to provide better things to her)

The other advice in this thread, about not letting the relationship define your entire life is very good advice. If you structure your entire day to day activity around the relationship, and the relationship suddenly ends one'll be left with a very large hole to fill (wonder why most people get really depressed when relationships end?.. this is why).

Try to find balance in your life. TALK TO YOUR BOYFRIEND about his feelings and intentions. Take the newfound free time you have and do some nice, interesting things for yourself. Definitely also give your boyfriend support because he is working so hard. He is probably exhausted and would be thrilled to come home to a nice backrub or home cooked dinner. I also really like the idea of reserving 1 night a week for "date night" even if that just means snuggling up to watch a movie.
posted by jmnugent at 11:27 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

My husband worked nights for years. Last year I started playing World of Warcraft to pass the time and it worked like a charm, right up until he stopped working nights and started complaining about how much time I spent on Warcraft! :) But if you're looking for a good way to forget that he's not around and lose a couple hours a night without having to actually leave the house, you could do worse.

Disclaimer: Proceed with caution. Not responsible for any ensuing addictions and/or obsessive behavior resulting from experiencing the crack that is World of Warcraft.
posted by platinum at 11:48 AM on March 29, 2008

The woman before me must have been hard on you
'Cause that hurt in your eyes, I never put you through
Sometimes I think you must be talking to
The woman before me and you

(I prefer the Trisha Yearwood version)

lxs, it sounds like the men before him were hard on you and in this time of increased pressure he's having to bear the burden. This obviously will hurt you both.

Great, great ideas above, especially the frequent text messages. Once that template is in, it's a few clicks from "I'm thinking of you" to "you know I'm thinking of you". People may find this lacks romance and spontaneity but I disagree. If he can't be bothered with even this, then you've got problems.
posted by Wilder at 12:18 PM on March 29, 2008

I don't have a suggestion for what to do, but having been the overloaded-at-work guy, I have a suggestion for what not to do. (or to just keep in mind)

Try not to make yourself another task. You don't want his mental process to be "ok, now I have to get the payroll done or nobody gets paid, then I have to get Mr. Foo his presentation powerpoint so he has time to look it over and not have to wing it in front of important people, also, crap, I have to figure out how to have lunch with lxs, or she'll be pissed..."

Your time together is the reward for getting enough work done to pause for awhile, not part of the work itself. Does it seem like he thinks of it that way? Is your time together as big a reward as the fun and satisfaction of conquering another task that could really be done later?

If not, there isn't much you can do, other than accept that. If so, then he's already doing his best, and hassling him to do better is only going to be picking at an already sore spot.

For yourself, you can only focus on either trusting his motivations, or not. If you don't, no amount of time-killing activity is going to take your mind off of it.
posted by ctmf at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I also have a boyfriend who works every day from about 8:00-7:30, and once or twice a week he comes home later than that. I keep a couple things in mind:

1) We're not married. If we were married and raising kids, I would be putting up more of a stink about it. But we're not, and right now he's developing his own life and I'm developing mine. Of course, this doesn't work if you see marriage in your future.

2) I remind myself that this is a job he enjoys doing and is fulfilling for him, and he honestly doesn't really have a choice about the hours--if he worked less, he would be considered a serious underperformer.

3) I find my own things to do. I have roommates, I have friends, and I fight aggressively against any urge I have to consider us some kind of single, one-mind entity. I'm my own person and he is his.

4) We spend time together in the evenings when we can (like going to the gym together) and spend time together on the weekends--going to the Farmer's Market, cooking a meal together, going out.

The only way you will break out of the jealosy-dependency mindtrap is if you do something separate from him. Holding off on friends and hobbies until you become OK with his hours isn't going to work, because part of the way you become OK with his hours is by becoming your own person.
posted by Anonymous at 2:03 PM on March 29, 2008

Are you sure he's actually out working? It's probably the most common cover story for an affair that there is.

Even if he is really just working, it sounds like he's neglecting you and your relationship, and you shouldn't put up with that. He needs to find a way to have more balance in his life.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2008

"He loves his work and so I know that I should be happy for him"

When my boyfriend travels on the road I hate, hate, hate it. When he is home sometimes when I think we should be spending time together,he would rather be playing music. I don't like it. However, I love him and this is very much a part of him. If for some wild reason he stopped doing this, I don't think I would want to be with that person. Because he would be a very UNhappy person and he would probably resent me as well.

Fortunately,as much as I miss spending time with him, I have no problem amusing myself. My point is you just have to decide if this is okay with you or not. If he really loves what he does, would it be right for him to give that up? If you love him, would you want him to?

If you decide you are, in fact, okay with it, the next step is just to figure out what you really enjoy doing. Then do that.
posted by mkim at 7:01 PM on March 29, 2008

And then when you do get time together again, you can each talk about what you have been doing. You can each enjoy that the other has a rich life they want to share with you.
posted by mkim at 7:06 PM on March 29, 2008

wow, great answers here. I really appreciated it because my boyfriend and i are about to be long-distance for a good four months. I think the advice has been great. I would like to emphasize that you shouldn't just give yourself busy-work for while he is away and you're feeling lonely. Your purpose should not be to only pick up new hobbies and activities to do while he is gone to fill the void but to create a life full of things that you love for the sake of loving. This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately.

My boyfriend is incredibly awesome and really wants to live his life the way he wants to live it and doesn't let anything stop him. So we see each other as much as possible but we both try (and he almost always succeeds) to make our lives about the bigger picture- what we want to accomplish, what we want to learn, how we can grow...etc. That takes a really crazy balance of what YOU want, what they want and your relationship all at the same time. I guess I'm of the mindset that if you live your life for you, your relationship will make it if its right for you and your fabulous life.

Now I am not by any means perfect at this and am really working on filling my life up more with the things I want. These answers really made me feel better about my looming upcoming position, so thanks to everyone that has answered (esp. loiseau) and to you for asking...
posted by janelikes at 7:25 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't have any advice for you, but you might check out this mix. I'm not endorsing its editorial message (necessarily). I just hope the mix will give you different perspectives and help you feel like someone understands. :)
posted by salvia at 8:19 PM on March 29, 2008

As someone who works much longer hours than my fiance, I thought I'd chuck in a sample of the male perspective.

Work is good. Work can be fun, and fullfilling. However, we mainly do it for the money. This can often mean making sacrifices that frankly, we don't want to make but do anyway because there's very little choice.

You work hard and long when the need is there, to earn the money when you can, because if you don't, there may well be a whole lot less work in the future. The choice of NOT spending time in the office is simply not there, realistically. I do the hours I do because I need the money, and I need the job to earn that, and the job entails long hours sometimes. It's not that work is more important than spending time with my fiance, because that implies there's a choice there. If I had a choice, I'd spend most of my time at home, and maybe do a few hours a week to keep my mind busy. As it is, I work 11 hour days to keep my job and pay the bills.

It's exhausting, and I honestly don't what I'll do when we have kids - we'll need the money, especially if the wife (by then!) gives up work, but you also want to spend time with the kids.

Life is divided into three things - stuff I have to do, stuff I do for fun, and stuff I do for the future. Spending time with your partner should be the latter two - if a significant portion of the relationship ends up in the first category, by being overly clingy, then its probably doomed. Relationship do require work at times, and it's entirely possible for overwork to become a habit, and do permanent damage to the relationship, so he should be aware of that and working with you to spend good quality time together.

I guess all I'm saying, is cut him a little slack. He's probably not enjoying having to do the extra hours any more than you are, but for slightly different reasons. Focus on the good stuff, spend the time you do have together in a mutually agreeable way (including giving him a little time to himself, he probably needs time to unwind after work), and most of all, look to the future. Ultimately, he almost certainly works hard because he loves you, and wants to provide a stable future for you both.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:56 PM on March 29, 2008

I've been on the other side of this. I worked away from home for about two and half years, living in hotels, working very long hours. At the time my now wife was still living in the US, so on the fairly rare times that I was at home rather than in a hotel, she would get home from work at about midnight my time. A lot of the time, the very last thing I wanted to do was stay up til one or two in the morning to talk to her when I'd had a bloody awful day at work. A lot of the time I did, but a big part of the reason our relationship survived that two years apart was because I knew when I really had to buckle down at work or was too exhausted to stay up and speak to her, I knew I could simply tell her that and not take any flak for it. If I was an asshole, I could have taken advantage of that, but I didn't.

There's a very strong drive to work hard to provide for partners, even in this two career household era. Also, if things are rough at home and you suspect that going home early will be met with a two hour conversation about how you're not home enough, when all you want to do is get something to eat and crash out, it becomes easier to just stay at your desk and crack on.

That said, when my wife moved to the UK to marry me and live with me, I changed jobs so I would be working in London and stay at home 99% of the time. I work late occasionally (once or twice a month) which is partly a function of the company I'm at now (much better run, no macho who can work latest culture) and also because our relationship has evolved into a really healthy, stable one. We both come back from work, sometimes have a vent to each other about stupid things people did or said at work, make dinner and hang out. But when I work late, I work late, and I know she's not going to hold it against me (which conversely means I make an effort not to work late if I can help it).

Your man may be in a similar position to me, or it may be avoidance behaviour, or he may have employers who expect long hours, whether officially or unofficially. The best way is to speak to him about it, in a non-accusatory, supportive way. Identify what the causes of his long hours are (self-imposed, expectation, actual spikes in workload) and help him to manage them effectively, whether through taking his Blackberry or whatever off him and having a guaranteed date night that he looks forward to all week or going off and doing your own thing so he starts to see he's missing out on doing cool things with you. And whatever you do, remember that all things pass and change, and your current situation isn't forever.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:35 AM on March 31, 2008

One thing to consider is whether this is his personal style (i.e. he's a workaholic) and if that will be a problem for you long-term. You say it won't always be like this, which suggests that he's recently gotten a promotion/project/etc. that's taking a lot of his time. But these have ways of coming up regularly for certain people (I am one such person -- whenever one time-intensive phase ends, another magically appears).

So, if this is something of a pattern or style, and if you're thinking of, say, marrying and having children, you might want to reconsider the relationship. If you're jealous, resentful, whatever, now, know that it will be ten times worse when you're home with the children and the gulf between your life and his widens (even if you're not a stay-at-home mom -- again, speaking from experience as a working mother with a very busy husband).

I don't mean to suggest you break up with him, just that now is a good time to evaluate such feelings, and it's better to resolve them before kids come along.
posted by Capri at 11:57 PM on April 6, 2008

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