Advice from the Trenches: Big Expectations

couple-863456_960_720Dear C,

I’m a musician in my late 40s, and my work requires a lot of travel. This makes it nearly impossible to have a normal social life. I was lucky to find Jen; we had great chemistry and good conversations. I explained my work situation on our first date, and she seemed to be OK with it. We agreed to keep things casual, no pressure or expectations to see each other or communicate daily.

Everything went fine for the first few weeks, but now she has started to contact me more often and try to make plans far out in the future (holiday family events, vacations, etc.). When I’m working, I can’t always return text messages or emails right away. But now, if I don’t respond to Jen immediately, it turns into five or 10 messages, including questions about our status as a couple and whether I have lost interest.

I have no plans to change my lifestyle. I like Jen very much, but it seems she really has no understanding of my work, and she misinterprets my delays as deliberate avoidance. At this point, my gut is telling me that her level of neediness does not match my level of independence. Should I let her go? And what is the best way to do so respectfully?




Dear Frustrated,

Jen has reached a point where she wants this to go somewhere. She’s trying you out as a boyfriend. She wants to be closer. You want things to stay the same. Unfortunately, this just isn’t realistic.

Whatever type of relationship two people decide to have is fine, as long as they both agree. But this is a conversation that needs to be carried on far past the first date. Feelings change over time, and what started out as casual can turn more serious. If you don’t check in with each other, it’s very easy to wander off the same page and not know it. When you and Jen first met, you barely knew each other. At this point, you were just hoping for a good time. Possibly sex. If you were both to stay on that first date forever, then everything you agreed to would hold true forever. But you only get the first date once.

The vast majority of women who are interested in men are also interested in a meaningful relationship. Yes, times have changed: marriage, babies and the picket fence are no longer the primary goals of the female life. Women have career goals and ambitions, and we don’t need a man to define us or give us a sense of self-worth. But most of us still want closeness when we become intimately involved. It’s not necessarily because we’re needy, but because when we care, we feel an urge to support and bond with the object of our affection. It’s pretty normal. And some day we’d also like to have our own version of a home. Most men feel this way too, once they get their wild oats sown and realize that as much fun as it is to try out one woman after another, there can be a lot more advantages to having an intimate partner they can trust and build a life with. And then, there’s the matter of kids. If you want to reproduce and carry on your genetic line, you’ll probably need a home. Kids don’t do well when mom and dad play musical chairs and ignore them.

From your age and your attitude, I get the feeling you have no interest in any of that, so here’s some advice on resolving things without blame or rancor: rethink your attitude. It’s pretty arrogant and dismissive. I’d smack you if you tried to handle me like that. Your wording, “Should I let her go?” would be more appropriate for a cleaning woman than for someone you’ve been dating. Just talk to Jen like an equal, to see if you are both still on the same page. If you aren’t, neither of you has any reason to try to hold onto the relationship. Few self-respecting women want to settle on being nothing more than a recreational activity that a guy will get to when he’s done with the stuff that’s really important.

You would be far better off with a woman who has a lifestyle that matches your own. Considering your “level of independence,” you might try dating women who also travel a lot and have no desire for intimacy. On second thought, it would really be more practical to hire an escort from a service. Escorts are usually attractive and good conversationalists, and god knows, they aren’t “needy.” They don’t give a damn about you as long as you pay them.

But, here’s a question: Are you sure it’s your career and traveling that make you want nothing but casual and non-committal? I have known many artists who stayed true to their art, yet had a life partner who helped keep them going throughout it all. Your decision is a personal choice, not a career necessity. This might be a good time to ask yourself why.

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