HI, CAROLYN: My boyfriend and I moved in together two months ago. We’re very much in love, and I feel comfortable discussing issues and feelings with him.
Although, I have always struggled with bringing up things that make me upset (I’m working with a therapist on this).
His job is seasonal, and fall is exceptionally busy. This is the first fall we have been together so I was not emotionally prepared for the long amounts of time we are spending apart. He takes a large amount of pride in his work and making sure his customers are satisfied. I love and respect this about him.
Coupled with his commute — he moved farther from work so we could live together — he’s gone from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every weekday, and they will be adding Saturday hours too. He’s exhausted when he gets home (which I understand) and not in much of a mood to talk and reconnect.
However, I’ve been home for a few hours at this point and miss him and really want to chat. When he’s not wiped out, we can talk for hours. What advice do you have for getting through this hard time of year?
Chatty and Wide Awake
DEAR CHATTY: Treat him like he’s deployed. He’s gone for the fall except for some bonus quiet-evening-togetherness visits. You’ll get him back in full soon enough.
Try to make it work by finding other productive, interesting or just fun things to do with the time you’d normally spend with him. Do this till the season ends.
When you’ve had him back for a while and gotten some distance from the emotions you’re feeling now, reflect on the whole experience — including his sacrifice in extending his commute. If at this point you decide you don’t want to live like this indefinitely, then you talk to your boyfriend about the future — goals, dreams, realities.
Then you decide accordingly whether this relationship is where you really want to be.
You’ll be happier about this whole answer, though, and happier in general, if you come up with it (and others like it) on your own.
So, here’s a rough set of commandments to get you there:
1. Do not take personally what isn’t personal. He is driving, working, driving and resting; he is not purposefully avoiding you.
2. Do not confuse desires with expectations. You want to chat after a long day, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair to expect him to chat after a long day. Expecting it introduces disappointment and blame, intimacy-killers both. Don’t dismiss the wanting, though; it can tell you what matters to you.
3. When you don’t get what you want, try liking what you actually have. Each fall, you have the security and promise of a shared love plus the freedom of “found” time. What good ways can you use that? And, how can you make your couple time both restorative for him and satisfying to you?
4. Put away any preconceived notions of how a relationship “should” be and let your contentment, or lack of it, tell you whether it works. Don’t fight your reality — be patient, live it, and listen to it. See what will and won’t change — not because you want it to, but because it does. Then trust the answer you get.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. ach Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.