Is The Relationship Doomed If My Boyfriend And I Can’t Talk About Work?

Hi Evan: I love your stuff. I definitely send girlfriends to your blog, but I’ve never seen this addressed, so here goes. I am 42 and have been divorced 5 years (2 daughters). For the first year I dated A LOT. At a year post-divorce I was seeing 3 men. I was doing some research for work and met a tall, handsome, scientist (me too), who skies as obsessively as I do. PERFECT!! We have crazy chemistry, like the same sports, and work in the same industry. I dumped the other three guys within a week.

Turns out he is a TOTAL bachelor. He’s in his late 40’s and hasn’t dated anyone for more than a year in the past 20 years. Not the best relationship track record. Fast-forward 4 years of dating him. In the past, he has always left his relationships once it’s “not fun anymore”. He is a commitment-phobe and definitely anti-marriage, but I’ve convinced myself that I don’t need to be married again. He has committed to me to an extent that he’s never done before. HUGE strides in that arena.

Trying to figure out the “why” is pointless because figuring it out doesn’t change anything.

The ONE thing that “gets” me is that our INTELLECTUAL rapport is weird. Whenever we talk about work (usually MY work—I work as a consultant in an industry that he regulates) he FLARES. He gets angry with me and my “communication”. It’s the weirdest thing. He has said that I have an “aggressive tone” but I’ve never heard that from anyone else. People say to me “you’re so INTERESTED in your work, you have passion for what you do” not “you get an aggressive tone” when you talk about your work. (To me, that says “you’re too masculine”.) I stay calm (I’ve been called über rational), and he usually apologizes for being a jerk. When I called him on his frustration/anger the other day, he GOT it and bent over backwards for two days to make sure “I am happy and am getting what I need.”

I just hate that he gets so pissed off when I talk about work. It makes me question the whole thing since intellectual rapport is so important to me. Why is this part so hard? Why the “flaring”? Why do I frustrate him so much? Is this a deal-breaker? (Side note: He grew up in an alcoholic family with a narcissistic raging alcoholic father, and his grandfather was his male role model.) My dad says that he’s just insecure because I’m a powerful person. —Miki

Dear Powerful Person,

You kind of painted yourself into a corner, didn’t you?

You’re in a four-year relationship with a man who grew up in an alcoholic family with no strong father figure, a man who is a consummate bachelor who has a poor track record with women, a man who is a self-professed commitmentphobe who doesn’t want to get married, a man whose temper flares when you talk about your work… and you’re asking ME to fix it?

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

I’m a dating coach — and the great part of being a dating coach, as opposed to being a therapist, is that you can a) talk just as much as you listen, b) say anything on your mind, even if it’s “unprofessional”, and c) not spend any time delving into the past. My job is to focus on the present and future. And as I wrote in “Why He Disappeared”, trying to figure out the “why” is pointless because figuring it out doesn’t change anything.

So who cares why your boyfriend is the way he is? Let’s just assume that you’re not going to change him after 50 years. The real question is what are you going to do now?

Are you comfortable spending the rest of your life having this work-related argument?

Are you comfortable committing to a man who doesn’t believe in commitment?

Are you comfortable committing to a man who doesn’t believe in commitment?

Are you happy with your status quo, because your status quo will probably not change.

In other words, Miki, THIS IS IT.

This is your boyfriend.

He ain’t changing.

As such, there’s no point in complaining that he has anger management issues and is intimidated by powerful you. Five years from now, he’ll still have the same issues.

There’s only two choices: stay or go.

My wife is perpetually late. It annoys me to no end. I passive-aggressively complain about it and joke about it all the time. It’s not bad enough that I’d end our otherwise delightful relationship, however. The good FAR outweighs the bad, and since we’re married, I’m confident that she’s not going to bail on me one day.


You don’t have that luxury.

If you try to change your boyfriend, he’ll probably resent you and break up with you. Nagging girlfriend. Perfect excuse for a commitmentphobe.

If you don’t try to change your boyfriend, you will have to deal with his many psychological issues for the rest of your life. Do you want to do that? Can you do that? Would you be happy doing that? Or do you think you can find another great guy without those issues?

All relationships involve tradeoffs and you are a perfect example:

You got your chemistry: Tall! Handsome! Scientist! Skiing!

You also got a guy who has been fucked up since birth.

I’m not going to tell you what to do.

I will simply point out that it’s not about how you can change him to be nicer to you; it’s about whether you can accept him for his considerable baggage for the rest of your life.

If not, you know what you have to do.