Am I Too Busy And Unavailable to Find Love?


Hi Evan, Here’s my situation. I work at night (I go to work at 5pm). I love my job and my employer. This schedule actually suits me and my lifestyle perfectly. However, my dating life isn’t doing so well in the long run. I meet guys and go on dates but they always use my work schedule as an excuse to not continue dating. Now I realize I’m not going to get along with everyone and people come up with all kinds of reasons not to see someone anymore, but something’s not right when you hear the same thing over and over again (“you’re great but we’d never see each other”).

Seriously, how many people know after two dates that they want to see the other person seven days a week? (With my schedule I’m free for dates four times a week fitting into most other people’s schedules.) My dad worked nights and my mom worked days and they were married for over 30 years so I know it’s do-able for real, committed couples. I just feel that guys these days want dating and relationships to be easy and served up on a platter. The worst part is that I let people know on my Internet profile that I have this schedule and to be honest with themselves ahead of time. Nope! Do you have any advice? Are there any dating sites for night workers? Do firefighters, EMTs, 911 operators and ER doctors write to with this issue? —Rachael

Actually, Rachael, firefighters, EMTs, 911 operators and ER doctors would ask me about this very same issue — they just don’t have the time to write.

I’m joking, of course…but not really.

Listen, I’m sympathetic to any busy readers, the same as I am for my busy clients.

Your gift to us is your time, not your mere existence.

Julie works in sales and travels a few times a month. When she’s home, she’s usually training for a bike race or a triathlon.

Jamie is a lawyer at a big New York City firm who has to do her 2000 billable hours a year and rarely has a free weekend to relax.

Charlene is a lawyer and entrepreneur who is about to launch a third start-up in coming months.

All sincerely want to find love — all invested thousands of dollars into making it happen — and all of them are just as single as the day they met me.

Either they didn’t have the time to log in to Match.

Or they didn’t have the time to respond to men who wrote.

Or they didn’t respond to the men who wrote quickly enough.

Or they didn’t make time to talk to men on the phone to screen them.

Or they didn’t have time to plan to meet new men for drinks every weekend.

Or they didn’t have the time to keep a dialogue afloat amidst their other travels, hobbies and work obligations.

Put yourself in the shoes of a man for a second.

You’re talking to an amazing woman online.

She’s cute, she’s bright, she’s interested…and she hasn’t responded to your email in three days.

She’s kind, she’s interesting, she’s relationship-oriented…and she doesn’t have time to see you again until next Thursday.

She’s a wonderful and impressive person…and she’s simply not available.

The truth is, Rachael, guys don’t care all that much about your resume.

They care about your physical and emotional availability.

Most men would sacrifice a “10” who could see them once a week for an “8” who could talk every day and get together three or four nights a week

Just because some women (including your Mom) are willing to marry men in the military, professional athletes, politicians, traveling salesmen, and night workers, doesn’t mean that many men would be amenable to the same arrangement.

Your gift to us is your time, not your mere existence.

As such, I’m not at all surprised that you’re struggling to make a connection — and that you’re losing out to a woman who has more time to give.

And, like anyone who discovers that your natural way of being is impeding her from love, you have a choice to make.

Keep your life the way it is, alienate 95% of all men, and lament the fact that most will still prefer women who are more available than you…

Or…choose a different job that allows you to be more available.

This is honestly no different than any other dating dilemma that comes up for men and women. Play to the majority or deal with the consequences.

The guy with the dreadlocks who complains he’s striking out on JDate?
The woman who says she’s never dating online but wants to meet a man?
The guy who thinks that he shouldn’t have to pick up the first check?

Sure, you can stand your ground, but your results will be the same. You’re expecting the world to change instead of making changes yourself.

That seems to be your blind spot, Rachael.

You think it’s unfair that men want relationships to be easy.

I think it makes perfect sense.

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  1. 1

    If Rachael is working a standard 40 hour week, consisting of a 5:00pm – 1:00-2:00am schedule, she has plenty of available time for dating and responding in a timely manner to emails and phone calls. She shared that her available social calendar seems to fit well with most individuals. So what’s going on?
    Maybe she’s not off from work on Friday and/or Saturday nights when most guys want to go out on a date. Or maybe the guys contact her and go out on a first date or two, thinking that her schedule is workable, but then they realize that if they wanted a long-term relationship with her, it might require some creativity and extra effort to spend quality time together, and they’re not sure about that. It’s easier for them to move on and find someone else. It’s disappointing, but understandable. They could also be using her schedule as the cover-up reason for why they truly don’t want to continue dating her because she’s already inadvertently given them an out. Or she could be assuming that her schedule is always the reason, thus avoiding any other dating issues that might need to be addressed.  
    The solution is for her to keep working the job she loves [it makes for a happier individual and thus, a better dating partner], and to persevere and keep pursuing her dating options until she finds a guy who feels that she’s worth it. Does she really want all the others anyway? There’s a reason for why things happen as they do.
    I dated and was engaged and married for many years to a man who worked various night shifts, and where there’s a will, there’s a way to have a good relationship with challenging schedules. It also saved us thousands of dollars and grief with child care concerns. 🙂 Given that also about one-third of the population works a night shift, I think Rachael will find a guy that’s right for her and vice verse.

  2. 2

    As much as guys may like the chase, we also like to know we will eventually catch you. If you’re only available when we’re sleeping, we can’t catch you.
    What about dating men who work nights? You can go out for a nice quiet breakfast when the rest of us are on our ways to work.

  3. 3

    I’m thinking that there’s something else going on and that’s just an easy out.

  4. 4
    Ms Maz

    I was once in a similar situation. It was my first full time job in my current field and I was placed on the lovely 3-11:30pm shift. Now, being 21 at the time, it seemed like the best schedule ever — until I realized how detrimental it would be to my social life. For a while, I was forced to adhere to “the bar scene,” because where I live, at 11:30pm and on, that’s the only place that is open to find social contact. It is a time that I consider one of my less than proud life stages due to that.

    HOWEVER!  Not to be a negative nancy and discouraging, I DID happen to form a really wonderful relationship with a guy who owned his own mortgage company and could more or less set his own hours. It worked out so well for a very long time, because we could see one another whenever a moment passed, and sometimes, he would come to visit me during my meal break at night. It did take a lot of trial and error to find someone who I meshed with who wasn’t totally turned off by my schedule, so it IS possible!

    It may feel discouraging now, but just keep after it. It takes some patience, but, sooner or later, if you keep testing the waters and dating around, you WILL find someone! While he and I didn’t eventually work out (totally unrelated to scheduling, more or less a life stage issue; I was 23, not ready to settle down just yet,  and he was 30, definitely ready), we are still good friends. Keep the job you love, and keep putting yourself out there. It  CAN happen and it WILL with perseverance.

    Good luck!

  5. 5

    Couldn’t disagree more with Evan’s advice.   The LW says that she is available four nights a week during “normal” dating hours.   That’s plenty of time to see someone if things are going well, while reserving three nights a week to pursue your own interests.

    When Jake quit his job at a large firm to be a managing partner at a very small firm I was nervous, because he is by nature a night owl and  even though we live together I didn’t think I’d see him enough.   Instead, the opposite is true – no, I don’t see him during work hours, but I never would have seen him during work hours anyway.   The amount of overlap in which we can be together is the same as it was before, and it sounds like it would be for this woman as well.

    So I suspect it is actually something else at work, and she needs to make some other type of change.

  6. 6

    Is Rachael writing to men online who have jobs that include evening/flexible hours? Logical place to start.

  7. 7

    I don’t think she necessarily has to change jobs. She even says that she’s got time in her schedule that seems to match many others’ schedules, so something else seems off.  
    Having dated my share of overly busy and thus unavailable women, I find that what tends to happen is that even though there is some theoretical space in their schedules, the women I dated couldn’t stop themselves from filling up almost every last moment. Again and again, I’d find myself feeling low priority because some friend called and “needed to talk,” or there was some not mandatory work function that had to be attended (without me), or some other such thing. Another feature of at least two of these relationships was that at least half the time we spent together, she would be exhausted or too emotionally drained from all her other activities to really be with me, or do anything together. And finally, with those same two relationships, I found that both women weren’t really willing to give up much on their pack schedule in order to spend more time together.  
    I don’t know if this is what Rachel does, and perhaps she’s just run into the wrong kind of guys. But whenever someone brings up schedules and time, I start to wonder if they’re really saying “I want to date someone who will let me live my life exactly as it is today.” I know some men do this as well. We think we can keep most everything the same and just plug someone into our lives, which almost never works, over the long run.

  8. 8

    Men do want everything perfect to date you these days, you must have the perfect body and face/hair, no kids from another guy you are responsible for, make a million a year, have no pms or mood swings, a perfect family, etc, the list goes on, that is why there are so many people never married by 40. Do what is best for you and don’t change your life for these men, if they like you enough they will accommodate your schedule as you will try to make time for them. Any other reason they are giving you is an Excuse for not being totally honest. Jobs come and go, a marriage is supposed to be for life at least with 50% of the marriages anyway.

    1. 8.1

      What are you on about?   Such nonsense.   There are billions of women who still get married without “having the perfect body and face/hair, no kids from another guy you are responsible for, make a million a year, have no pms or mood swings, a perfect family.”

      And if you’re accusing men of being demanding, you should talk to a guy who’s a few inches shorter than average height or a guy who makes  $40k a year or a guy who has to pay  child support.   Ask him how understanding women are when he’s dating.    It’ll be an eye-opener for you.  

      The  reality is that each sex has its own challenges vis-a-vise the opposite sex.

  9. 9

    I’m all for honesty, but is your unusual schedule something you need to share on a first date?   It seems as if you are supplying men with a reason to run.
    If you have 3-4 nights a week when you are available, just say “I’m busy Tues, but Wed or Fri I am available” AFTER they ask you out.   It doesn’t matter what you are doing.   Who knows?   I think guys like women who aren’t COMPLETELY available.   If you say you are busy, they may assume that you are out with friends.
    Maybe you are coming off as pushy and presumptuous? (I’m not getting that from your email, but I recently went on two dates with a guy and he was saying “Call me tomorrow when you get done work” and when I didn’t, he was calling me.   He told the waiter on our second date he wanted to take me to a certain club… if you are telling guys “Well, our 3rd date can be on this day or that day b/c I have work” they might not like that.   Perhaps they should ask you out, THEN you say “Thursday is bad for me”, not “Thursday is bad for me when we go out again”).
    Basically, let them like you first, especially if you have SOME availability.   Then, let them know that it is just plain old work that you are going to.

  10. 10

    I agree with Evan. Why make it harder and waste precious years – your youth is valuable now for something great and first tier.  

  11. 11

    I worked 11pm to 8am for a year and while I can’t say I would go back to it again by choice, I know the benefits that such hours provide.   I agree with Evan in that you have made a somewhat unique career choice (especially for a woman), limiting your choice of men but I also feel that your approach may leave something wanting.   Are you making your working hours a focal point without realizing it?   You’ve said that you state the nature of your job clearly in your profile.   I’m not sure that is such a good idea.   I value honesty very much but this is not the same thing as disclosing a previous marriage or a child from said marriage, something that is fundamentally life changing and will remain the same in the future.   I realize your intention is to make the men realize your limitations but I think it is working against you. Make your personality the focus and not the hours you work.   You say you’re available 4 times a week.   During the initial stages of dating, this sounds like it’s enough to me.   As long as you are making an effort to be available at “normal” times to these men who likely have “normal” jobs, let them decide that you are too unavailable to date.   By any means, don’t hide the fact that you work at night but there is no need to advertise it either.   Once your man gets to know your and love you for your personality, he may find your hours easier to tolerate.   If you constantly mention your unusual working hours, he may feel that  you are unwilling to compromise and want him to work around your schedule instead of both of you working around each other’s.
    Good luck!

  12. 12

    The guys who are using the schedule as an excuse, may be doing so in part because of how Rachael is presenting it.   It sounds as she’s only “unavailable” 3 nights a week. De-emphazing the job/hours she has to work makes sense. Doesn’t need to be in a profile. Doesn’t need to be discussed on first dates. No need to present it as something to *warn* potential dates about -it’s an easy schedule. Spin it that way.

  13. 13

    Evan’s response brings up an interesting difference between men and women. He points out that men want women to be available physically and emotionally, which I know from experience to be true.   I could be over-generalizing, but I think women care less about the men being physically there all the time, and hence we don’t mind as much if our husbands / boyfriends have night shifts.
    Why is that? Maybe because we find ways to occupy our time that don’t require the men’s presence. We chat with our girlfriends, tend to our children, clean the house, have hobbies.   Obviously, it is sweeter if our man is there all the time, but it’s not a requirement, and it wouldn’t cause us to write off the guy automatically.
    In my heart, I believe marriage is actually more important to men than it is to women, for all popular society leads us to believe that it’s the women clamoring for marriage.

    1. 13.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Helen – You bring up a very relevant point which explains a lot of the cognitive dissonance you see on this blog:

      “I think women care less about the men being physically there all the time…”

      Perhaps you feel that way, and most of my busy, independent clients THINK they’d be content with that…until it turns out that they’re not.

      And the alpha male who works 60 hours a week isn’t enough. The guy who’s deployed in Iraq isn’t enough. The guy who is so sweet and funny and sensitive but travels 20 weeks a year isn’t enough. The guy with the three kids and the small home based business that requires constant maintenance isn’t enough.

      At least men KNOW that they want a woman who is – at the very least – available. But, in my estimation, far too many women are deluding themselves into thinking that if they’re with the “right” guy, it doesn’t matter if they ever see him, talk to him or feel emotionally connected to him. And if this blog is any evidence, they’re usually wrong.

  14. 14

    Please don’t change your job or work schedule! Whether these guys were using an excuse or are just unwilling to compromise a bit, be glad they’re gone. And a woman who is happy with her life is way more attractive than a woman who is simply available.

  15. 15

    Hmmm…. I think there’s something else going on here, like some other posters mentioned…if she’s got 4 nights free (is that right? “With my schedule I’m free for dates four times a week fitting into most other people’s schedules.”), that seems like a good chunk to have available… From personal experience, last year I dated an EVENT PLANNER and every time I see that profession on match, I keep a clickin’ — my girlfriend was busy EVERY WEEKEND (that’s when most wedding and events are), so any concert or show on a weekend WAS OUT and then during the week, she was up all night preparing for said events. There was many a night I fell asleep next to her while she worked on her laptop in Excel with a little flashlight…I think some people take / gravitate towards certain jobs to avoid other things (intimacy, other people, communication, etc.)…

  16. 16

    EMK gives examples of clients with day jobs who didn’t put much effort into dating, but I don’t get a sense that Rachel is in this camp. In fact, he says”  Most men would sacrifice a “10” who could see them once a week for an “8” who could talk every day and get together three or four nights a week”, despite the fact that Rachel says she is free 4 nights a week. For Pete’s sake, many of us with day jobs and lives (family, friends, classes, etc.)   are unavailable  2 or 3 nights a week.

    I wonder if she is picking more traditional men who are thinking about having a wife who’ll stay home in the evenings to take care of children? (And take care of a husband). I’d advise her to focus on less traditional men, others with flexible work schedules, or with night jobs. This is a tough economy, and finding a good job that you love can be difficult, so I don’t advise her to quit her job, unless she can find a similar day job.

  17. 17

    Wow! Thanks Evan for publishing my email and thanks for the comments and discussion. There are good points here. I think I will remove the part about my hours from my profile, although I don’t go into specifics. I just wrote that I don’t work M – F/9 – 5p. Most guys completely ignore it anyway. So I actually do go on dates. In email or when scheduling the date I just tell guys that I work at night. I haven’t given up on dating and with this schedule I have a lot of free time and because I’m happy and stress free I think I’m a better date than I’ve ever been before. So I’m not super busy or unavailable or ignoring emails from potential dates. When I wrote this email to Evan I was really frustrated. What happened between with that guy was for the best. I’m looking forward to other, better guys.  

  18. 18

      People who work “traditional” hours are often tired after a long day at work, a long commute,  running errands  on the way home – and don’t always feel like socializing. Also, overtime, unexpected meetings, and bringing work home can mean canceling dates. Your job Rachael, doesn’t have that making you more available than alot of women. Plus you are free for lunch everyday! 🙂

    No need to change jobs, keep the positive attitude.

  19. 19

    There are various dating websites for those men and women who work shifts.   You do not have to limit yourself to mainstream sites.   Nurses, police officers, ER staff, hospital techs, etc. all have to deal with shift work and manage to have relationships.  
    Since you are available several nights a week during “normal dating hours”, this should not present a scheduling problem.  
    Check out dating directories, night shift dating and similar keywords and you will find men who are available during your free hours.  

  20. 20

    Rachel’s additional response puts to rest my comments about being over-scheduled. Which is good. I also agree that it’s probably better not to highlight that work schedule in a dating profile, and leave it for e-mails or date conversation.
    I have to agree with Evan’s assessment of Helen’s comment above. Post after post on this site, and several others I read, are by women lamenting men who don’t have enough time, and/or simply won’t change their lives to make more time for the relationship. Perhaps some women are just fine not seeing their partner a lot – as are some men. But I really don’t see much evidence that a majority of women are totally fine with partially absent, and/or overworking guys. as partners.

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