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.

Join our conversation (48 Comments).
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  1. 21

    Whilst I agree with Evan that there are some women who are over optimistic about their ability to adapt to a man’s schedule if it is quite demanding, I think, like Helen, that men and women ARE different in this respect. Put bluntly (and though they may never say so in so many words) men expect women to adapt to THEIR schedules.   And traditionally, that’s what women did throughout history. Men went to work, or dug fields or went off to war, and when they came home, their woman was waiting for them, smiling and warm and available, whenever they chose to turn up.  Of course, this has toned down a little with modern life, and men whose partners work are prepared to accept, to an extent, that they may occasionally get home from work and their dinner isn’t on the table, but the basic premise still stands. In as far as possible, men want women to fit their schedule around them, and many wpmen, withut even fully realising it,. automatically do so.
    The reason these guys are bailing out on Rachel even though she’s available 4 nights a week is that THEY want to choose the 4 nights!. Its not that they want  to see her 7 nights a week in the early stages of dating, 4 nights is plenty, but THEY want to  decide which nights they are going to be. They don’t want to have to adapt THEIR schedule, rearrange time with their male friends etc.. around HER working hours – dammit, that’s like being on a leash! They may also be concerned that when the relationship gets going a bit, her sexual availability is not going to be high enough – most men do look forward to a spell of “every night” sex when they meet someone new, and even though they themselves may not want to continue this phase for years on end, they still want to experience it.
    On a related theme, the traditional expectation that the woman will adapt around the man also applies to   relocating – men do NOT want to relocate/take a job they weren’t planning on to fit in around a woman or her career. I keep my online dating very local and don’t date anyone from further afield if I would not be prepared to relocate to their area, because after 2 marriages   I know the chances of a man relocating to suit ME are negligible!

  2. 22

    @Helen- you make an excellent point about how society’s general consensus is that it’s the woman clamoring for the man when I think both parties are equally clamoring! I’ve met more men and have quite a few make friends who CAN NOT be alone (for a minute, a week or heaven forbid a month!). I thought you had a good post and made your point. 🙂

  3. 23

    To Helen #13, your post brings to mind how men, in general, do not seem to fare as well without female companionship as women do without male companionship, i.e. the way that men are quicker to jump from woman to woman when a relationship ends, or during widowhood. I think women are stronger emotionally and more resourceful. They may not like their men being gone from home too much, as Evan points out, but they’re generally well equipped to keep all of the fires burning until he returns.

  4. 24

    The problem may not be the job, but possibly an attitude that Rachael is projecting that her job is more important than relationships or quality time with other people. Changing one’s job before changing other things, such as presentation and possibly other dating attitudes, seems unncessarily drastic.  

  5. 25
    my honest answer

    I usually agree with Evan, but I’m not so sure this time… I think, as others have suggested, looking for men who work nights as well could work out really well. Plus, I also think four nights a week is a really good amount to have free for dating! That means that only three nights a week does her work impact on her availablility. Not many people working full-time can say that only three days a week does work get in the way of doing stuff in the daytime.
    I think they are using this as an excuse. If they were into you, they’d find a way to make it work, especially with four free nights a week. You need an honest assesment of why things aren’t moving beyond that dating stage, in my opinion. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, deep down, you know exactly why it is.

  6. 26


    I’ve noticed this also. Women are often perplexed (and hurt) that the man they loved and  are ‘getting over’ is already in a new relationship when they are still feeling sad and relying on ice cream and long conversations with friends  for comfort. And people are often surprised that widowers re-marry within a year after a marriage that lasted many decades. I wonder if women aren’t always as driven as men to find replacement partners because they have  other strong bonds – friends, family – where men may not have developed as strong bonds with others and rely more on a romantic partner to fill that need.

    I also think “availability” might have more to do with personality rather than gender, and what one is accustomed to. Some people require more ‘alone time’ than others. Some require more social time with other people. Retirement can be a stressful adjustment when a couple finds they are spending almost all their time together after decades of doing their own thing 40 or more hours a week.  

  7. 27

    In my experience, men don’t like to feel like your work takes precedence over theirs. Even if Rachael is free 4 nights a week, which I agree is more than enough for dating, psychologically a guy may feel that he’s having to arrange his schedule around hers. And the result is: he’s not feeling like the guy in the relationship – the breadwinner, the one with the more important career, the one who wears the pants basically.
    Personally, I think that Rachael will be hard pressed to find a guy who will forgo his ego to be with her and her night shifts. Even if in reality her schedule is really not a problem at all. The truth of the matter is, you can’t force feed reality to a guy. If a guy gets it into his head that Rachael’s schedule is difficult, especially if she keeps bringing it up on first dates, then that thought will stay with him and put him off.
    And it doesn’t just stop with night shifts. The same goes for a woman who has her own business and works long hours. If she has to get her Blackberry out to pencil him in, the guy’s ego will similarly feel threatened.
    So… big question: should women change their working lives as Evan suggests to be more available to find love? Assuming that it’s even possible, it’s a huge step and the rewards are far from guaranteed.

  8. 28

    Hmm – lots of generalized assumptions about men here.
    To the three or four of you who are saying that this issue Rachel is experiencing is about men not wanting to re-arrange their schedules, feeling “threatened” because they aren’t psychologically in control or looking like the breadwinner, etc. – have you ever through that perhaps some of us just want to be with someone who has the time and energy for an actual relationship? That we don’t want to be fourth or fifth on the list of importance, behind the job, friends, personal independence, and feeding the neighbor’s dog?
    I know plenty of men who have changed their jobs, work schedules, amount of time spent out with friends, and even where they live in a few cases in order to prioritize a relationship.   I, myself, have made some of those changes in past relationships.
    The point about men generally fairing not as well as women alone has some merit. I’ve seen that play out to some degree amongst the people in my life.   In fact, it’s exactly why I have made relationships with family and a few close friends a priority in my life. Because I have seen enough of those isolated, lonely guys who end up with someone they aren’t matched well with to know that I don’t want to end up like that.

  9. 29

    Thanks, helene, Jen, and Diana.   Evan, I wasn’t writing about hypotheticals; I was writing about my own experience (which admittedly, cannot necessarily be generalized to other couples).   And it pretty much is exactly what helene and Diana say.   In sharing the below, please note that it isn’t a criticism of my husband, simply a statement of our shared experience.
    My husband and I met in school. Before we married, I spent every summer on internships in another part of the country or world. After we married, he was fine with my doing that one year but then put his foot down the next year and said no, you’re not doing an internship away again. So I didn’t.
    After graduating, my first job necessitated my traveling every other week, sometimes more frequently than that. Again, my husband voiced his discomfort with this. I quit that job and have been in my current job since, for which I only travel about 5 times a year.   I don’t regret the job change because this is even better than my dream job – an awesome, awesome job.   But it’s worth noting that every year, my husband travels 2 to 3 times more than I do.
    Theoretically he says he’d consider relocating if my job took us elsewhere. In reality, it’s different. I am highly in demand in my field and have been offered positions elsewhere. With each offer, he found some reason not to want to move there. Because it wouldn’t be a joint decision, I declined each offer.
    Psychologically, it is important to him that I stay home more; whereas for me, it doesn’t matter much.   It’s not symbolic for me, but for him, it seems to be.   It seems to be a male thing.   Yet he’s supportive of my work: bragging to others when I win awards, encouraging me when I’ve wanted to give up and just be a stay at home mom, pointing out how bored I’d be if I didn’t work.
    I will also point out that statistically, in the US, married men live longer and are happier than single men, whereas married women live shorter and are unhappier than single women.
    If Rachael enjoys her job, I would encourage her to keep it.   There is no point in her, as a single woman, making sacrifices for men who are merely hypothetical husbands at the moment.   It is when you marry and have children that the sacrificing really begins.   She should taste her freedom now, and relish it.

  10. 30

    These guys maybe making an excuse about seeing you.   Drop the profile info about your job and don’t be so regimented and upfront about your availability.   For example in the first few conversations don’t state I can see you on this day and this day and this day.   That could turn some guys away initially.   Then as you get to know the person and develop an attraction, you’d be surprised how flexibale they may be.   On another note I am not available to date anyone 3  or   4 times a week!   As a single Mom and being a bit older, most guys I met were cool with meeting once or twice a week although we did talk daily.   Now in a relationship, I still don’t do 3-4 days a week.   We both are single parents, we talk daily and we see each other 1-2 times a week.       We do go away once a month for a long weekend though.

  11. 31

    @ Nathan
    “…have you ever through that perhaps some of us just want to be with someone who has the time and energy for an actual relationship?”
    I agree it would be wonderful if life was that easy. I’m sure a lot of women would like to have jobs which leave them with plenty of time and energy left over for a fulfilling relationship. However, when that relationship doesn’t come along, a career becomes a financial necessity. And over time, that career may become more and more successful, making women less and less available to meet potential mates. Not to mention how over time, these same women may become more and more jaded regarding relationships that go nowhere with men, making them less and less open to taking the time to meet potential mates.

  12. 32

    LailaI know plenty of women across all age brackets who seem to handle having a career and a committed relationship just fine. It’s not about it being easy. Making relationships work isn’t something I’d consider easy. It’s about being willing to make the effort when someone of quality comes along.

    I also know workaholics of both genders who have essentially chosen to close out potential partners out, or just dabble in casual relationships when they feel the need for a some attention. And with those I’m thinking about now, there’s not a single one of them who has to work that much. They’d be financially stable doing less, and in some cases, aren’t even required by their employers to do as much as they do.
    So, how much of it is necessity and how much is about choices and attitudes? At 35, I have had my share of jadedness about dating as well. But I don’t let it keep me down. Because in the end it’s just a story, an attempt to make sense of what didn’t work with all those dates and relationships from the past. And it’s also an easy excuse to avoid looking at what you might have done to help create the string of failures.

  13. 33

    This thread is kind of near and dear to my heart being that in my line of work I don’t work a Mon-Friday “set” schedule.I OCCASIONALLY have to work some nights and or a weekend or both weekend days but most of the the time I’m home by 6pm.The bad part is I don’t always know my schedule far in advance due to several factors beyond my control.Never the less I used to put (not in my profile) but  in the “more about me” or “what I do for a living” email that I “sometimes work crazy hours during our busy season so I like women that are flexible and easy going that can roll with it” etc…. and  NOW  I’ve learned to not let a woman who I’ve never met or even  chatted with  know  my work schedule.One woman told me straight up “I want a guy that works 9-5 and that’s it,otherwise I’ll never know “where you are”.

    For the record because of my schedule I’ll admit I’m not the “easiest” guy to date but I have plenty of time,actually more than the average 9-5 person to date and or be in a relationship.Certainly more than any single moms would have (which are 90% of the women in my age range 43-55)that’s for sure.

    I’ve never “lost” a relationship because of it because women that have been in relationships or dated me over a period of time see how available I am.But the online women who’ve never met me just hear what they hear and think what they think and disqualify me up front because I don’t work 9-5.I’ve had my job 23 yrs.This is what I do and will do until I’m retired.I don’t apologise for it.

  14. 34

    nathan #33: while I am certainly sympathetic to your points, one thing that is missing in your posts is the realization that many of us actually love our jobs. Your implication in writing “… there’s not a single one of them who has to work that much. They’d be financially stable doing less, and in some cases, aren’t even required by their employers to do as much as they do” is that their jobs are a drag, and that they ought to stop working so much for the sake of a relationship.   Well, no.   If your job is a large part of who you are, if you love your work and are energized and inspired by it, you’re not going to want to change it even if you’d be “financially stable doing less”. Moreover, you present your happier self to your mate. Who doesn’t want a happy and fulfilled mate?
    There’s such a bizarre, hypocritical stigma in the US about how we’re not supposed to love our work – or, if we do, we shouldn’t admit it, or we’re assumed to be heartless. While Americans are the biggest workaholics in the world, we still trot out all these trite sayings such as being “married to one’s job” or “when you die, you won’t regret having lost a day in the office”.   And, especially for women, we’re expected to give up part or all of our jobs for the sake of ones we love. We face a HUGE pressure to do so, and as my earlier post #30 shows, we give in to this pressure quite frequently.   It’s hogwash.   Work can be incredibly rewarding, and there’s no reason to hide or deny that.
    If I were still in the dating world and met a guy who said he had to be first on my priority list at all times, I’d back away. This is clearly someone who has no handle on reality. At different times, other things and people have to come first in terms of time and thoughts and energy: children, aging parents, and yes, work.   Do any men here think they’d be first priority if their wives are stay-at-home moms instead of working wives?   Um, no… most of the time for SAHMs, the kids come first.   It doesn’t mean the wives don’t love the husbands; it means the kids take a heck of a lot more time and energy (and in some cases, also more love). Loving a mate doesn’t mean that they’re always first. Anyone who expects that out of a relationship, male or female, will be sorely disappointed.

  15. 35

    Helen, I agree with you expecting to be the number 1 focus all the time in a relationship is unrealistic. What I mentioned above was, in part, being in relationships where I was either never a priority focus, or where it felt like a surprise when I actually received that kind of attention.
    I also agree that we have screwed up attitudes about work here in the U.S. I’m all for loving your job, and feel that anyone who actually does is three steps ahead because a lot folks don’t love their jobs at all. Furthermore, I agree with you that it’s attractive to be with someone who has passion for their work, and really thrives off what they are doing. Women tend to notice that quality in me because I have done my best to land work that I enjoy, and know that that energy rubs off in other areas of my life.
    At the same time, if you define yourself too much by your work, it’s easy to run into trouble in other areas of your life. Sure, it’s thrilling to spend hours and hours on end doing the work you love, but at some point, either that love will change, or you’ll look around and notice that you have fewer deep friendships around, your partner is frustrated, you’ve lost touch with your family, or simply that your career has changed or even disappeared right before your eyes. It’s happened to me before, and I know it happens to a lot of other people. It’s one thing to place a lot of energy over a certain period of time into developing a career or a business – but quite another to define the vast majority of your life around the same. What happens when the market for your business falls off, or you’re laid off from the company you’ve been so loyal to?
    Another screwed up piece of American culture is that too many of us identify way too much of our lives with occupation. Men have done it for generations, and now more and more women are doing the same. And then find themselves at a loss as to what to do with themselves when that occupation disappears or changes.
    And I still say that even if you love your job, it’s intelligent not to overwork and place everything else in second place over the long term. I’m not just talking about prioritizing relationships here. I’m talking developing yourself as a whole person. Because someone who works all the time often doesn’t have much time for hobbies, socializing, deepening their spiritual side, having quality friendships, and numerous other parts of life.

  16. 36

    I am probably going to get blasted here (so be it) but I personally believe  that your spouse (as a rule) should  come before your children and your work (barring sickness and special circumstances).   Kids are  already way over coddled these days – be it with parents trying to be friends with their kids or  being given too many things they don’t need.   Kids need guidance, love, attention but not at the  cost of ignoring your spouse or making them feel like their wants, feelings, needs  are not as important.   In  terms of  relationships –  your children will leave and then live on their own – your  spouse will or should be there forever.   This is the way it use to be and there was a lot less divorce.   Too many husbands and wives feeling like they are coming  in  third.   Call me old fashion, but I think you would see  happier spouses which would make happier marriages.

  17. 37

    nathan #36: I’d agree that we must keep as well-rounded as possible with a balance of relationships (of all kinds), work, hobbies, and spirituality. I will remark, however, that focusing on work isn’t the only way, or even the main way, to lose this balance. For my husband and me personally, having kids was the thing that upset the entire balance. And by the looks of our entire cohort of friends and co-workers, that is how it was for them as well.
    It’s much more politically correct to talk about work upsetting life balance, when in fact, having children is a much more disruptive factor. We didn’t lose our friends or our hobbies when we both took jobs we loved. We lost nearly everything else (including, almost, each other) with the stress and sheer time commitment of having children. Suddenly all our friends who didn’t have kids couldn’t relate to us anymore, and those who do have kids: well, all of us are too busy to really hang out and do “friend” stuff. We no longer had time for hobbies. Under constant, unrelenting stress, we were less considerate to each other and happy than we had been in the past. We’ve been working to restore the balance, and as the kids get older, it does get easier.   But especially in those first years, it was hell.
    I agree with you that we could be derailed if we identified so much with our jobs and then suddenly lost them. At the same time, I’ve seen many people derailed even more severely by relationships that failed. They were expecting a relationship to last forever, and then for some reason, it didn’t. Is a relationship more stable than a job? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

  18. 38

    Fawn #37, I certainly am not going to “blast” you. You hit the nail on the head. Good for you, sister.

  19. 39

    @Julie #8 A-Bleeping-Men. Change your JOB because men can’t be bothered to date you on your schedule?   I never heard such ridiculous nonsense in my LIFE.   ESPECIALLY in this economy, if you have a job that you like and that suits your lifestyle, then the only change you need to make is to insist on finding a man who can deal.

  20. 40

    So many good points made already, and I completely agree with Sherell #31 and Jayne #8. This woman clearly has more than enough time to make love happen, I just wouldn’t put the work schedule on the  profile. When you’re scheduling the next date, you’ll have to coordinate schedules anyway, so all she has to do is let the guy know when she’s available, the rest will unfold as they get to know each other. Two of my really good friends are nurses who work 11PM to 7AM, both have a child and both are dating.

    It’s so hard to find work you love these days, especially if it pays, so that’s definitely worth holding on to. If the relationship progresses you can make adjustments as needed, but not something that needs to be done upfront.

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