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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 38

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 41

    @ Helen #38 – when we were in this situation, we ended up finding a new group of friends who all had kids our kids’ age. Now everyone’s kids are in college and/or high school and I’m pretty sure they would agree they all had a blast growing up together, playing together on weekends, going camping together as a group etc. In the meantime their parents had a great time hanging out together as well! Win-win.
    Which leads me to what I’ve been thinking re: this whole thread – that I agree with those that suggested the OP should look for other people with similar work schedules. It’s similar to single parents dating. From what I’ve seen, parents of young children work out better with other parents of young children, parents of teenagers with other parents of teenagers etc. just because they’re roughly on the same schedule. Changing careers just on the off chance it helps you meet someone is, IMO, a ridiculous idea. You can’t overhaul your life just to please everyone. What should single parents do to make themselves more available? what should dog owners do? get rid of their kids and dogs? I kind of understand prioritizing your already existing relationship over your career and (big maybe) children, but a potential relationship with someone you may or may not meet? Um, no.

  12. 42

    Helen, I completely agree that young children through the whole balance off. One thing I believe is part of the reason though is that, post-World War II, the nuclear family became THE model of family. Suddenly, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even close friends and neighbors became either quite secondary figures in helping raise children, or were shut out all together. People give lip service to the whole “It takes a village to raise a child” cliche, but when it comes down to it, the majority of parents do most of the raising alone these days (especially during the first 3-5 years of a child’s life). And given that we’ve had multiple generations believing in this story, it’s harder for parents who do want broader support to get that support. Other family members either don’t live anywhere nearby, or they’re too focused on their own lives to give much help with the young ones.
    There are many things from the past I wouldn’t want to bring forward, but I do think if we had a slightly more communal approach to raising children, the pressure on mothers and fathers to do it all, and be next to perfect doing so, would lessen. Which not only would improve their relationships, but also their general well-being.

  13. 43

    nathan #43, I completely agree. Family becomes so much more meaningful, and childrearing easier, when extended family members are around. For us, that only happens around holidays. Then everyone goes back to their distant spheres and that helpful, meaningful bond is lost. I wish we could return to that aspect of the olden days, but you’re right – family living near each other is no longer as much of a priority today.
    As for choosing jobs over relationships (responding to everyone else’s comments): The other side of the nuclear family myth is that people are rightfully questioning whether it’s even the best way to live. Consider this reader’s comment on NYTimes, on Maureen Dowd’s silly article about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s single status:
    “We need to put to rest, once and for all, the ridiculous myth that the nuclear family is the only path towards happiness.

    “One of the marked characteristics of modern society is the fact that we are now spending more time at work than ever before. It could then be argued that, as far as overall personal happiness is concerned, it is far more important to have a satisfying career than a satisfying romantic relationship.

    “Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have both. But imagine a life filled with books and music and travel and good food and good friends, and a rewarding career to boot – that sounds like my idea of happiness. It’d be nice to share it with someone, but it’s not essential.”

  14. 44

    hhhmmhh…I agree with at previous poster, she is doing other things, that gets her those responses…..

  15. 45

    Post 8 says men want everything perfect to date women these days; just switch men and women in that and you’re far, far closer to reality.

    As Helen observed, women fare better alone and want marriage less than men. She is spot on. Of course men want and in fact crave to be with a woman, otherwise we wouldn’t knock ourselves out and suffer countless rejections trying to start a relationship. Women are just way more lukewarm and tepid about men. They’d like one, sort of, kind of, maybe if he meets 50 criteria on their checklist. Women do the vast majority of the rejecting and initiate way more divorces.

    I don’t know why biology came about the way it did, but we have one gender – and this has intensified since women became independent economically, obviously an excellent and proper development – which is simply far more ambivalent and difficult to excite about the other gender than the other. It’s a sad setup without a solution. And as more men continue to fall behind women economically we are going to have increasing millions of men who are unwillingly all alone. It’s heartbreaking really.

  16. 46

    “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”
    They would?  I wish I were meeting these men!  Most if not all the men I’ve ever dated were more interested when I was less available, less interested when I cleared out my schedule to be available to spend more time with them.  They’re so into the “chase”. o_O

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