Should I Be With the Man I Want and Settle For a Life I Don’t?

Hey Evan, I am a grad student in my early 20’s. I have a job I love and have been in a relationship with my current boyfriend for over a year. He is truly a great man and is all I have ever wanted. We have a great connection, awesome chemistry, and share the same values. I am happier in this relationship than I ever have been. That being said I have a dilemma.

He is in the military and while he has never had to leave me for an extended period of time, inevitably, he will have to one day (anywhere from 3 months to one year). We have recently been discussing our future together and I have been reflecting and am beginning to worry. I have always imagined getting married one day and having children, which I could see myself doing with him, but never have I imagined having my significant other leave me for extended periods of time. The thought of being married and not having my spouse available to me to vent about my day, or have dinner with or share responsibilities with frustrates me. The life I see with him makes me question if that is the kind of life I want for myself.

While we are presently happy and content, I foresee problems arising from this issue, and thus being troublesome in our future. So my question to you Evan: Should I continue this relationship knowing our future together and having to be apart for extended periods of time will emotionally drain me and cause problems, Or should I break it off with the man of my dreams and be selfish and pursue someone who will be available 24/7 when it comes to marriage and children? I feel as if my only options are: Be with the man I want and settle for a life I don’t, or settle for someone else but have the life I want. I appreciate your time Evan! Look forward to your response! —Stella

Dear Stella,

I was on the phone yesterday with a client who was lamenting her available choices on Common story. I won’t bore you with it.

My client, an attractive, successful, likeable woman in her early 40’s, actually had good reason to lament. After all, in the past, she had gone out with senators and C-level executives from Fortune 500 companies. She is quality and she attracts quality.

You don’t get good qualities without getting the bad qualities that come with it.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

But I was still left with a question for her: “What happened to the senator and the executives?” What I got back was some version of “Too busy, travels a lot, has no time for me, unable to commit, couldn’t give me what I needed.”

Got it.

And yet it never even occurred to her that in trying to find an equally impressive man, she would get the EXACT SAME RELATIONSHIP all over again.

I talk about this extensively in “Why He Disappeared”; you don’t get good qualities without getting the bad qualities that come with it.

And if a guy is a rock star, basketball player, CEO, actor, or some other high paid, high status, high charisma man, he will usually be a little more selfish, narcissistic, commitmentphobic, and emotionally and physically unavailable.

Look around. I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know, or anything that reading the New York Times and US Weekly couldn’t already reveal.

I know I’ve hijacked your question to make a broader point to a broader audience, but it bears great relevance to your situation.

Because it doesn’t matter if you’re dating the PERFECT man — a guy who is so whipped on you that he makes you French Toast every morning and goes down on you every night. If you only get to see him for three months out of the year, you will not have the kind of relationship that you crave.

This is a one-way ticket to Unhappyland.

But that’s the bargain that many women make — and later regret. It’s no coincidence that we read about the high divorce rate in Hollywood. I mean, really, was anyone shocked that Eva Longoria — who is on set at Desperate Housewives for eight months a year, divorced Tony Parker, a French basketball player who is ten years younger and travels from city to city eight months a year? Too much distance, too much temptation, too much narcissism, too little time together to keep the flame alive. Hell, I just saw “The Messenger” with Woody Harrelson, which depicts a soldier whose girlfriend fell in love with another man while he was on active duty in Iraq. Yes, it may be a movie, but it’s reflective of a greater reality.

Couples who don’t spend time together find that it’s hard to stay together. Hard to talk on the phone every night. Hard not to wish you had a conventional marriage. Hard not to think the grass may be greener in the backyard next door.


To bring it back to the question that any woman reading this might have… are you better off with this amazing man in a perpetually dissatisfying relationship, or are you better off with perhaps a “lesser” man in a far superior relationship.

Couples who don’t spend time together find that it’s hard to stay together.

One can do one’s own calculus, but I always use my fancy public policy degree to make decision trees for my clients who are in this predicament.

Simply put: calculate the value of the man, multiply it by the value of the relationship itself, and voila — you’ve got your answer.

A man who is a “10”…in a relationship that’s a “3”… nets you a 30.

A man who is a “7”… in a relationship that’s a “10”…nets you a 70.

Sounds to me like you’d be appreciably happier with a man who is also cute, kind, fun, and stable…but is around all the time to be a great husband and father.

You’re not wrong if you choose to go with your current guy.

Just don’t be surprised if one or both of you has trouble sustaining a relationship that is strained by the distance between you.