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In the past I have sent a short story, The Best Dog In The World, or a link to my short film (now publicly available on Vimeo) as a reward. I don’t have anything specific to send out this year, but anyone can watch or download those, no donation required.
We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming.
Dear Captain Awkard:
So I’ve been dating this Sagittarian for 8 months. It was going swimmingly and due to his couple of months free waiting to get exam results and find a new job, along with me working for myself and being able to take loads of time off, we were intenso – inseparable for 3 months. Mix up his exotic hotness, ambition, brains, resounding (seeming) lack of baggage, patience, easygoing nature and ability to deal with me. Slather on some pretty great sex, a holiday in Rome, my friends loving him, lots of late night spiritual and philosophical convos and I was fully baked. He’s only 26 and I’m 28 but sure cool.
Then he gets the job he wanted. Head and neck surgeon and pretty full on, but only 8-5 and no weekends. I would have been fine only for 2 things: sex took a massive nose dive and he’s absolutely exhausted all the time.
I’m a Gemini. Fairly well-adjusted but I get bored of the trivialities of 9-5 life, that’s why I’m an entrepreneur. I also adore traveling and love my work, I see life as being about relationships and experiences. I feel as though he’s choosing his career over the rest of his life, including ME.
Now I’m a bitter hag about the sex, having asked if it’s because he’s gay (both honestly and nastily), or just doesn’t fancy me (ditto) or if he has issues about sex (not much experience/possible mother issues or whatever) and he swears it’s none of these things, he’s just tired. He also now thinks I’m a nympho, which is ridiculous.
He can’t seem to sleep earlier than 12 and gets up at 6 so I KNOW he’s tired but he has to take responsibility for that himself, I don’t force him to stay up or eat late! He’s trying different diets, gave up smoking 2 months ago for the first time in 14 years, getting exercise, is going to try yoga, but it’s not working so far.
I feel neglected, betrayed, disappointed. On top of that he’s not very romantic or good at expressing his feelings verbally. Not terrible but not great. We’ve entered a massive power struggle and are constantly bickering, mostly started by me. Throw in the fact that his 6 month contract ends soon and he may have to spend much of his career moving around the country. I am fairly free to go with him but my LIFE is here in London and I’m not the type of person who wants to be traipsing around after a man. I feel really badly towards him and I know that I’m pulling away because I don’t want to compromise myself and/or get hurt. Oh and I don’t like his mother.
Dear Star-Crossed Gemini:
I consulted the stars, and they said that when a person starts an intense new job and makes a bunch of lifestyle changes all at once, it might take a few months to get into a new routine that works. Even with a relatively predictable schedule, working as a surgeon full time is no joke and it is not surprising that he would be physically and mentally exhausted as he tries to climb the learning curve. He’s spent most of the last decade training for this moment. It’s possible that you guys just have mismatched sex drives and would have found that out over the long-term anyway, but even people with very high sex drives are affected by stress and major changes. Whatever is going on, bickering and other “massive” “It’s your career vs. ME” power struggles are not going to make it better. I mean, what is the most sexy sex of all? Making a wild guess, it’s not the “I’m doing this to prove I’m not gay!” sex that you’re browbeaten into by a resentful partner.
Then the sun chimed in that you should stop describing anything as “exotic,” most especially a romantic partner. One by one the planets nodded their assent.
Then I asked the moon, and it said it is okay for relationships to end when people figure out that they are not compatible and want different things. You are in a place in your life where you want to travel and seek out new experiences but be based solidly in London, and it sounds like you’ve set up your career to make those priorities work out for you. He is at a place where he needs to dig in and focus on his career, wherever that takes him. It sounds like your work is flexible enough that you could move around with him if you really wanted to, but framing it as “traipsing around after some man” tells me that you are not ready and your heart is not really in this. That is OKAY.
Let me say again: That is OKAY.
There are people who you might click with really, really well on many levels and who check many of your “What I Want In A Partner” boxes…
…who are not a good match for forming a happy life. This is life being a big old unfair Jerkface, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
My worst & most painful breakups haven’t been with assholes who were plain old no good for me. On the contrary, they have been with People Who Were Awesome Except For That One Unfixable Thing. Deeply unsuitable geography, where neither partner has the money or inclination to move. Incompatibility around housekeeping, food, money, sleep schedule, monogamy, sex. Daily life, nitty-gritty stuff.
Any potential “dealbreaker,” I list is going to be somebody else’s surmountable challenge, because they have figured out how to have a happy life together in spite of whatever it is. I am genuinely glad for them! But they are not me, and they are not you. I have tried, when I loved the person, to dig in harder and find a way not to need the things I needed, and it has never worked. It has just made me spend years being unhappy and getting more invested in a thing that I know does not work for me.
I don’t have a general rubric for telling someone how and when to know something is done vs. worth hanging in for, because my priorities are not everyone’s and I am not the one who has to live with the choices. But I get a real feeling from your letter that you are not communicating with respect or openness, and that what looked good on paper and felt right when you were in vacation mode is making neither of you happy right now. You’re only 8 months in, no marriage, no kids, no joint property, both feeling unsupported and unloved at the end of the day, and entering into cruel fights. I’ve been making (gentle, I hope) fun of the stuff about horoscopes, but including your respective star signs as if they would be meaningful at all to me alongside a description of his attractiveness and job status and the romantic vacation you took is telling – You are trying too hard to make this all work out on paper because that is the only place that it is still working.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves….”
How much is it not working? Your letter, especially the email subject line, “Is Any Man Worth The Compromise?”, frames all of this partially as a feminist choice, but there are darker colors here. Being gay is not an insult, but accusing a straight man of being gay to pressure him to fuck you is right out of the Verbal Abuser’s Handbook of Unsavory Sexual Pressuring Tactics. Does that scare you? It should. However this all shakes out, one thing you should look into for yourself is how to fight fair and have constructive conflict with a partner. This relationship is not bringing out the best in you.
What I most want to tell you (and my younger selves who stayed and stayed and stayed to milk the last drop of “WELL AT LEAST WE TRIED” out of unhappy relationships) is: It doesn’t have to be this hard. Relationships aren’t always easy, troubles and conflicts happen, but the day-in, day-out fighting and worrying and feeling crappy you are doing is not normal and doesn’t have to be what you accept as normal.
Happiness is always a gamble, but I’m betting that a better partner for you will think horoscopes are real, want to have sex all the time, prioritize relationships, and have a similarly flexible and entrepreneurial lifestyle with plenty of time for travel while still being very tied to London. Or, he may not want any of those things, but he will come along at a time in your life when your priorities have changed and you ready for the particular adventure that he offers. I think you should take the gamble that this person or people are out there vs. trying to bicker your current boyfriend into a different shape. Relationships don’t have to be permanent to be valuable. This one brought you great sex, a trip to Rome, and an education in what you really want. Maybe that was what it was supposed to bring you.
The meteors, the comets, and the silent empty spaces between stars wish you well.
Things got shitty and condescending about this in a recent thread, so let me say clearly: Do not mention or refer to this letter writer’s age in any way in your comments. You may not have known what you wanted out of life when you were young. I didn’t. That doesn’t mean no one does.