Does future career always trump future relationship?

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Hi Guys,

I have been totally blindsided! About six weeks ago I started seeing this guy. (He is younger than me – I’m 30 and he’s 24, but that didn’t seem to bother him.) Everything was going really smoothly up until yesterday. While we were seeing each other he was out of town for two of the weeks. One of the weeks he was going to different universities around Canada because he’s finishing med school this year and is looking for residency positions. So we didn’t talk much while he was gone. And then the week before Christmas he was out of town staying with his family. So I know that overall I haven’t invested a whole lot of time into this relationship but I’m not sure where/when it went wrong.

The first few weeks that we were seeing each other he did do most of the talking. I think he was nervous(?) because it could be hard for me to get a word in edgewise. After our second date he wanted to not only know if I’d hang out with him on New Years but also wanted to know if there was anyone else in the picture and seemed somewhat surprised when I said that I wasn’t seeing anyone else. He even asked me if “I was (only) his” and I said yes. (How does one answer that kind of question??) He was really eager/enthusiastic – I’ve never dated someone so overzealous (seemingly) in the beginning of a relationship but I certainly wasn’t complaining. I don’t think he’s had much experience in having relationships. He said he’d only had one previous long term relationship and then a “fling” over the summer. I just got out of a 4.5 year relationship last March and I’m in no rush to jump into anything. (We waited until about 2 or 3 weeks in before having sex… well I made us wait and I think I should’ve waited longer).

After a few dates he invited me out with his friends and we had a really good time. He told me later they really liked me and a week or so after that my friends and I hosted a party and he came to that and my friends all came up to me later telling me they really liked him. After the party was the first time we had sex and I do think there was a (very) subtle change in the dynamic of the relationship after that. The very day we had sex I had to leave to go to work but we made plans to hang out when I got off. Just as I was on my way to meet up with him he messaged me bailing on me—first time ever bailing last minute—because he had to pack because he was going to his universities tour that I mentioned earlier. The fact that he had just stayed at home while I was gone playing on his xbox knowing he was supposed to meet up with me I thought was inconsiderate so I asked him to next time give me a heads-up in advance if he has to bail. And the following week, when he thought he wasn’t going to be able to meet up, he let me know 12 hours in advance! So I saw the bailing thing as just a blip.

Loveawake

We still frequently made plans to meet up after that and it was always nice spending time with him and he was pretty consistent about contacting me, as was I with him. Two days ago he got back from spending a week and a half with his family out of town. No sooner did we sit down at coffee yesterday that he said, “We have to talk!” We hadn’t even had a ‘define the relationship’ type of conversation so I didn’t even know if he considered me as his girlfriend. And then the next thing I knew he was ending our relationship and according to him we were dating!

He said that he felt that because the hospital he was going to be working at next semester was pretty far he was going to have to spend a lot of time at his parents because they live close to the hospital. He often has to be at the hospital for 6am and public transit doesn’t even start to operate until 6am and he will be on call most of the time and he didn’t know how much time he could invest into a relationship. He said he doesn’t also want to be a guy who calls only when he has like thirty minutes to hang out or something. He said he still likes me and is attracted to me but he has to prioritize his career and school. (Since I have a Master’s degree I totally get the need to prioritize school and career.)

So I told him that I respected him for being straight up but that I would’ve appreciated a bit more dialogue such as about how I would have felt with only seeing him once a week but he sort of made up his mind about how I would’ve felt about it.

I asked him how long he had been thinking of this and he said he just started really thinking seriously (as in 3 days ago) about how the next few months are going to be for him and that he didn’t see how things could work out as we’d like it to so he decided he needed to focus on his priorities, which is school and getting into a residency program. (I don’t begrudge that of course).

But is it really school or do you think he’ll have a change of heart?

Thanks!

Sarah

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Dear Sarah,

Thanks for your question.

As women are often, but certainly not always, attracted to guys who are stable and seemingly good caretakers—guys with money, or at least good jobs—guys in turn strive to achieve those positions. Our identities, and unfortunately our egos, are closely connected to our work. We want to feel valued in society. We want to be respected by our peers. And we certainly want to be attractive to women. But it’s more than that. Since we’re no longer required to hunt, moving up the career ladder is the closest thing we have to taking down that Saber Tooth Tiger.

Your guy’s age and inexperience play a big factor here as well. He’s probably a bit uncertain about how he feels. Remember, he’s probably been planning on studying medicine his whole life. (Or maybe his parents pushed him in that direction, which is a whole other story.) Then all of a sudden he meets you right before he’s about to take the next step and he’s thrown off a bit. Most guys just won’t tolerate that. Even if they feel a strong connection with a woman they won’t allow themselves to “go there.” We’d say he fits neatly into this category. And if so, we don’t see him veering from his course.

Some people love the idea of love. They get all excited every time they meet someone new, only to have their feelings temper as the relationship develops. In a word, or words, this stinks for the other person. The way he spoke to you at the beginning was probably genuine, but in some ways he was living in his own fantasy world. When he “woke up,” he realized that he needed to stay focused on his plan.

Of course having said that, if this guy really felt something extra special with you his conversation might have been slightly different.(Like you surmised.) He might have asked you how you felt about him moving, and if you would consider trying to do a long distance relationship; and maybe if he was really a risk taker, he’d ask you if you would consider relocating. He still wouldn’t have changed his path, but it’s possible he might have tried to incorporate you into it.

But that takes a forward-thinking person to do that. Someone who is able to balance a lot at one time, or even understand that this balancing act is possible. If he’s career obsessed it might not even have occurred to him that having an exciting career AND a great relationship is possible. Some guys just don’t have that capacity, even when they are married.

If it makes you feel better we bet at some point he’ll feel some regret over his decision. We also wouldn’t be surprised if he contacted you again. But it’s hard to say when, and if he’ll be a different person when he does. (We wouldn’t hold our breath on this one.)

We’ll speak personally and tell you that having a career that we love is very important, but having a woman we love and a family to come home to is even better. There are many guys out there who feel the way we do. We’re not sure if this guy is one of them, or if he’s just too young to know where he stands.

Please leave us a comment here in the comments section. We’ll respond here as well.

Good luck,

THE GUYS

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