Wayne & Wanda: Can a relationship last after the party's over?

Wayne and Wanda

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a couple years. We live together in an apartment close to downtown. We met downtown at a bar through mutual friends. Back then, we both went out a lot. In fact, we probably went out almost every night of the week. We both smoked and drank most nights of the week. We had tons of the same friends and loved being out on the town. We initially connected on these lifestyle similarities. Most of our dates involved drinks with friends and going to shows.

Well, two years later, I'm in a more demanding job and frankly, I need more sleep these days. I'm also more health conscious and I just don't want to drink that much. I gave up smoking months ago.

The problem is my boyfriend is still hitting it hard. He loves to go out, all the time. He doesn't understand why I'm being "so lame" (his words). He says I've changed. I'm worried that with me slowing down but him showing no signs of letting up, we will grow apart. I love him and don't want to lose him. Any advice?

-- Sober-ish

Wanda says: We all have our deal-breakers, and you're worried your calmed-down ways are no longer meeting your man's standards. But what are your own non-negotiables? If you're trying to drink less, be healthier and stay home more, how does dating a party boy fit into the equation?

The fact is, sometimes relationships change and we grow apart. All too often, our society defines a relationship's success by how long it lasts. But not all love stories are long epics, and short stories are love stories too. Perhaps after a couple of fun-filled, boozy years together, your time with your boyfriend has run its course. Don't be afraid of this possibility. Think honestly about what you need to be happy -- and about whether you two can achieve that together.

If you decide he's still the man for you, then a hard conversation is in order. You can't go shot for shot with him on a Tuesday just because he doesn't like drinking alone, and a grown-up relationship needs more substance to bind it together than a mutual love for rum and Cokes and open mic nights. Good luck, either way.

Wayne says: You know what is really so lame? Boyfriends calling their girlfriends lame because they don't party with them on school nights anymore. Hello -- we're trying to be grown-ups here! This rent isn't paying itself.

Don't beat yourself up about this and definitely don't let your boozy boy pick on you emotionally. You're making the changes and sacrifices you need to so you can function and thrive. He is staying on course with what's working for him and he's bummed that he lost his drinking buddy. That's no excuse to make you feel guilty but it's the perfect excuse for you both to assess this relationship.

OK, you love him and are willing to bend a little more than most. But it's moment-of-clarity time -- you're drifting apart and neither of your needs are being met. Are you willing to continue dating someone who might be in a bar when you get home from a hard day at work and possibly still be there when you go to bed? Is he willing to understand that you aren't available for partying on weeknights? More important, is he willing to push away from the bar every once in a while to spend nights at home with you and continue building this relationship?

Tough questions, but the longer you avoid asking them, the more difficult this situation is going to get. You've made a lot of positive changes recently -- if you can't inspire him to make some of his own or at least work with you for the sake of the relationship, it's closing time.

• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@adn.com.