Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I've been with my boyfriend for six months now. When I first met him, he worked on the Slope, but had just one more hitch to go. So after we had a few awesome dates, and I felt like I was really falling hard (I was), there was an excruciating three-week period when he went back up north and finished his last shift. Then he came back to town and we've been pretty inseparable ever since. I love our relationship. We moved in together pretty quickly because it just felt so right, and I've never had so much fun with or enjoyed another person so much.
Unfortunately this whole time, he hasn't been working. He had a couple of offers here in town but passed them up because he said the money just wasn't worth it. Yesterday, when I got home from work, he told me he had a phone interview to return to the Slope and accepted. He will be going up in a week.
I am distraught about this. I am so used to being with him literally every day. I can't imagine going three weeks at a time without him. If it's like last time, he'll be on nights, which means we'll have a really hard time even coordinating time to talk. I'm also frankly mad he didn't talk to me about this before accepting the job. He didn't even tell me about the interview!
I love my boyfriend — and I love having him here, with me. I don't want a part-time or long-distance relationship and I don't want him to go back up on the Slope. I feel so desperate to not have him leave me, I'm thinking I should tell him that if he goes, we're over, because I'm sure that would stop him. Too dramatic? What can I do?
Being one-half of a Slope couple is a tough gig — as is any relationship where one partner has to travel a lot for work and be regularly away for sustained periods. I can hear that you're spinning a bit, trying and failing to re-imagine how your daily interactions will give way to a future relationship state where you're only around each other half the time. It's hard to picture how that will feel when you're used to being around each other constantly.
It would be easy here to tell you relationships are about compromise — which is true. It's also true that we all have our own deal-breakers and non-negotiables.
It may just be the case that you are not cut out for long-distance relationships. Is being with your man part-time better than not having him at all? Conversely, will his half-time absence mean you won't get what you need out of this relationship? You owe it to your partner to be honest about your capacity for separation; this doesn't mean slaying the poor guy with ultimatums, but rather, explaining to him that you know you can't handle long-distance and out of respect for you both, that means the relationship should end.
Because he is going to the Slope, and he will be gone part-time — and he's good with that. The fact that he took the interview and the job without consulting you suggests he anticipated your resistance, too. If you choose to stick this out, there are bright sides. Distance really can make the heart grow fonder, or at least maintain its level of fondness, and you'll be able to really enjoy his off-shift time too. If you love him as you say, I urge you to at least give this a shot and see if you can't make it work.
If you have to ask if you're being too dramatic, it's safe to guess that you likely are. And you'd better be careful about issuing overly theatrical, and totally fake, ultimatums. This sounds like someone who might just accept.
I'm going to give it to you straight with no dramatics: He's going back to the Slope, your opinion on the matter isn't a deciding factor, and he's probably going to be a Slope worker for the rest of his employable life. Ouch, I know. So can you accept that?
Because he clearly isn't in a space that he'll be satisfied earning a piddly paycheck at a monotonous 9-to-5 job that he has to work every day of every workweek for the rest of his life like all of us schlubs. He loves and is committed to a lifestyle of long hours on the grind, big bank auto-deposits, and happy hitches away from any professional and personal drama.
And after six months with you, including many of those days living together, he isn't to the point that he feels you're his partner or that he can handle riding an emotional rollercoaster with you. If he did, he probably would have mentioned that whole job interview and offer thing.
So instead of making false threats, keep it real with him and yourself. If you want a trusted and true companion, move on now. If you can't survive the reality or anticipation of him being gone for two or three weeks at a time for the rest of your pre-retirement relationship, move on now. If you're unsure, give it a few work hitches and R&Rs — it should become very clear very quickly.