Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I recently got a new job and it is very different from my last one. My last job was in the service industry as I finished school. I kept very different hours, had a much more active social life to say the least, and our work was always an open book, with my coworkers and I taking advantage of our close relationships to vent about work and let off steam.
Recently I got a new job in line with what I studied in college, and it is night and day. Not only do I work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but most of my work is completely confidential. I cannot talk about my clients, my specific tasks I am working on, or sometimes even where I am going when I take a day trip out of town.
Professionally I’ve never been better, but this is really hard on my social life. And I don’t just mean the not going out with my friends every night — which I admittedly miss, but I’m really fine without that. The problem is my significant other. He keeps pushing me to tell him details about my job. He knows I work in a confidential environment but it’s like it doesn’t matter. He begs for details about my day and gets mad when I won’t share. He says it would help me unwind but he is ramping up my stress by harassing me about what I do. There have also been a couple of unexpected long days and he completely freaked out and went so far as to ask if I was seeing someone else.
What can I do? I really like him but I like my job too, and he’s making me nuts.
Relationships are all different, and within them, we all need different things. Some people are happy living in different cities and seeing each other on weekends; others make Slope schedules work and go weeks without seeing each other. On the other end of the spectrum, you have couples that spend as much time together as possible and share everything. We are all lucky if we find someone close enough to where we’re at that we can find a level of companionable happiness, but sometimes we — or our circumstances — are just a mismatch.
It’s clear that you’re OK with this separation of work and daily life, but it’s also clear that your boyfriend values sharing — not only sharing his own daily details, observations, and frustrations, but he needs to hear yours too. And when you’re telling him you simply can’t talk about it, it’s making him crazy, because while you are sticking to your ethical guns, and trying to mind the rules of your new job, he isn’t hearing, “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to talk about it.” He’s hearing, “I don’t trust you enough to tell you,” and, “I don’t believe you can keep my professional secrets,” and even, “I don’t need to talk to you about it, ergo I don’t need you.”
While this might sound extreme, ridiculous, or just irrational, understanding his perspective can help you manage it. If you can’t confide in him about work, what other big-picture, deep-dive chats could you have to demonstrate you value his opinion and support and trust him with precious secrets? Have some chats about your big hopes and dreams; get romantic and go big on confessing your feelings and exploring your emotions. It isn’t the same as telling him the super-secret details of your mysterious job, but it might go a long way in showing him you do need and want him around.
Extreme also describes your boyfriend’s reaction to your out-of-town shift: a cheating accusation? Really? Freak out much, bro?
I’m all for you attempting to find other aspects of life to fill that empty communication space that was once overflowing with the exhaustingly rehashed highs and lows of your respective workdays, as Wanda has recommended. But I’m not for you, or anyone else, accepting a grown man absurdly and disrespectfully escalating his emotions until they explode.
You’ve studied and worked your butt off for this. You’re finally locked into your chosen profession, one I’m guessing you’re passionate about, and it’s going great! You’re lucky. Lots of people don’t like their jobs. Lots of people really really don’t like their jobs. And some people are desperately seeking any kind of job they can get. You appreciate that; your boyfriend just doesn’t get it.
He’s selfish, childish and needs to understand that your job, confidential work and ethics are none of his business and definitely not for him to question. He should be supporting you, not interrogating you. It must be tiring after a hard day of work. So it’s time for you to give him a Relationship Performance Review, let him know he’s not meeting expectations, and that if he doesn’t show improvement soon, he’s fired.