Two life-changing events happened the first week of March, just before COVID-19 turned everyone’s lives upside down. I landed a terrific job and my boyfriend and I moved in together.
For the first three weeks, everything seemed great. My job seemed solid, while one after another of our friends lost theirs. While my guy and I had to isolate, we had each other.
Slowly, however, things deteriorated. My boyfriend was furloughed and then laid off. Meanwhile, my work duties grew steadily more intense. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I think about is work. At night, I lie awake mulling over work projects.
My boyfriend has grown steadily more insulting about this. Instead of being happy for me that I have work I enjoy, he tells me I’ve become a total bore and am addicted to work. He even complains to our friends. I understand why he’s upset. Before I took this job, I spent all my time with my boyfriend. We had a great time every weekend. We hung out at bars or friends’ houses every night, or stayed at home watching sports on our flat screen. Once COVID hit, we had to stop going out and so were home alone together. When we’re watching sports at home on the couch, I drag over my iPad and focus on work projects.
I’ve tried to cover up my love of work because all our mutual friends and everyone else I know has a negative attitude against workaholics. When I take a call from my boss that gives me an assignment that requires weekend work, I groan, pretending to be unhappy. Secretly, I’m thrilled. I’m learning a lot and love my work. When I think about what happens when things open up again, and whether I’d rather go out to a bar again or take on new projects, I realize I’ll now view going to the bar as boring.
I still really like my boyfriend. He’s a great guy. He’s handsome, funny and generous. He knows how to fix everything. He’s also ticked off all the time. He says it’s no fun when I’m on my iPad while he’s watching sports because I’m not watching with him. We still love each other, but I’m afraid I’ll lose him if something doesn’t change.
Your work appears to give you a sense of accomplishment and to fulfill your need to learn, grow and ensure your career future. If that’s all that you want, you and your guy may not be suited for each other.
But that doesn’t seem to be the full story. You also value your guy and if you prioritize work above connectedness with him, you allow work to consume too much of your life. If you want a life with this particular guy, you need to rein in your work infatuation and set boundaries. You need to give more time and attention to your guy – including thinking of him when you first wake in the morning.
Meanwhile, your guy needs to loosen up. If you look up from your iPad during critical plays as you cuddle next to him on the couch, what’s the problem? Does he truly want a life in which he spends every evening at a bar or friends’ houses, or would he also like to find something that creates a sense of accomplishment for him? Is part of this problem that he’s having a hard time being jobless and if so, can he focus on that instead of resenting you?
Your route forward — decide what you truly want in your life and have an honest conversation with your guy about what’s really going on for both of you. If you do, you may find work’s pleasures pale in comparison to the rewards found in an intimate relationship where two people really talk to each other. If, however, the increased connection COVID-19 forced on you and your guy revealed a deep relationship crack, perhaps it’s good you both realize that and part as friends. If he can’t allow you to enjoy work as well as him, and if your friends force you to cover up what you enjoy, you may realize he and they aren’t what you need or want in your future.
© 2020, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and www.workplacecoachblog.com. Curry is President of Communication Works Inc. Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.