Advice

Carolyn Hax: My boyfriend says I’m not up to the challenge

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend of 21/2 years recently said our relationship is slowing due to my inability to challenge him. He thinks my job, one that will allow me to move cross-country for him soon, does not offer opportunities for my professional growth, and therefore our growth.

My life primarily revolves around family and small social circles at work and church. When I visit him, we do his things and hang out with his friends. I know our dynamic will change once I move there, but it has been stressful long-distance. I want to challenge him and grow. What do you suggest?

Stunted

He just said: “For me to want you, you need to improve.” And you just labeled yourself “Stunted.” So painful.

If you like your family, small social circles and job, then I urge you to keep them — and lose the critic dressed as your boyfriend. Grow into liking yourself.

To all: Has this setup ever had a happy ending? Please share stories.

Re: Stunted: I was the one who thought my partner wasn’t growing enough (with interests similar to “Stunted’s”). So I decided to look at her using a different tack: I looked at the things she enjoyed and realized how unfocused I was on those aspects of my own life, and too focused on my career.

She gave me possibly the greatest gift anyone has ever given me, by showing me there are other important things in life besides career. I know my friends better, I’m more loyal to them. By looking at things from her perspective, I was challenged to grow.

I wouldn’t expect the partner to do the same, but I thought this would be good for Stunted herself to hear. What she focuses on is not insignificant and she shouldn’t be told what is or is not significant by her partner.

– Anonymous(END ITAL)

Brilliant. Thank you.

Re: Stunted: It’s a variation on “I could see myself marrying you if you changed a, b and c.” Thing is, there will always be d, e and f. Happened to me and I worked hard at a, b and c, but it was never “enough” so I left. Sad thing was, it took me a while to actually believe someone would love me as-is and not as a “fixer-upper.”

Anonymous 2

Ah, but you left. Good for you.

Carolyn: He’s concerned that I don’t bring anything new in terms of hobbies to our relationship. We overlapped in so many interests of mine initially, and he had so many more, that it was hard to find something different that I could teach him. But thank you, this has given me much to think about.

Stunted again

I’m all for a lifetime of growth and challenge, but, hello, it’s our job to seek challenges, not our companions’. Which is a good thing, because Kenny hasn’t introduced me to rock climbing, model-ship building, speaking Cantonese, fencing, bird-watching, hair-braiding, organic farming, folk dancing or Yahtzee! And I don’t want to have to be miffed about that.

Please hold out for someone who thinks you’re the bee’s knees even if you don’t teach him beekeeping. Cheez.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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