Q: Dear Meredith,
I have been in a serious relationship with my boyfriend for about a year. I'm the first (and only) girl he brought home to meet his family. We attend the same college and when everything is great, everything is GREAT. I can honestly see myself marrying this kid when we're both out of school.
Here's the catch: boyfriend is beyond obsessed with a sport. He plays for our school, which is Division 1, and he has a pretty solid chance of playing professionally. He has hopes to play here or overseas, and I completely support him. However, boyfriend isn't the star athlete who has the natural ability to play without trying. Boyfriend works extremely hard putting in extra time before and after practice, spends his weekends in, changes his diet, and molds his entire life around his athletic career. The amount of hard work and dedication he puts into EVERYTHING -- his sport in particular -- is one of his most attractive qualities.
He's my best friend and the center of my life, and when he's around he makes me so happy. But his schedule during the season -- and pessimistic attitude when practices/games don't go so well -- get in the way constantly. I've told him several times that he needs to separate himself from the sport when he's around me. He feels horrible, he knows he’s a negative Nancy, doesn’t want to lose me, makes an effort and change … for a while … and then the cycle continues.
When he talks about his life and his future, I'm always in it. But I just don't know what to do. I'm the kind of person who thinks the glass is not only half full, but that there's a warm chocolate chip cookie next to it. I can emotionally deal with the stress, limited time, mood changes, and all the nonsense that comes along with him playing some lame game. I just want him to be happy. I can't keep having the same conversation with him about his negativity it’s embarrassing at this point. I want to be supportive, I want to be with him, but how do I break the cycle?
– Second String, Boston
A: SSt, you can't break the cycle. His obsession with perfection is what drives him. Athletes get like this. So do musicians. And writers. And accountants in April. You say you love his passion. Well, obsession is a part of it.
What do you think Gisele Bundchen tells Tom Brady after a bad game? "Honey, separate yourself from the sport! Don't worry about the Jets! That game was a week ago!" No way. She probably gives him a tiny pep talk, flips her hair like a glorious mermaid, and takes her perfect long legs into another room so that he can obsess and be negative in private.
Of course, come spring, Gisele gets Vacation Tom, who I assume is far less obsessed and moody than Quarterback Tom. You have a similar deal.
I don't want to blame the victim here, but perhaps the real problem is this: "he's my best friend and the center of my life." That's great, but you need some balance. Do you know what Gisele was doing when Tom started his season a few weeks ago? She was in New York for Fashion Week, happily doing her own thing. I never thought I’d say this to anyone with a straight face (and it's giving me stomach pains to type it), but take a lesson from Gisele. If you keep busy with activities that feed your warm-chocolate-chip-cookie spirit, I promise that your athletic boyfriend's seasonal, obsessive behavior won't be so overwhelming.
Readers? Anyone date an athlete or a seasonal worker? Advice for this second-string girlfriend? Did you catch that she called his sport a "lame game"? What's that about? Discuss (and Gisele, feel free to chime in if you're reading). Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.