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Q: Dear Meredith,
I have been in a relationship for more than a year. We love each other very much and I can picture myself marrying him someday. But recently we had a problem. One of my family members passed away, and he couldn't come to the funeral to support me because he was having an anxiety attack about missing work. This need to work is something that has bothered me the entire time I have been with him. My worry is that he cares more about work than me. He says that he doesn't, that he loves me more, and that I am more important than anything. But he just can't be happy unless he completes his work. He is impossibly stressed and distracted, not to mention the occasional anxiety attacks.
I don't want him to be unhappy or stressed, but at the same time, I feel neglected. His response when I talked to him was along the lines of "well this is me and you are just going to have to accept it." He is a kind and gentle person that treats me well, except when it comes to this. I am at a loss. I love him and even the thought of being without him is almost too much to bear. But I don't want to be unhappy for the rest of my life. And most of all, I am terrified that when something like that happens again, the one person I depend on won't be there to help me.
– Holdingontolove, New York
A: I'm sitting here trying to decide what he does for a living and whether there's any profession that excuses this type of abandonment. Because even the president takes time off for funerals. Even international pop stars cancel tours for family emergencies.
He's telling you that you have to accept this obsessive part of him but you don't, of course. You need someone who can finish his work and come home to you without becoming an anxious, resentful mess.
If he admitted that he has a problem -- that he's obsessed with work and needs to be treated for anxiety attacks -- I'd be more hopeful about this relationship. But he's not self-aware about any of this and it's making you miserable.
My advice is to ask him how he defines his work-related anxiety. Does he plan to be this way forever? Does he want to get help? Can he acknowledge that he left you alone during a time of need? How did he feel when he was at work and he knew that you were alone at a funeral? Will there ever be room for compromise?
If he sticks to the "this is me" routine, you can't continue the relationship. You say that you're terrified. That's no way to be. He either wants to make this better or he doesn't.
Readers? Is there any job out there that excuses this behavior? Have you ever dated someone who's work obsessed? Is this a problem that’s related to the economy? Can their relationship be fixed? What should she ask/tell him? 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.