Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for four years. Friends introduced us because we were similarly outgoing and always laughing. We had tons of fun together as a couple.
Two years ago he got a job that is directly in the line of work he intends to pursue as a career. His company pays for his licensure exams, but he is always at work or locked up at home studying. His dedication is inspiring, but his demeanor has changed. He is quiet, serious, if I ask him questions he responds in only one-word answers, and uses every ounce of free time to study for his next certification (and there are many). Any excess free time he spends on his fantasy football team. He has another four years of these exams, and I don't have four years more of patience in me.
I don't know what I want to change -- I don't want him to stop studying, and I don't want to break up with him because when he is stress-free and happy, he is still that man that I fell in love with. But I don't want to live another four years feeling like a single woman with a grumpy male roommate.
His attitude frustrates me, and I become cranky and annoyed and I don't feel like a person in a happy relationship should. I know I need to talk to him, but I don't know what to say -- I'm miserable, I know he loves me and doesn't mean to come off the way that he does, but I can't keep "sucking it up" for another four years. What do I do?
– Unhappy in a happy relationship, Andover
A: I understand that you don't want to break up -- and I'm not saying that you should (yet) -- but I want you to consider whether you're open to being with someone who lives his job and handles stress by shutting down. Has he been grumpy since he started this work? If so, you had two years of a good relationship and then another two years of one-word answers. Will this really end when the exams are over? Or will his career be just as demanding and keep him in a similar mood?
Tell him that you understand his stress and have great respect for all that he does, but that you can't take full-time grumpy for four years (or a lifetime). Explain that you want to be an escape for him, just like fantasy football. Is he treating you like another obligation? If so, why? Is there something else going on here? How does he feel about the state of the relationship?
Find out whether he's open to making an effort and having some fun -- because there's always time to hang out and laugh, even if it's just before bed. Life will only get more demanding. If he can't find ways to enjoy you in the present, I'm just not sure about the future.
Readers? Is this temporary? What can she say to him without sounding selfish? Is she asking for too much during exam time? Fantasy football? Help.
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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.