Why Are Men So Affected by Career Issues?

I recently walked away from a guy I had been dating and really liked. I followed your tips, and he was clear about how much he liked me. He made a good amount of effort throughout the course of our almost-relationship, and I think he wanted to feel ready to be in a relationship with me. But it became increasingly clear the extent to which he was emotionally unavailable, largely because of some career instability (he was pretty honest about that toward the beginning, and I probably should have walked away sooner). He is in the midst of a career change, and toward the end of our time together, he talked honestly about how badly he felt about himself because of not having his career stuff figured out. Given my readiness for a relationship, I walked away, which seemed devastating for both of us.

I know your approach focuses a lot less on understanding WHY someone is emotionally unavailable and instead focusing on choosing emotionally available, relationship-ready men. However, I would be grateful if you could shed some light on this concept – for the sake of increasing my empathy and trying not to take these circumstances too personally. How common is it for men to be emotionally unavailable because of career issues? (It’s also interesting to me that I too am facing some career uncertainty, but that hasn’t prevented me from feeling ready for a relationship). Is this a gendered thing? And, they say that timing is everything when it comes to relationships. Is that true? For men? For everyone?

Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I appreciate your interesting and self-aware question, especially this line:

“However, I would be grateful if you could shed some light on this concept – for the sake of increasing my empathy and trying not to take these circumstances too personally.”

There is nothing that would make my life easier than women having empathy for men.

There is nothing that would make my life easier than women having empathy for men.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that most men suck and have little to no interest in the inner lives of their intimate partners. I have literally never heard a man say “I wish I understood my wife more” yet I have an entire business based on women wanting to understand men.

That’s highly unfortunate but it’s reality. And since I can’t do much to change men, I devote most of my time to helping women make the most of their less introspective counterparts.

To address your main question:

How common is it for men to be emotionally unavailable because of career issues?

REALLY common. Like, for the most part, if a guy doesn’t have his act together on the career front, I wouldn’t even bother calling him your boyfriend. That’s a slight exaggeration but you get the idea. I’m no biological anthropologist and I’m not going to effectively parse between nature and nurture but I will observe that if men are taught from birth that they are supposed to be purpose-driven, career-oriented providers and most women seem to reward the men who are the financially successful, wouldn’t it stand to reason that a lot of guys wouldn’t feel ready to settle down until they’ve got the career piece figured out?

I sure think so.

I always wanted to be ready for a relationship in my twenties but my inconsistent, demoralizing Hollywood career never offered me any stability. It wasn’t until I started e-Cyrano in 2003 that I finally made $50K/year and had the ability to operate from a place of confidence that I would eventually be able to support a family. It’s not much of a coincidence that I got married at age 35, 4 years (and 4 girlfriends) after starting this career. As much as I wanted to be ready to get married before that, I wasn’t ready until I was actually engaged to my wife. Every girlfriend before was like playing house – the fantasy of a future was great, but if you put a gun to my head, I’d admit I was scared shitless about the prospect of owning a home and having children.

And that’s just talking about ME. I can only imagine what it’s like to be in a career with less autonomy or financial upside, or to be stuck in a job that is safe but unfulfilling. It may sound like a convenient excuse to avoid commitment but it’s a real one.

I hear something similar from women on occasion, but, in truth, I hear more from women that the thing holding them back from a happy relationship is their EMOTIONAL availability as opposed to their career status. Which, again, makes sense when you consider the lens through which many women view their lives. If a woman is hurting emotionally – from a dying parent to a painful breakup to a battle with weight loss – this is the excuse she usually offers me for not pursuing love.

I think because men are wired a little differently, they are often willing to run into the arms of a nurturing woman even if the man is feeling fat, sad, or overwrought. These guys may not be ready for commitment but they are more than willing to find some sex and emotional support to get them through their tough times.

As you pointed out, it doesn’t matter WHY men are this way but your observation rings true for me. Women can date during a career crisis but will withdraw when she’s hurting emotionally. Men can’t function when their careers are in flux but are more than willing to keep your company while the stakes are low.

So if you want a ring on your finger, choose a man whose life isn’t in crisis instead of thinking that the right man should be ready to commit when he doesn’t even know how he’s going to support himself.

Timing is, indeed, everything when it comes to relationships.

Men marry when THEY’RE ready not when YOU’RE ready.

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