My boyfriend of four years nags me about the same thing: my work schedule. I work long, sometimes outrageous hours, but I love my job. He can’t get past it and sometimes argues with me via phone when I work late, other times in my office (door closed). Other than this, our relationship is fine. Help. —Anonymous
Everything isn’t fine in your relationship. It’s one thing for your boyfriend to want to spend more time with you. It’s great to be wanted and desired and missed. But when he shows up at your job and argues with you, he’s crossing the line. He is displaying a fundamental lack of respect and a deep resentment for you and your job. Don’t confuse his antics at your workplace with a sign of affection and passion. Let me be clear: There is no situation in which it’s acceptable for him to come to your place of employment and argue with you.
Just so you know, your bosses, colleagues and subordinates can all hear you two arguing, in person and on the phone. You two are the good office gossip, and they think how you’re carrying on is unprofessional and messy. I don’t care how much you love your man and how long y’all have been together. You should have told security to ban him from the building after the first time he showed up.
Actually, you still should. And if he’s going to badger you and argue with you at work, then you don’t need to take his calls while you’re on the job.
I’m not sure you’re aware, but your boyfriend is also putting your job in jeopardy—and it’s intentional. If you allow him to keep this up, that job you love so much isn’t going to be around much longer.
You need to have a long chat with your man about boundaries—immediately. Tell him point blank that interrupting your work or showing up at your job is unacceptable, and he will be single if it happens again.
I know he wants you to change your work habits, but acting a fool at your job isn’t the right way to go about it. There are more effective ways to get a point across (like asking and, if the answer is no, accepting that and moving on, even if it’s to find another relationship). I imagine that his ridiculous behavior makes you resent him and want to avoid him, which makes the situation worse.
You love your job, and I’m going to assume that you love your man, since you’ve been with him for four years. But four years is a long time to be with the same person, especially when he’s pulling shenanigans like this. You need to have a long chat with yourself about this relationship and if you want it to continue.
You’re encountering a conundrum that a lot of women face, one that Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mentioned in her TEDxEuston talk, “We Should All Be Feminists” (which was excerpted in Beyoncé’s “Flawless”):
We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful—otherwise you will threaten the man.” … Because I am a female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.
Your man is unquestionably threatened. If you want to keep him around, you’re going to have to accommodate his ego and make more time for him. That doesn’t mean you slack off on the job or do anything to put it further in jeopardy. It does mean you leave “on time” a few nights a week, whenever possible, and spend those evenings with your boyfriend (which includes staying off work email).
Do keep in mind that you have the option to be single and focus on your work. Contrary to the theme of the film Mahogany, success still means something even when you have no one—at the moment—to share it with. Or you can replace your boyfriend with someone equally ambitious, who is more understanding and respectful of your climb up the professional ladder. Those guys do exist.
You may find yourself much closer to your dreams when you have a supportive partner who gets what is important to you. You may also find yourself wanting to take a work breather when you have a boyfriend who encourages you instead of one who distracts you from your goals.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “If You’re Withholding Sex to Make Your Man Stay Faithful, You Need to Let Him Go”