Despite Abuse, Woman Would Like to Save the Relationship

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I met a man online who is in the military. He's smart, cute, and does the same type of engineering job my brother does, only he does it for the military.

He's in what some would consider the "tough" branch and it shows. I'm more the peace-making type, and he's more the "I don't give a damn what you think"-type.

Something clicked with us, though, and we fell hard for each other. Over the course of about a month, we had a mini romance. I realized quickly that he was an intense workaholic and I am too, but I'm a preschool teacher so our work is obviously different.

We've had some miscommunications -- big ones. His anxiety level is through the roof. All I have to do was make one misstep and, man, do I get it. We had a huge falling out a while back, and he shut the whole relationship down. He talked down to me like I was some new recruit walking in from Kansas. He hung up on me and refused to let me explain that he had misunderstood what I'd said.

I dated around a little bit and didn't find anyone I liked as much as him, despite how awful his outbursts were. So I texted him and he responded immediately, almost like he had been waiting to hear from me. He said he had turned over a new leaf and he apologized. We worked things out, and he said he wanted nothing more than to work on us and move forward.

We had a too-hot-for-TV reunion at the beach a couple days before he went back to work after being on leave, and I was hoping, though not necessarily expecting, that things would be different. About five hours into his first day back at work, I got a text from him saying that he hates his job. My heart kind of sunk. He's been sour all week. He seems to be annoyed if I'm not available when he wants me.

Then, the same day that I texted to him to say that if he's not going to work on us then we shouldn't pretend to have a relationship, the terrible attack in Chattanooga happened. He hasn't answered me and I'm worried that he won't. I'm afraid that he's going to throw me into the box of Americans who just don't understand what the military goes through.

I try to understand, though. I try to be there for him. The thing is, he's not in a combat job and he's never going to be for health reasons. He has a mostly 9-to-5 job, but I know that he's in a brotherhood and every loss is personal.

How do I be there for him when he won't let me?

There's so much advice out there for military wives and girlfriends and moms, but there isn't much advice for those of us who are just falling in love, just beginning, just starting the journey. It's so tough. We are both in our early 30s. He's a sergeant, apparently up for staff sergeant soon, and I know that's on his mind, as well.

What do you think? Is he invested in this relationship and what I'm experiencing is just typical military stuff, or am I being played?

Sincerely, New At This

Dear New,

I don't think this is typical military stuff, but I can't say for sure that you are being played, either.

However, I will say that it certainly sounds like your boyfriend has some mood instability. Maya Angelou said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time." I think he is showing you who he really is: a guy who is moody, irritable, crass, and abrasive to the women he dates.

If you continue with this relationship, you will have to put up with his personality. Why is it so hard for you to count your losses and just move on? You haven't invested very much in this relationship. Hot, steamy, love-making sessions are great, but they aren't worth emotional abuse.

Is this what you want? Right now, you don't owe him anything. By your description of him, he sounds very unstable and unhappy. So he doesn't like his job -- OK, I get it. Sometimes we don't like our jobs as civilians, and service members don't like every job they have, either. But he's over 30 and should have developed better coping skills by now.

I'm sorry to say it, but he doesn't get my vote. I think you should keep looking. I wish I could be more positive about this relationship. Thanks for writing to me.

Sincerely, Ms. Vicki

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