Some serious stuff in today’s mailbag. From a reader:
“I am in the military and my significant other and I have spent little time together. I was stationed away from the home town, where she lives, and saw her seldomly. I drank on the weekends or whenever I didn’t have to work. Now I am deployed and when I return home, she wants me to stop drinking.
Should I respect her wished and stop drinking?
Maybe she has a legitimate beef. Let’s say that early in your courtship, she overheard one of your buddies call her “Big Nostril Girl” or predict that she would probably “take it in the pooper.” You can’t un-ring that bell. If one of your friends has given her a credible grievance-either an isolated episode or a pattern of disrespect-then it’s your duty to defend her honor and black-ball your friend. Sorry. You just left the world of bros-before-hoes. That being said… if she simply doesn’t like the way your buddy chews his food, or maybe she thinks he drinks too much, talks too loud, passes gas, or that his receding hairline will tarnish the wedding photos? Tough. Barring the aforementioned scenario, you are within your rights to select whomever you’d like. Don’t back down.
First thing’s first — thanks for serving our country. We respect the hell out of our armed forces. And since you’re a military man, we’re not going to lob you softballs. Buckle up. Your question, really, is a jumble of three interrelated ones:
Have you spent enough time with her to know she’s the one?
This is the #1 complaint we hear from women: that their fiancés say they don’t care, but then, after months of gloomy silence, they criticize at the last second without offering anything constructive. It’s a fair complaint. To keep good Groom Karma, every once in a while you must offer some positive suggestions, take a stand, and, if you must, fake enthusiasm. (You think she hasn’t?)
This is in no way a blanket statement that applies to military families. It’s not. But there’s a tendency, at times, for young couples to have a fling–or even something more serious than a fling–and then get separated by distance. Could be the military, or college, a job, the traveling circus, whatever. The couple is in love so they make it work. They write. They travel. They swap cute little digital photos. And sometimes their love grows stronger and they’re better off for it. But sometimes… the time apart is a substitute–and a poor one–for the relationship’s maturation phase.
More broadly, this is the most under-appreciated aspect of long-distance relationships: the lack of what I call “doing the laundry” time. When people hear about long distance relationships, they assume that the hardest part is the months apart and the lack of sex. Nope. The real downside is more elusive and almost invisible–the fact that you’re never living “real life” together. Think about it. When you have a weekend together, you’re so damn grateful for that weekend that you spend all 48 hours having sex, having fun, and having precisely 0.000 minutes for the mundane, day-to-day stuff of real relationships. You don’t waste those golden weekends bickering about whose friends to hang out with. You don’t waste those weekends arguing about visiting parents. You don’t waste those weekends doing laundry.
Maybe she’s the right girl for you. Maybe she’s not. Before you jump into your lifelong commitment, however, spend some more day-to-day time together.
Are you drinking too much?
No clue. If you do drink literally every second that you don’t have to work, well, we’re no AA clerks, but maybe it’s something to think about. Without more context, we don’t know if: A) she’s over the line for suggesting you go dry; or B) the fact that she brought it up hints at a real problem.
So, if possible, try and get some impartial feedback. Be honest with yourself. Are you drinking more than most of your friends? (Ideally, do you have non-military friends you can use as a benchmark?) Again, we don’t make any claims to have any expertise whatsoever in diagnosing alcohol abuse. But get a quick reality check. Recreational drinking on the weekends is probably no big deal; getting buzzed or shitfaced literally every non-workday is….well, at the very least, something to explore.
Should you give up drinking for her?
Sorry man – this is technically the only question you asked, and we’re only now getting to it. The answer, though, is both a function of Questions 1 and 2…and also, paradoxically, helps you answer Question 1 (whether she’s the right girl.) Confused enough yet?
Here’s the issue. If you know in your gut and in your heart that this is the girl you want to be with for the rest of your life…and if you’re honest with yourself and realize that maybe you’re drinking more than you should… then yes, respect her wishes. Give up the sauce. And that, of course, will be a grueling, lifelong battle that will require more than just will power–it will require support groups, sacrifice, and a change of your lifestyle.
Speaking of “lifestyle.” This brings us to the other side of the coin. If you
honestly feel that you’re not drinking too much, and that she’s just over-reacting…well, then that could indicate that you have meaty, fundamental, won’t-go-away compatibility issues. Maybe you’ve coasted this far because you’re in lust and you miss each other, but when reality kicks in and you start doing laundry, you’ll begin to spot the cracks in the fissure.
To summarize: the alcohol could the symptom, not the problem. Or, more precisely, the alcohol could be a small problem in and of itself, but symptomatic of a larger problem with the relationship, and something you can only explore through more time, more getting-to-know-you, and more reality.
For more on whether she’s The One, check out these considerations and take our quiz.