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Value mate above career for a shot at great love

I just want to know what your suggestion is and if there are any books I can read about dating a Marine officer. My boyfriend has been gone for a week for Officer Candidate School, and I won’t see him for nine weeks. Then he has to move to Virginia for Basic Training School. I am 23, and he is 24. We are both young, but we want to give this a try. However, I don’t know if love being the sole reason (for us to stay together) is going to help us through it. What would you suggest for us to maintain our relationship and let us grow together?


Las Vegas

No, I do not know of books written specifically about dating a Marine officer. Perhaps my readers do and will send suggestions.

You make me think, though. I’m trying to imagine a section in a bookstore with relationship resources geared toward the trials and tribulations peculiar to dating men in particular vocations. I suppose there would be some things to learn, for example, about dating a celebrity. Or dating a politician. A professional athlete, perhaps. And certainly career military couples and families live out of a very different social milieu and subculture than the average citizen.

On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine a woman whose necessary learning curve was how to date a plumber, a mortgage broker, an accountant or small business owner. What should a woman know about the peculiarities of dating a casino dealer, a lawyer or a physician?

Hmm … now you’re making me wonder what it’s like to date a therapist.

The reason I’m going on and on here is because I am in some ways uncomfortable with the premise of your question. Not your question’s motive, mind you, which I assume is to give this relationship every chance to thrive. The premise of your question, however, makes me antsy.

The premise of your question gives a lot of power to the man’s vocation. That’s what makes me uncomfortable. Is it too much power?

Don’t get me wrong — meaningful vocation surely ranks somewhere in the top two or three most important attributes in a meaningful and satisfying life. And because of that, I would certainly expect my mate to respect my vocation, to offer some reasonable understanding and flexibility during the times that my job demands my urgent attention and fidelity. If I’m ‘on call,’ or if a patient has a legitimate emergency, I have to answer the phone, even if it means interrupting our sublime evening of a movie rental and cuddling on the couch.

But here’s another, simultaneous expectation I would have of my mate: I would expect my mate to expect to be primary, to be Number One in my life. Specifically, I would expect my mate not to tolerate me becoming “over-identified” with my job. To protest if and when I became self-important in my work, presumptuously assuming that my all-important job is first and that everyone else should fall into step behind my “aren’t I just so cool and indispensable” work life.

In short, while meaningful vocation is crucial to a satisfying life, still, in the big picture, people who want to participate in a great love need to love their mates more than they love their jobs.

When I imagine lying in hospice, I don’t imagine my former patients around my bed. My hope is to be walked to my grave by my life partner. It’s her I want at my bedside.

S.C., the critical issue before you is not first that your man is a Marine. The issue is that you and your man must learn how to grow a great love across time and space. The issue is that you are in a long-distance relationship. And you’re right: “Love feelings” will not be enough to make this love succeed. Feelings don’t grow a love relationship; choices, habits and behavior grow love. Or they cause love to atrophy, depending on those choices, habits and behavior.

By the way, that’s true for couples living in the same town or in the same house, too.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 227-4165 or skalas@reviewjournal.com.