Who is Alex and what is this? This is an advice column where I, Alex, answer your questions about dating and about life. Got a question you want to see featured? Submit it in the comments below!

My boyfriend is a life coach and motivational speaker. Even though I love hearing what he has to say, sometimes I feel like he is lecturing me at home. What should I say to him?

Oh, this is going to be one of those glass houses type of situations, but I have to say it: I cannot imagine dating a motivational person—let alone a professional motivational speaker. Part of me wants to bop you on the head and say, of course he’s going to lecture you! He’s a lecturer! It’s what he does! But my entire perception of that profession is based on the father character in the movie Little Miss Sunshine and that’s not fair in the slightest. I don’t put on my advice columnist hat when I’m talking to my partner so it’s really not unreasonable of you to ask that yours keeps his motivational hat in the closet as well.

Businessman looking up at motivational speaker
Businessman looking up at motivational speaker

If I put on my ill-fitting psychology tie for this question, I’d wager that his resorting to a work persona within the confines of your relationship is seated in some deep-rooted fear of intimacy. I imagine being a life coach and motivational speaker involves channeling some sort of character that is slightly different from one’s self and it’s possible that that character is allowing him to distance himself from your relationship, its problems, and his own vulnerabilities and flaws. This would be the ideal scenario as this is fairly fixable with some patience and a handful of honest discussions—possibly with the aid of a therapist.

That said, the limb I walked out on to come to that conclusion was stupidly precarious and it’s just as likely that this is just who he is. He gravitated toward a profession of lecturing because he himself is a lecturer who communicates in lectures and lecturing. If this behavior is not new, if this something that used to be charming or interesting and has become stale, if the thing that has changed is you…Well, then you’ve likely reached the turning point of this relationship and it might be time to think about leaving it.

Work is very important to me and I’m afraid to date because I feel I can’t give someone enough time or dedication. How do I find the right balance?

Work is important to you. That’s a good thing. It’s good to have things that are important to us in our lives. A lot of people date for this very reason—to find some one to be important to them. This brings me to my question for you: Why do you want to date? Are you looking for the type of intimacy that is commonly associated with romantic partnership? Is your life just lacking, sexually? Or do you just feel pressured by society to be dating, so that your family/friends stop thinking that you’re weird or hopeless or whatever?

Young couple lying in bed together
Young intimate couple lying in bed together

There are pressures among single people that can make these questions harder to ask. Single people can be made to feel like there’s something wrong with them if they aren’t seeking partnership. Or that there’s something immoral about only seeking physical or sexual companionship. I think that’s part of the reason that there are so many people in relationships that they don’t want to be in. Figure out what you actually want and be honest with the people you meet. There is a lot of room for coloring outside of the lines when it comes to relationships.

If it’s an emotional connection you’re looking for, you could find it with someone long distance or with someone who’s similarly busy, and just communicate mostly through text and video chat. If it’s something purely physical you want, that’s not hard to find either. If it’s a more standard serious longterm type of relationship you’re looking for—well, you’re right not to seek that until you have more time and dedication to give to them.   There’s no magic formula to make a person whom you’re asking for an exclusive commitment from feel satisfied with less than what they want. If this is something you feel is missing from your life, you’ll have to step up and advocate for yourself. Set boundaries at work or find a new place of work. Advocate for your free time and treat dating as something that is also important to you.

My significant other likes to talk about how much money he makes. A lot. I’m not a materialistic person and it makes me uncomfortable whenever we meet someone new and he casually drops what his latest expenses are. How should I bring this up with him?

I think the best way to address this problem is to first try and better understand why your partner does it in the first place. Did he grow up in a poorer household and where he was made fun of by his peers for not having new things? Maybe he really dislikes the work he does and is using the bottomline to keep himself motivated. He might also be very insecure and thinks that talking about these things might make him seem interesting or desirable to these new people.

Couple mingling at party and discussing monetary expenses
Couple mingling at party and discussing monetary expenses

Once you understand his reason for behaving like this, explain to him how he’s actually coming across. If the reason is insecurity, help make him feel more secure in social settings either by taking on more of the conversational responsibilities or building him up a bit during introductions. If he’s unhappy in his work, talk about solutions to that. It’s also possible that your partner just doesn’t have a lot of interesting things on his mind. If this is the case, you could try taking up a new hobby together.

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This article originally published on GREY Journal.