Some girls might see these texts as red flags announcing that this guy is a workaholic. I’m not one of those girls; I love a guy with a solid work ethic. Sure, part of my brain said ditch this guy, but something intrigued me about him. Maybe it’s that he wasn’t as available as some of the other guys I’ve dated. And anyway, he was at work. I don’t think you can fault a guy who says he has to reschedule, postpone, or cancel dates because of that.

Even when you ignore outside factors, dating is, by nature, unpredictable. Add to that this guy’s whole 80/20 thing—a text that sounds like the line a sportsbook sets for the game of the week, or the chance of thunderstorms in a weather forecast—and now us going out seemed about as simple as solving the Pythagorean theorem.

I myself am ambitious, career-driven, and wake up a few clicks after 3 a.m. each day, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to write him off because of the long hours he works. Plus, I put a lot of stock in a guy’s success. Not bank account, but success. I want a guy who’s smart, enjoys his job, and maybe even has something to teach me. But when does that busy work schedule become an excuse? Could it be that sometimes work is nothing more than just work? And when does work become the third person in the relationship? As a girl who lives and dies by her overbooked, color-coded iCal, I am often left wondering… is it possible to achieve a balance between work and dating?

***

I dated a guy for a long time whose work was his life. He had no time for family or friends, was never around for holidays or weddings, and was only truly excited when a person he worked with or a gig he took led him to the next big thing in his career. Some of my friends and family might say I gave him too long of a work leash, and that I should have told him to turn down some of the jobs that required extensive travel or put him in questionable situations. But that just never seemed okay to me, so I supported all of it. By giving of all of my energy to support him, I gave up a lot of what I wanted in a relationship. I also lost part of myself in the process, always trying to accommodate his schedule, his aspirations, and his road to the top. I know now that road is a much smoother one when the drivers look out for each other.

I know that his commitment to his job and what it did to us makes for an extreme case, and I know that lots of people might not have become involved with him in the first place. But I did. Work was always important to both of us, sometimes—most times—becoming paramount to the relationship itself. What I’ve learned is that who you are is only one part of the equation. There’s also who she is, and then who you are as a couple—how you shine your lights on each other to create a team that’s better than the sum of its parts. To neglect any one part is to lose that balance and, as was the case for us, ultimately the relationship.

***

If you’re a successful single guy but can’t seem to hold on to anyone because you think you might be too focused on work and not willing to spend enough time developing real, human relationships, here’s what I say: a busy work schedule shouldn’t stop you from dating. But you have to be fair, flexible, and honest—both with yourself and with her. Remember there’s a person on the other end with feelings and a schedule of their own. If you want to see her again but can’t break away from your desk, make sure she knows that. Don’t send cryptic text messages and expect her to know how you feel. Be explicit. Tell her that you have this project with a killer deadline so tonight won’t work, but can I please make it up to you with dinner tomorrow? At least then she won’t wonder if you’re into her or not.

Likewise, if you feel the pendulum is swinging the other way, tell her that while you think she’s a great girl, work is just too much right now and you don’t have the time and energy it takes to get to know her better. Trust me, she will respect you in the end for being honest instead of putting her through the ringer that is calendar roulette.

***

I juggle three jobs right now: traffic reporting, writing this column, and dating. Will I find a guy who understands where I’m trying to get in life and supports that notion? Is it possible for me to date a guy like the one whose texts you read at the top – a guy whose work schedule is often unpredictable and has him ordering dinner to his desk more often than his apartment?

Guess we’ll find out. Right now it’s getting late and I have to get ready for bed. I have work early in the morning.

Next Week: Jamie discusses setting up an ex