Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“He Doesn’t Care about My Passion”

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years. We both have very nerdy interests, but on somewhat different sides of the spectrum. He is a computer programmer and is also interested in AI and biology, while I am interested in media effects, scientific communication, and the sociology of science. I am in a master’s program and I intend to get my PhD in science communication.

My problem is this: he has little, if any, interest in my research. He loves that I am a researcher, and he is hugely supportive of my goals and ambitions, but he has no interest or curiosity in the subject matter itself. My academic side is a big part of my self-identification, and because sociology and comm majors get a lot of flack from the “hard” sciences it is important to me that the person I end up with respect what I do. He rarely asks about my research, and if I tell him about it he doesn’t ask any in-depth questions. His excuse was that “I don’t know anything about what you study,” to which my counter is, if you care about someone you show interest in what they’re doing, whether or not you understand it. I deeply value that he is in a different field than me and I love that I can learn about it from him, and I would like my partner to be able to do the same with me.

I told him last night, “I get the impression that anything I could teach you, you wouldn’t have any interest in learning.” His response was: “You teach me deep things about myself” and that he values me for different reasons than I value him. However, this is not the intellectual dynamic I was hoping for and it honestly hurt me very deeply that he is not interested in learning about my life passion. (I also thought his response was rather self-centered.)

I know that only I can decide whether this is a deal-breaker but I wanted outside perspectives. If my research was not such a huge part of who I am I would be able to brush it off, but honestly, our conversation shook me to the core and I don’t know what to do now. — Science of Love

You’re right; only you can decide if this is a deal-breaker or not. But what you’re deciding is whether your boyfriend’s lack of interest in your major/ life’s passion is enough reason to leave him and you don’t even know for sure that he isn’t interested in your major. Have you considered that he simply doesn’t know enough about it to ask questions or doesn’t know the right terminology to ask them in a way that makes sense (or to understand you)? For example, I know a little more now about baseball — and, specifically, the Yankees — than I did when I first met Drew, but I would have been very hard-pressed to have a conversation with him beyond the most basic of ideas or ask questions beyond, “Who’s winning?” or “How much longer is this game going to go on??” five and a half years ago. Through a lot of patience on Drew’s part — including accepting that I’ll never be the kind of fan that he is and that’s OK — and a little effort on my part, I now know enough to not only follow the sport and engage in conversations about the team, but actually get into some of the games from time to time.

What did Drew do to help me get to where I am — in a place where I can at least somewhat share in his passion of the Yankees? He took me to games (and didn’t complain if I wanted to leave an inning or two before the end). He didn’t overwhelm me with statistics or boring trivia. He picked the best, most interesting parts to share with me. He connected the Yankees to something I was fluent in — celebrity gossip — as a way to engage me. He explained things in a way I could understand — as if he were teaching the rules of the game or introducing the members of the team to someone who had never heard of baseball before. He thanked me for making an effort. Plus, some of the Yankees are pretty hot (What’s up, Robinson Cano?), so that helped, too.

So, my advice for you is to make your passion fun for your boyfriend. Try to connect it to something he loves and understands. Use analogies that make sense to him. Use terminology he’s familiar with. Basically, meet him halfway and if he doesn’t show up at that halfway point, then think about whether this is a big enough issue to leave him.

It may be that you simply need to be with someone who is fluent in your language of science communication and that’s that. A lot of people are like that. It’s one of the reasons so many of us end up with people who work in our own industry (the other main reason, of course, is that we meet more people through work than anywhere else). Sharing passions is a huge component to a successful relationship, and maybe your boyfriend won’t ever share this particular passion with you. But perhaps there are other equally important passions that you do share. Think about what those might be before you decide to MOA and consider whether they would be worth giving up to find someone else who talks science comm as well as you…

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

104 comments… add one
  • avatar

    cporoski December 28, 2011, 7:23 am

    I think the best couples are the ones that do different things. Couples that do every little thing together are creepy. Wendy hit the nail on the head. You learn about what each other loves but don’t have to be totally engrossed. It seems like you are picking at a totally good relationship for no good reason.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray December 28, 2011, 7:25 am

    LW, when I read your letter, I gathered you were more offended by the insinuation of your boyfriend’s lack of interest / effort to understand your research — that it is beneath him — and less sad that you didn’t share a passion for the same specific subject matter. Is that the case? I think that would really bother me too, especially if I were as passionate about my career like you are. It makes me wonder though how he treats you / respects you in other areas of life. This letter is all about this particular issue, which I guess means we are to assume, other than this, he is a perfect boyfriend, who respects you, is proud of you, and sees and treats you as a true partner. But I’d guess that’s not the case, because you’re discovering your boyfriend is more self-centered than you’d like…. All this to say: I think this issue is deeper than just being in different fields…. and it’s not likely to change. And you deserve to be with someone who shares your passion (or at least makes you feel just as important). So, I say move on.

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    • rainbow

      rainbow December 28, 2011, 8:53 am

      It’s not a matter of being interested in your field or not. It’s a matter of manners. And this dude seems to have none.

      I feel you, LW. I had this problem with a guy I dated for 5 months this year. I went to his concerts whenever I could, listened to many of his records and always asked how things were going, and he never EVER asked about my comics, even though I work on them all the time (I drew for six hours on Christmas day, for example). If I tried to tell him about my work, he’d interrupt me and talk about his, or movies, or whatever. So I figured he wasn’t interested in comics, and I stopped talking about it.

      But then I started working on my mental health, putting a lot of effort into it too, and he never asked about it either! And when I tried to tell him that he was being rude by ignoring things that were so important to me he was all “oh, but I love you, I just talk too much” and I was like “You can’t love me, you don’t even know me” and he gave me this huge hippie cop out your boyfriend gave you, this “Oh but I know how you make me feel, and it’s great! And I’m learning so much about myself, stay!”. And it sucked and made me feel really unimportant, like I was a girlfriend but not a person.

      So I guess the important question here is: Is he ever interested in anything you are going through as a person, only not in your research? Or does he only care about the girlfriend part of who you are? Because if you treat him like a person and he only treats you like a girlfriend, then this is not a couple. This is a dude with a decorative pair of geeky boobs on the side. And I vote DUMP HIM today.

      If he does care about other parts of you that have nothing to do with him, then that’s more complicated. But you have every right to consider it a deal-breaker anyway. Specially taking into account that you’ve been together for almost three years, and this is entering “forever unless it crashes” territory. Would you be up for a life shared with someone who doesn’t care about your work? It might be a good time to decide that.

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      • rainbow

        rainbow December 28, 2011, 8:53 am

        That wasn’t a reply to Addie. I clicked the wrong button.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow December 28, 2011, 10:28 am

        I think you and Addie hit the nail on the head.

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      • avatar

        Robin December 28, 2011, 10:51 am

        I think this is a really good point. A lot of the commenters below seem to brush off your concerns, but they seem valid. My boyfriend and I are in the same field, but we have pretty different interests. Before we started dating, did I think I would ever have a favorite professional wrestler? Did I think I would be able to explain the difference in playing styles of professional poker players? These are things I’ve tried to understand because my boyfriend cares about it and I want to understand him. Likewise, when he first met my work friends, they all thought it was cute that he could knew our work lingo (some industry-specific terms) since he had talked to me about my day so much.

        That said, there are definitely limits. I am not going to watch track meets on TV with him. He is not going to do crafts with me. I’ve learned that if I need my board game needs met, I need to do that with friends.

        So, I would say the difference is – is he just not interested in your research but he is interested in other hobbies and things in your life? Maybe communications bores him but he does ask fascinating questions about your pet turtle and has taken up rock climbing with you? I would say if he shows interest in about 60%+ of the things you’re interested in, that’s awesome. But if he isn’t willing to stretch himself to learn about anything new for your sake – then that seems like he is approaching you mainly as an accessory.

        If you do find that he is interested in a lot of things but just can’t work up the interest in your main work, try to build up a good network of friends that you can geek out about your research with. A boyfriend can’t be everything to you, and really it’s healthy to have a good reason to hang out with your friends.

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      • theattack

        theattack December 30, 2011, 5:50 pm

        This is a really good point! People are much more than their jobs, and he could be making up for a lack of interest in her field in other areas.

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      • avatar

        Rachel December 28, 2011, 12:34 pm

        I’m interested in your comics. What kind of stuff do you draw?

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      • avatar

        Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 12:54 pm

        Me too! I would actually like to develop that side of my artistic interests as well – I’ve always written stuff, but drawing is sort of like a second language for me, and I’d love to figure out a way to combine the two.

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      • rainbow

        rainbow December 28, 2011, 1:51 pm

        It’s a great language. I started using it when I decided I couldn’t handle film school and working that closely with others. It’s almost like a movie you make yourself, without having to coordinate your ideas with anybody else. You should give it a try!

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      • rainbow

        rainbow December 28, 2011, 1:45 pm

        Thank you =)
        I’m working on a detective story right now, about 150 pags. These are some old sketches I made while figuring out how I wanted it to look, it’s different now but you get the idea:

        And i did the script for another one about zombies that’s almost finished. But they’re all in Spanish, so I can’t really show off around here =). What comics do you like?

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      • avatar

        Something More December 28, 2011, 2:02 pm

        Because you assume no one here speaks Spanish?

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      • rainbow

        rainbow December 28, 2011, 2:12 pm

        I know JK, Mel and Caris do, since all of them live in Argentina too. I don’t know about the rest, I’m sure some of them do.

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      • avatar

        Rachel December 28, 2011, 2:06 pm

        Nice, I like your style. I don’t read a lot of comics (a few web comics, and some Frank Miller), but I’m always intrigued by artistic creativity. It’s just not how my brain works, so I think it’s so cool people can come up with stuff like this.

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    • catch22

      Stephanie December 28, 2011, 11:12 am

      I think it’s important to recognize, too, that the LW is interpreting him not asking a lot of in-depth questions as a lack of interest, when that may not be the case. I am in the field of sociology, like the LW, and my husband is in a totally different field. I used to get frustrated when he wouldn’t ask me questions about my studies/work because it felt like he didn’t care. But then I talked to him about it and learned that he doesn’t ask questions because he’s not interested – it’s because he’d just prefer to leave work at the door. He didn’t ask questions about my work, and in turn, he definitely didn’t expect me to ask questions about his work at all. In fact, he said that he assumed that most people thought his work was boring, so why would they ever ask about it or want to talk about it? Figuring that out helped me realize that just because he doesn’t ask me questions doesn’t mean he doesn’t respect what I do. And in turn, since he learned that I interpreted his lack of asking questions as a lack of interest, he’s starting asking me more about what I’m doing, even if they’re just basic, general questions. I’d suggest that the LW figure out if his lack of asking questions really reflects a lack of interest/respect, or if he’s just the kind of dude that’d prefer to come home and focus on other stuff at the end of the day.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie December 28, 2011, 8:09 am

    My wife’s a nurse, I’m in computer electronics. We have nothing in common but values and goals to sustain our relationship except of course blinding passion. She’s still technophobic and I can’t remember the simplest medical terminology. We do have tons of respect for our mutually exclusive expertise. There’s no way for me to comprehend her field nor her to understand mine.

    Getting back to the goals and values, that’s the glue that holds us together not some trivial intellectual competition. We like our differences even resent it when the other one dips into it. You have something that’s the focus of your life right now. Settle for the passion and admiration.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar December 28, 2011, 8:23 am

    He is “hugely supportive of your goals and ambitions” but you want him to be passionate about what you are passionate about? And he is the self centered one? If you want to date someone in your field then date someone in your field. There is nothing wrong with your boyfriend for not wanting to engage in the dynamics of your limited field of study. Either accept him as he is or let him go. My husband has a PhD in engineering – thank all that is holy he does not want me to be passionate about embedded systems – half the time I have no idea what he does with his day. But I don’t need to know since I didn’t choose that as a career path for myself. We share other passions and interests. For me work is just a part of who I am and I am the type of person who loves her career. Maybe work/school is all of who you are. But for me, I would have done something terribly wrong with my life if my epitaph mentions “lawyer” instead all else that I am. All the far more important things I am.

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    • avatar

      spark December 28, 2011, 9:09 am

      Well said, FireStar! I agree 1000%.

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 28, 2011, 9:21 am

      To add a point. When something is your major, you get really passionate about it. You might not want to talk about it so much when it is your job.

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    • avatar

      AK47 December 28, 2011, 9:56 am

      This is what I was going to post. If he is very supportive of her goals and ambitions, as she herself admits, why does he need to know every single thing about her field? He needs to ask in-depth questions and learn more involved things about her field? It seems like he’s already doing all of the right things, she just wants someone who is in the same study area.

      I also feel like the LW is projecting a lot of her insecurity about her field onto the boyfriend–there are plenty of people who deride communications and sociology as “easy” (as a person doing graduate studies in history, I am not immune to this.) But he doesn’t seem to be doing that at all.

      If she wants to date someone who is deeply interested in her field, he may not be the one for her. He seems to be making every effort to support her, which she admits herself. Couples with different careers and skills can have a very happy relationship, but that doesn’t seem to be what she truly wants.

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    • avatar

      Robin December 28, 2011, 10:57 am

      I don’t think she’s asking him to be passionate about it – I think she’s just asking him to show any interest at all. It sounds like when she talks about her work, he just kind of blanks out and says oh.
      FireStar, it’s possible you still know absolutely nothing about embedded systems, but my guess is you probably know a fair amount more than the average person from talking to your husband about his day.

      I get the impression that she’s not asking him to be an expert or be excited – she just wants if she says something like, “I made a breakthrough today!” for him to ask, “Oh that’s great, what was it, how did you get there” rather than say something like “Oh that’s nice honey. What should we have for dinner?”

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      • Budj

        Budj December 28, 2011, 11:11 am

        I got the impression she kind of wants to have expert discussions with him….

        I think a lot of this issue may be solved by the LW catering what information she tells him, how much she tells him (information overload is bad for attention), and how she tells him…

        For example…a nerd niche of mine is guitar equipment and I was trying to explain the inner workings of push/pull tube amps to my father…needless to say the more detailed I tried to be, explaining the nuances to understand as much as me…the less interested he got…I then stopped…and gave him the basics of what I was trying to explain and he asked a question back that told me he understood what I said and I left it at that…

        The point is I wanted him to understand how much time I spent studying this topic…and I felt the only way for him to appreciate how much I invested learning that he would need to understand everything I did on the topic… If this LW is feeling that way she needs to reassess her expectations or date someone in her field if she is unwilling to see things differently.

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    • avatar

      Callifax December 28, 2011, 11:17 am

      This was exactly what I wanted to say but couldn’t figure out how to put it. Bravo!

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom December 28, 2011, 12:23 pm

      Definitely agree with you. Then there is the fact that even if she found someone just as passionate as herself in her field they could end up over the years doing different types of work. Two jobs that are similar at the start can still evolve in very different directions and then where would that leave them. I think commitment to shared goals and values is ultimately far more important in a long term relationship.

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    • avatar

      *HmC* December 28, 2011, 12:30 pm

      Very well said Firestar! Personally, I love that my boyfriend and I are in entirely different fields (he’s hard science, I’m in the legal field). As I’ve gotten older and had more life experiences, I have learned how vital it is for couples to spend time apart, and have passions and relationships that don’t entirely involve each other. If it’s a matter of respect then that’s one thing, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

      I agree that if LW wants someone who is as passionate as she is in her field, then she should date someone in her field. I know that she says that her “academic side is a big part of my self-identification”, but I’m like you Firestar… I hope when I go, those that I’ve loved identify me with so much more than my career choice.

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    • Roxy_84

      Roxy84 December 28, 2011, 4:32 pm

      Glad someone said what I was thinking

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  • avatar

    shelllo December 28, 2011, 8:43 am

    I agree with the other commentators here. Your boyfriend may not be perfect at engaging in conversations about your field, but let him know its important to you to have him ask questions about your day and you guys can work on communication. Also, not everyone has to share the exact same interests to be a great couple. This is slightly unrelated but in college I had a roommate who I would consider a best friend. We had drastically different majors but at the end of the day we would let the other rant/talk about their respective subject, the teachers, group members. Im not going to lie, sometimes I was uninterested in what she had to say and only half listened and she did the same to me haha (sometimes I would repeat things because she would just say Im sorry, I wasnt listening/zoned out, what did you say). We both just appreciated having someone there to talk to and we both realized we were probably doing the other a favor by listening. And I did learn a lot more about her major than I would have otherwise and I am sure the same for her.

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  • avatar

    Tax Geek December 28, 2011, 8:51 am

    >and because sociology and comm majors get a lot of flack from the “hard” sciences it is important to me that the person I end up with respect what I do.

    I wonder if you are projecting your anger/annoyance with others onto your bf.

    One of my sisters is a chemistry professor. In the past, I tried to understand what she does because scientific stuff interests me, but after a few conversation, I realized I was deeply in over my head. So now we talk about other things: family, co-worker issues, travel, whatever.

    Maybe your bf doesn’t want to seem stupid. Also, my guess is you’re pressuring him to learn more, which may be pushing him away.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph December 28, 2011, 5:53 pm

      This was exactly my thought. It sounds like she has a chip on her shoulder, and so is forcing her boyfriend to pick a side:
      Either he wants to know everything about the field in order to give it the respect it deserves or he must not care at all and think she’s a soft scientist. There is middle ground.

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  • avatar

    Fabelle December 28, 2011, 9:14 am

    Do you think he’s contemptuous of your field or that it’s below him? If I caught that vibe, I’d be hurt as well. However, if he’s supportive of what you do (like you said), then I don’t see why he has to actively participate in conversations with you about something he has no interest in. I do like Wendy’s suggestions about making it fun for him (with analogies, familiar terminology, etc.) but other than that…I really don’t think there’s a need to pressure him into caring.

    It’s nice when couples share the same passion (I guess?), but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. My BF has hobbies that I don’t care for at all, & he knows not to talk to me about them at length because my eyes glaze over. That might sound harsh, but I’d much rather have an engaging conversation that we can both participate in.

    If you really feel as if this one thing could be a “dealbreaker,” then maybe there aren’t enough other ways in which you & your boyfriend connect.

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  • avatar

    bethany December 28, 2011, 9:21 am

    In general, when people aren’t in your field, it’s very hard for them to really follow what’s going on when you talk about work. That’s just how it is. Even if I was talking to someone who did my exact job but for a different company, things would still be different, and they still wouldn’t follow me 100%. I ask my dad or husband about their work from time to time and within 5 minutes I have no idea what they’re talking about. You can’t expect someone in a completely different field to have a total appreciation for what you do, because they don’t understand it like you do. Pick out bits and pieces that he can relate to and tell him about them. Do what Wendy said and find a way to relate your passion to what he is interested in.

    Rember that your research is part of who you are, but not ALL of who you are. I love my husband in spite of the fact that he’s a huge sports fan, not because of it. I admire his loyalty and dedication to his teams, just as your boyfriend might admire your passion for your research, but you have to accept that he might not love you because of it.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar December 28, 2011, 9:53 am

      As an aside – I’m not even a cat person and your avatar picture is ridiculously adorable.

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      • avatar

        bethany December 28, 2011, 10:21 am

        Thank You!! I just signed up for one today! That is one of my cats, Calzo, in his Halloween Costume this year 🙂

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't December 28, 2011, 9:46 am

    Seriously, LW? Your boyfriend loves you and is “hugely supportive of your goals and ambitions” and you’re STILL finding something to complain about??? Stop being so selfish and send your BF over my way when you break up with him- because I’d LOVE to meet a smart, supportive guy like him.

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    • rainbow

      rainbow December 28, 2011, 10:27 am

      I don’t know about this. I think it’s rather simplistic. Being “hugely supportive of your goals and ambitions” on paper is not very hard to do, it actually takes less energy than being critical, but for it to be true you have to show interest in said goals and ambitions.
      “I support your desire to become X, now tell me more about X, how was that you said…” is being supportive. “Sure, yeah. I completely, utterly support you. So much I don’t even care what is is, just go and do it! pass the chips” is being dismissive. And it sounded to me that this was what the LW was thinking of.

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      • rainbow

        rainbow December 28, 2011, 10:31 am

        I also think it’s rude to jump at the LW just because she’s wondering if her relationship is fulfilling enough to stay in it.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 28, 2011, 11:05 am

        Oh, God. Is everybody so dang simple and fragile on here that now even the most mild response questioning a LW is labeled rude? Are we really all suddenly back in grade school again?

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      • rainbow

        rainbow December 28, 2011, 11:10 am

        You’ve become a parody of yourself.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't December 28, 2011, 11:18 am

        Sorry, I quite literally can’t be arsed to have even an ounce of sympathy for this LW. Her letter is all “me me me me me”. She’s given no indication of any other problems in their relationship, and no indication that her boyfriend has been anything BUT supportive and wonderful. Yup, no sympathy from me.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 28, 2011, 11:20 am

        She also, curiously, says precious little about his passion…

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      • avatar

        kali December 28, 2011, 11:44 am

        LW thinks her boyfriend is self-centered but she may want to take a look at her own motives and actions.

        My parents (married for 58 years now and going strong) have vastly different interests. They sought out peers and friends with whom to have their in-depth intellectual discussions. When I was old enough, my father and I used to stay up all night discussing the nuances of Gilded Age politics or the demise of the Wobblies and King Kalakaua’s first-ever reforestation project.

        LW, if this is the only problem you’re having in your relationship, relax and seek other intellectual outlets. It’s not fair to the guy to expect him to be your everything. On the other hand, if there’s more going on here than you’ve shared, it may be time for a reconsideration of your relationship or at least a major discussion on the topic of expectations with your mate. I hope it’s something simple and cutting him some slack will solve the issue. I really do.

        Good luck.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow December 28, 2011, 1:12 pm

        “It’s not fair to the guy to expect him to be your everything.”

        I like that. I think people too often expect their romantic partner to fulfill their EVERY need.

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      • avatar

        *HmC* December 28, 2011, 6:07 pm

        YES. This is maybe the most important lesson about relationships I have learned the hard way (experience).

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      • FireStar

        FireStar December 28, 2011, 11:52 am

        In all fairness the LW is the one who said the boyfriend is hugely supportive – not that he was just paying lip service to being supportive – and then asking for the chips. What she says she wants is HIS interest and curiosity in the “subject matter” SHE finds interesting. If his interest isn’t there naturally – I think forcing the issue will just cause resentment.
        Also, different people show support in different ways. It doesn’t always have to be vocal. I have my own business and tumble weeds can roll by and crickets can chirp in the background if I regale my husband with stories from work. The fact is, he simply does not care about people he does not know. But he will drive for two hours to fix my computer at the drop of a hat to make sure my business isn’t interrupted when the wretched computer decides to turn on me. That, to me, is real support – crickets notwithstanding.

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      • avatar

        MissDre December 28, 2011, 1:44 pm

        Love this answer!

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  • avatar

    MiMi December 28, 2011, 9:55 am

    LW, consider that you are a bit defensive about this field you’re spending so much time, effort, and money to excel in. It can’t feel good to have the scientific community not respect what you do. It is understandable if you’re sensitive on this topic and want to feel that your partner is totally invested and in your corner on this, but please be realistic about the general appeal of the subject matter and the reasonableness of expecting him to achieve a passion for something so different from what interests him. My guess is there are few people who would want to go into depth on such an esoteric subject.
    Please get out of your head and into your heart on this. Your boyfriend said that you teach him deep things about himself, i.e. you make him a better person. This is a huge compliment you, but the only thing you see is him being selfish. Does he make YOU a better person? Does he teach you deep things about yourself? Does he care for you, show compassion, make you feel beautiful and desired, make you laugh, make you feel secure? Can you accept him for all that he is, just as he is? Unless you have already precluded marriage and children, Science Communication will not be your only passion going forward, by far. How does this guy stack up in the potential middle-of-the-night-diaper-changer department? The answers to this type of question should inform any decisions you make about the relationship.

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  • JK

    JK December 28, 2011, 10:01 am

    My husband and I are both in similar careers in the same field (he´s a physiotherapist, I´m an occupational therapist, both working in physical rehab). When I was working, we even shared several patients.
    The last thing we wanted to discuss when we saw each other in the afternoon was work!!! I agree with what cporoski said above, when I was at uni I would go on and on about OT. When I was working not at all.
    LW, be grateful that your BF is so supportive, look for other interests that you may have in common, I can guarantee that once you´re out in the real world you´ll need something to get your mind off work, no matter how much you love it!!!
    Oh, and Wendy, I had to google Robinson Cano. Gorgeous!!!

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    • avatar

      Kerrycontrary December 28, 2011, 10:50 am

      Yeh most spouses may ask “how was your day/how was work” etc… but it’s not healthy to talk about work all the time.

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      • avatar

        kali December 28, 2011, 11:51 am

        I hate talking about my work. Unless something really cool happens, when I walk through the door of my house, that’s all behind me.

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      Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich December 28, 2011, 7:25 pm

      I totally agree about wanting to leave work at work. My boyfriend and I were studying to be in almost the same exact field as well (solid state chemistry for him, biochemistry for me) so there was A LOT of over-lap in our knowledge bases and methods. We’d talk a little bit about research and what was going on, but we are WAY more likely to talk about the newest south-park. When I switched majors (to Math) I was actually perversely happy to have LESS common ground, because it meant that my major and career was going to be more my own, and could therefore define me more individually within the relationship.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark December 28, 2011, 10:01 am

    If she wants ANY boyfriend to care madly and deeply about her passion — well, gee, maybe she should have picked something that is actually… I dunno… somewhat exciting. Hey, there is nothing wrong with her chosen field, but it all sounds very, very dry. I know that I wouldn’t exactly be dying to come home every night only to have to chat over dinner all about the media and all its oh so many fascinating effects… Just not my thing. And quite frankly, probably just not the thing of 99 percent of the population.

    If she is dying to chit chat nonstop about her passion — which frankly would be boring no matter what the passion was — then she had best date a colleague in her chosen field and be done with it.

    Right now, one of my passions is set design. Oh, I could go on endlessly about its many challenges… But even I can imagine just how boring it would be for my partner to have to listen to me prattle on and on about…say, how important the right amount of practical lights are to any interior — and moreover how crucial it is that the chosen lamps both look good on camera AND reflect the character of whose home it is supposed to be… I mean, seriously. After a night of two of that, how much more do You really think You would want to hear?

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      Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 1:30 pm

      Ooh, I’m a scenic artist for the theatre (not full-time anymore, but I still get pretty steady gigs), so I could talk about the right lighting for scenery all damn day and why certain lighting designers make me want to hit them while others make my job a million times easier.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 28, 2011, 2:10 pm

        Hah. Theater must be so crazy to work in because the lighting can get so over the top, so theatrical and impressionistic. I imagine that you are often surprised and amazed by how the lighting designer chooses to light your work… And other times, downright frustrated. 😉 In film (at least the one’s I tend to work on) it’s all very realistic, so there are few surprises…

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        Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 4:23 pm

        Yeah, I’ve got a lot of painter friends who switched to film from theatre, and that’s exactly what they say – there are far fewer surprises, good or bad. In theatre a good lighting designer can mask my imperfections and bring out the best parts of my work like it’s magic, but there are several in town who do just the opposite. What do you do in the film industry exactly?

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 28, 2011, 8:47 pm

        I production design/art direct indie movies. In fact, I art directed a really cool web series that did surprisingly well, even became People Magazine’s pick of the week a while back. The Booth At The End. I think that its aired round the world as half hour episodes, too. That was a really cool project that just about killed me, but it was fun…

        This past year, I slowed things down a bit as I wanted to focus on improv comedy and have been taking a lot of acting classes and doing comedy shows…

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        callmehobo December 29, 2011, 1:15 am

        Oh my gosh- you worked on The Booth At The End? I watched it on hulu- it was super interesting. The diner was phenomenal, by the way.

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      Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich December 28, 2011, 7:29 pm

      “If she wants ANY boyfriend to care madly and deeply about her passion — well, gee, maybe she should have picked something that is actually… I dunno… somewhat exciting.”

      Seriously. You have to be patient with the idea that other people don’t find your field…. quite as enchanting as you do. When I tell people I’m in Mathematics their first response is always, ALWAYS, “ew, I hate math.” How about that for a conversation starter.

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    fallonthecity December 28, 2011, 10:10 am

    If your boyfriend is being condescending, that’s one thing – but you say he’s supportive of you. Is it possible you kind of have a chip on your shoulder about “hard science” not taking your field seriously? Like others up there have said, if you want to date someone in your field, cool – but I personally think you should cut your boyfriend some slack

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    Allison December 28, 2011, 10:12 am

    I think you’re mixing up interest for respect. It sounds like he respects your passion, and you say yourself that he’s supportive and loves that you’re into it. What more do you want? Sure, I guess he could force himself to read up on the topics, but he can’t really create curiosity and interest in a subject if it isn’t there. Are you all that interested in his computer programming?

    If having someone who likes what you like is important to you, then I guess you should find someone in your field. But I would suggest being grateful that he supports and respects you. But honestly, I think you’re making up problems that don’t exist.

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    Jillie Z December 28, 2011, 10:16 am

    I get that your studies and career path are very personally important to you, but only he can decide if they are also his passion, and if they’re not, i wouldn’t dwell on it. It sounds like he already has been working full-time, and sometimes when you’re already established in your career, you lose some of that initial spark, and you don’t want to focus on work conversation after work. And that includes other people’s work. When i go to parties or social events, i hate when people have nothing to ask me about except ‘what do you do?’ because i feel like i have more to offer than my job. It sounds like he accepts and likes you for what you offer other than what you study, and it’s up to you to figure out if that will make you happy.

    Also, when you’ve been together for a long time, it’s AWESOME to have separate interests and boundaries. My husband is a huge Packers fan, and while i enjoy following the game, appreciating the hot players (like Wendy!), etc… if he went on and on about stats, i would completely tune out. And when i crochet during the game (one of my big hobbies), i certainly don’t want him asking me what size hook i’m using or what type of yarn i chose. We both accept that we’re happy with separate things and don’t need to fake interest in something we aren’t that into.

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      MissDre December 28, 2011, 11:12 am

      LoL! This reminded me of ME. I read while my boyfriend watches Toni Braxton’s reality show. He couldn’t care less about what I’m reading and I couldn’t care less about the drama on the tv. But I’m happy cuz we’re on the couch together, each enjoying the hour in our own way. I realize this isn’t exactly the same situation as the LW… but your comment about crocheting during the game made me laugh.

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      • Will.i.am

        Will.i.am December 28, 2011, 1:51 pm

        That is what matters the most. You aren’t going to enjoy everything together; however, it’s being in the same room enjoying what you like is what matters most. You seem to have your emotions more like men MissDre.

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        MissDre December 28, 2011, 5:03 pm

        LOL well I’m still an emotional nut but I’m just learning as I go to chill out and pick my battles (especially if you’re with an otherwise awesome person). I used to flip out at him all the time for being late… I’m the type of person that’s always 15 minutes early, he’s the type of person that’s always 15 minutes late, so I end up waiting on him for like half an hour. And it would turn into a fight… I’d tell him he’s being disrespectful of my time and he’d tell me that I need to chill.

        Eventually I just realized it’s not worth arguing over. Honestly, I have a man who would do anything under the sun to show me that he loves me, so what does 15 minutes out of my life really matter? I just bring a book and read while I wait and now instead of losing an hour to an argument we have a big hug and a kiss and a smile and get right to whatever it is we have planned.

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      Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 1:45 pm

      Hahaha! This sounds so familiar. Painted Dude spent FOUR HOURS last night playing some computer game while I knitted and listened to an audiobook. Every once in awhile he would make me come see something, but it was always something he knew I’d like, like he ran into a guard dog that was my dog’s slightly barkier twin, or this bard at an inn that would take song requests. I would occasionally repeat funny bits of the book I was listening to (one of the characters went home with a faun, and I found that hilarious). But I have zero interest in actually playing the game, and I’m a little relieved he had a way to enjoy himself while I engaged in solo pursuits he finds mind-numbingly dull.

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  • Budj

    Budj December 28, 2011, 10:21 am

    Happy to see a lot of us are in agreement over the projecting…supporting your ambitions is so so important and you are really underappreciating that. Instead you are focusing on how he *may not* respect your chosen field because he doesn’t want to engage you about it….

    Coming from a working stiff…when the day is over…pending any catastrophic life altering events at work….I prefer not to talk about it…even though I find what I do fairly interesting (most people wouldn’t) I just want to compartmentalize it at the end of the day and think about more “fun” things that I don’t spend 8-12 hours a day doing.

    I echo what others said – if it is really that important to you then date someone in your field…but holy crap wouldn’t that just be all-consuming and a road to burn out? For your passion or that relationship? I think you need to think about the benefits of having a supportive s/o where you guys have a lot of other things in common sans your future / current professions.

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    • Budj

      Budj December 28, 2011, 10:28 am

      Another comment made me think about something else that may play a role in this. You never stop learning when you work in science…your degree is just the beginning…things are constantly changing, you need to adapt….do you really want to sit down and understand everything that he does? I mean really….to know enough to have an intelligent debate about the current cutting edge in his field? You really have the mental drive to do that after all the work you put into your current phd program? If yes (I will believe it after you do it) then more power to you, but I just don’t think a lot of people have the drive or desire for this and rightly so…I just think that’s a recipe for a dry relationship.

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    CottonTheCuteDog December 28, 2011, 10:37 am

    You went through 4 years of undergrand are proabably a year or two into your masters and will soon get a PhD. That’s a lot of time and study! Do you want to teach your bf all you have ever learned? You aren’t his professor. You are his girl.

    My fiance is an engineer. I asked him when we first started dating what does that mean. What is it that he does (typical first two month questions) He told me and I left it at that. Every day I ask him how his day is. He’ll usually say “it was good. Did some work.” 🙂 I don’t press because, I don’t want or care to know anything about engineering. Do you really sit there and listen as he goes on and on about computer programming? If you do and you don’t fall asleep then you are a better girlfriend than most.

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      MissDre December 28, 2011, 11:14 am

      For real!!!!

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      Carolynasaurus December 28, 2011, 12:02 pm

      I’m a mechanical engineer. My husband is a mechanical engineer. We work on the same site. Yet, you couldn’t pay me to act interested in a conversation about what either of us did that day. Not that we don’t care, but sometimes it’s just not important.

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    Napoleon1066 December 28, 2011, 10:37 am

    I remember when I first started dating my wife. She would talk about her work and I wouldn’t have a clue at to what anything meant. It’s been 5 years now and, well, I get some of it, and I know a lot more than I used to, but I’m still a bit lost. The fact is, she engages it directly for 40 hours a week, and I see things indirectly for far less time. As much as I’d love to offer insight to her, commenting on her actual work would probably do more harm than good, as I’d just be shooting in the dark. Now, relationships with co-workers and so forth, that we can talk about. But her field in an intellectual light? I’d sound like an idiot.

    You say your boyfriend is supportive. I’m not sure what more you want from him. Have you handed him any books on the subject? Maybe given him some common ground for discussion? That could help. If he knows absolutely nothing, he might not even know where to begin. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you.” Maybe that’s what he needs.

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    Something More December 28, 2011, 10:41 am

    I have to say that this letter kind of gave me my own light bulb in my relationship. My boyfriend LOVES baseball. He knows so much about that sport, it’s ridiculous. And very cute when he comes up with some fact about some obcure player from forever ago. I like baseball as well, but I am more into football whereas he is not. His family (dad and brother) are huge fans and I think it was his way of rebelling a bit when he was younger. Anyway, I have a local sports bar that I go to watch all of my teams’ games. It’s a club, we do a raffle – I love it. He comes with me even tho my team isn’t very good and sits thru the entire thing: for me. Sometimes he will sit and play on his phone and it will annoy me cause it’s like “if you don’t want to be here, then don’t come.” And totally not in a mean way, just that I don’t like when he’s bored or whatever. But he goes to all 16 games. Because he loves me and he likes to see me excited for my team. He likes sharing my interests, just as I like to share his. But he doesn’t get all pissy because I can’t list the entire Opening Day roster for the 1992 Atlanta Braves.

    So, LW, if he is supportive of you and your accomplishments I would ease off his back a little. If you want the kind of passion for YOUR field that you are describing, maybe you should look for someone who is also IN your field.

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    Natasia Rose December 28, 2011, 10:42 am

    I thought the boyfriends response “You teach me deep things about myself” was amazing. What a lovely compliment. Girl, you are insecure about your major not being a ‘hard science’ that you are letting it affect your relationship. That’s sad. Get some confidence and don’t look to your boyfriend to validate that you are in a worthy field. If you enjoy it, that should be enough.

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      Kristen December 28, 2011, 11:41 am

      I thought the same thing.

      LW, my boyfriend and I are both into “nerdy” things as well. He is really into gaming and is working on creating his own tabletop/D&D game. There are times when he will talk about the characters/classes/campaign settings he’s working on until I feel like my brain is turning to mush, but I let him because I know it’s important to him. I also let him teach me the basics of playing D&D because it made him excited to see me interested. But that doesn’t mean I all the sudden love it, or would enjoy learning everything there is to know about gaming. By the same token, he doesn’t ask me for the details of all the books I read. And he doesn’t read all of the articles/stories I write for work. That doesn’t insult me … I know he’s super proud of me; it’s just not his cup of tea.

      I think you should talk to your boyfriend again and tell him how important it is to you that he show an interest in your field — whether that means asking a few follow up questions when he asks how your day was, or whatever. I get the impression that he’s a great guy who would be more than happy to reinforce his support for your passions. But as others have said, supporting you doesn’t necessarily mean he has to be insanely enthused about science communication. Hold on to this guy and give him a chance to meet your needs.

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    mcminnem December 28, 2011, 11:45 am

    I’d refer you back to another letter that I commented on, except I can’t find it. my basic premise was this: my boyfriend is in computer science. I think that’s really nifty – I love that he actually knows how things work at the most basic level. I love that a good 70% of the things in our apartment have been networked together (don’t ask me how.) Sometimes I wish I knew more about it, but I don’t. To be honest, I don’t have the mental energy to learn another field at the moment, being in the middle of my own studies.
    Not too long ago, my boyfriend wrote an article about some coding work that was subsequently published by his company. I was proud of him! He sent me the article so I could look at it, and guess what? I didn’t have a clue what it said. I got about three or four sentences in and my brain went “derp”. But that was fine – I told him I was excited for him, he said “thanks”, and that was that. Had I tried to have an in-depth conversation with him about it, I would have sounded like an idiot – even worse, an idiot trying to sound like a know-it-all. So rather than ask him about the details of his work, my questions about his day run more along the lines of how was work, what did they feed you for lunch, how’s your new manager working out, has that weird intern murdered anyone yet? Likewise, when he asks me about my studies, he just wants to know how my papers are going, whether or not I think I did well on that exam, did my professor agree to write that letter of recommendation? He’s showing an interest in me and my feelings, and showing respect for the fact that what I do is hard work, but I don’t need him to know every last detail about my subjects. I’d much rather our evening conversations revolve around how awesome we are for eating pie for breakfast, what we should do with our upcoming holiday time, and how wicked cool Skyrim is (for the record, very, very cool.)

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      Kristen December 28, 2011, 11:51 am

      I love your last sentence. That’s what our conversations sound like, too, haha.

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        kali December 28, 2011, 11:58 am

        At my house, Skyrim – which is very cool – was only a placeholder until Star Wars: the Old Republic was released…

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        mcminnem December 28, 2011, 12:38 pm

        Oh man, I’ve got both, and I am constantly having serious crises over which one to spend my free time on – TOR generally wins, since I’m paying for the time. Skyrim is my backup for when my boyfriend wants to play Starcraft. 😀

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      Rachel December 28, 2011, 12:49 pm

      This is pretty similar to what I was going to say. My boyfriend and I are both in science, but different fields. We each have a vague idea about what the other is working on, but most of our “how was your day” conversations are about general things like “I spent forever working on this bug in my code” or “I finally got a draft of my paper to my advisor.” Do I know about his field for being with him? Of course, but beyond thinking the problem he’s working on are kind of neat, I’m not going to go read up on it to have relevant questions to ask him.

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      Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 1:52 pm

      Oh my god, Skyrim is the game that Painted Dude has been playing since the day after we moved in!!! I don’t get it, nor do I care to, but he’s completely absorbed.

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    belongsomewhere December 28, 2011, 12:01 pm

    A lot of people are sort of dismissive of the LW’s concerns, but perhaps I can frame it another way: The basic issue is that the guy doesn’t show any engagement with what she does. Would we be dismissive of her concerns if she were a writer and her boyfriend refused to read her articles or stories, or her memoir or novel? If she was a painter, would we forgive him so easily if he refused to talk to her about her paintings and only grudgingly attended her gallery openings? (I really doubt it.)

    I think the fact that she’s involved in science is shading our reading, because science is not commonly associated with creative passion in the same way that writing or painting is–but from the letter it sounds as if the LW is as passionate about her work as someone with a job in a more traditionally creative field. I’m a writer, and I would definitely not still be in a relationship with my boyfriend if he wasn’t genuinely interested in reading my work. I’m not saying that this should definitely be a deal-breaker, because I agree with Wendy that there’s more the LW could do to get her boyfriend engaged in her work, but I think if he continues to show a fundamental lack of interest, that would say something about how little he thinks of his girlfriend and her intellectual pursuits (i.e. he doesn’t value her/her intellect enough, and therefore doesn’t deserve her).

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      kali December 28, 2011, 12:19 pm

      I’m a writer and my boyfriend doesn’t want to read my stuff. I don’t care. We have plenty of other things to spend our time together doing…

      There’s more than one way to have a functioning relationship and we simply don’t have enough information here to offer more than superficial insights. Wendy’s advice is good.

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        belongsomewhere December 28, 2011, 12:31 pm

        I agree that there’s more than one kind of functional relationship, and I agree that Wendy’s advice is good, but I don’t agree with the chorus of people who are dismissing her need to have her boyfriend care for her intellectual pursuits on the grounds that they themselves don’t need that. To me, if my boyfriend didn’t read my writing, that would absolutely represent a fundamental lack of interest in me; to you, it wouldn’t. It seems like the LW might fall into my side of things–her work is central to who she is, and if her boyfriend isn’t curious about her work, he isn’t curious enough about her.

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        Kristen December 28, 2011, 1:16 pm

        Is your writing more personal, or work-related? Maybe that’s the difference. Because at the end of the day, work is work to me. I might be proud of a story I wrote, but it doesn’t define me as a person. If you’re writing a novel, or even poetry, I could see why it would be more important for your significant other to be invested in that. Whereas if my boyfriend wasn’t interested in reading my article about the city’s new water system, it’s no big deal.

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    • Budj

      Budj December 28, 2011, 12:20 pm

      I work in science….science is hard work that takes a lot of understanding to have meaningful discussions in and it gets VERY specific after undergraduate work…plus it’s my job…and a lot of other bull shit comes with a job that sucks some of the fun out of wanting to discuss science-y work related stuff all day. Speculatively she will change her tune when she starts actually working in her field… This is mostly where people are coming from here…she sounds like she wants someone as interested and invested in her work as her…and she won’t find that outside of her field.

      I also am part of a band that is trying to create / spread original music so I also have some experience in this aspect of your argument….creative passions, imo, are a way more personal extension or embodiment of ourselves. I think that is why if she were a writer, or artist that people would be changing their tunes on his involvement. Not to mention it is much easier to relate to the creative arts because it is, for the most part, a broad source of entertainment for everyone. To not be interested in that would be a huge snub to someone trying to make their way in those professions because it is already hard enough to get noticed as a musician, artist, or writer….so to not have the close support of loved ones would be a real kick in the nuts….

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      Kristen December 28, 2011, 12:21 pm

      I just commented above, but I wanted to respond here, too. Like you, I’m a writer/editor… I was a newspaper reporter, and now I write newsletter features and press releases for a nonprofit. When I write something that I’m particularly proud of, I send it to my boyfriend, but he doesn’t make a point to seek out my work and read it.

      This doesn’t bother me because he makes it extremely clear that he’s proud of me and thinks I’m talented. Whenever we’re out with his friends and someone asks what I do, he always jumps in and tells them I’m an amazing editor who rocks at my job. He loves saying that, and it makes me feel really good. So when he doesn’t jump at the chance to read my latest article, it doesn’t bother me because I know it’s not a reflection of how much he cares for me. He just doesn’t get enjoyment out of reading (he’s a slow reader and self conscious about it), and we’re different in that way. But at the end of the day, he loves me and loves that I’m good at what I do. And that’s enough.

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    • parton_doll

      parton_doll December 28, 2011, 12:56 pm

      I have to disagree with you. There are many different ways to support our partners. The LW wants him to support her in a specific way. But you can’t make someone be interested in something that they are not fundamentally interested in. But if they are supporting you and not dismissing you and at least trying to have an interest, I think that is the key. The LW has given no indication that her boyfriend is dismissing or not valuing her. She is just not getting the level of interest that she wants.

      I am a theatre professional and my husband has no interest in seeing my shows. For the first couple years we were married, I made him come to all of my shows and then finally one day he told me that he really didn’t want do that anymore. My initial thought was that he should want to support my work because I put so much effort into it and I was hurt. But when I thought about it, I would not want to go to all of his classic rock concerts (thank heavens he found a friend to go with him). And he has always supported me through the entire rehearsal process. So I changed my expectations. I asked him to come to productions that mean the most to me. And we are happy 9 years later.

      By the same token, I am an engineer. And sometimes I get so jazzed about some new bridge that’s going up or about a high speed rail project or some crazy interchange that I’m designing that I go all super tech nerd girl. I know he could care less about transportation except to know that we have it to be transported. But I also know that he will listen to my excited rants about drainage pipes and construction zones because it makes me happy. But he will never have the love of concrete and asphalt that I do.

      Again, the LW may just have high expectations for support. She has the option to adjust her expectations for support and if doing that is a dealbreaker for her, then she should look for someone who can provide her with what she wants.

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    MsMisery December 28, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Reminds me of when Miranda said to Carrie (yes, a Sex and the City quote), “You want passions on top of passion?”

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    evanscr05 December 28, 2011, 1:40 pm

    I guess this is a case-by-case issue, but I guess I just don’t get why this is a big deal? My husband and I have completely different passions, of which we both go crazy talking about on occasions. He LOVES sports and finances like nobody’s business and likes to spout out all these facts and statistics. I do not give a rats ass about any of that. It’s not interesting to me. On the other hand, when I talk about my job (I’m a database administrator) he’s eyes glaze over and I can tell he’s waiting for me to stop talking. It doesn’t interest him. He listens enough to let me talk about my day, and I listen enough to let him talk about his. It doesn’t impede upon our relationship at all that our interests do not 100% overlap. It’s not unusual for people to not ask probbing questions about things they are uninterested in. This is my career, and I love it, but I get to talk about it all day with my coworkers and other friends in the field, so it’s nice that I can separate myself from it when I get home. He feels the same way about being able to separate his work life (and passions) in finance with his personal life (after the obligatory “this is how my day went” convo, of course).

    If it bothers you so much, though, and you need for him to be interested in it, even mildly, just be blunt with him and tell him that’s how you feel. Don’t beat around the bush and assume he gets it. But don’t NOT bring it up and assume that his lack of interest in your field means he thinks what you do is unimportant. You’ve been with this man long enough that it should be fairly easy to tell him this stuff. If he’s not receptive to even trying to take an interest in your work, then you should evaluate if you can deal with that long term, or if you can maybe learn to deal considering it seems like in every other case he is wonderful to you. Makes me wonder, though, if you’re looking for problems where really none exist.

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    oldie December 28, 2011, 1:42 pm

    I won’t beat on LW. If she’s upset by bf’s lack of interest for her passion, she’s upset. That’s a subjective fact. There does seem to be a lot more to this than that and she does seem to set the bar awfully high for what she expects from him. She seems very defensive about her choice of major and needy of more validation than simply bf’s respect, support, and encouragement. His showing some passion for her field would be a several steps higher level of validation.

    Beyond the defensiveness, I think we have a major failure to communicate, either by this couple or by LW to us. There is zero mention of her talking to him about his passions. Hers is a broad enough field that you would think the sociology of research into AI or communication of computer programming techniques falls within it. Yet, no mention of her showing any interest in what he does. I guess he is more self confident in his life endeavor and doesn’t need a lot of validation from her.

    She is fighting the reality that men in general and nerdy male engineers and computer programmers in general are not especially good verbal communicators. We work more alone than with others, not that we don’t often enjoy the interaction of group projects. My employer taught a mandatory course in ‘active listening’. It basically involves asking questions about what you are being told and repeating back parts of what you are being told, both to show that you are mentally awake and understanding what you have been told and to provide some instant validation. Perhaps bf would benefit from such a course. For now, I think she should focus on where their fields intersect.

    My wife and I were not in the habit of talking shop. I found accounting boring and she didn’t want to more than skim the surface of engineering. We both enjoyed interesting tidbits about exasperating colleagues and clients or subject facts that were amusing, but no deeper than that. If either of us goes deeper than that into the hard subject, eyes glaze over fast. We have shared hobbies which we talk about a lot.

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      oldie December 28, 2011, 1:47 pm

      I think there is something deeper going on here. It’s like LW is inventing a reason to end a 3-yr relationship, which she describes as good. Is it a question of fearing career/geographic immobility in attending PhD school or getting a job, if she is paired up? Are her professors not as complimentary about her work as she hopes they would be? Do her parents not support he academic and career choice? Is she so involved in her research and course work that a relationship simply seems to be too much work? Does she lack colleagues at school with whom she can discuss her research to her heart’s content? Does she talk on and on about her research, and little else, such that her bf is afraid that if he asks a question or two, she will go on for another half hour? Perhaps the lack of questions is an indication that her particular subject has been front and center long enough.

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    RobinsonCano December 28, 2011, 1:52 pm

    Not much. How are you?

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    Mike December 28, 2011, 3:09 pm

    Sounds like you’ve answered your own question. “I deeply value that he is in a different field than me and I love that I can learn about it from him, and I would like my partner to be able to do the same with me.”

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting a partner who shows an interest (as opposed to expertise) in your work, if that’s something you value in a relationship. You’re not getting the engagement you want with him, and he seems unwilling to try. Sounds like it’s a deal-breaker for you, unless you value other things enough that you can live with him not meeting your needs in this area.

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      oldie December 28, 2011, 4:14 pm

      This gets at what I noticed before, but failed to comment on. A mistake, because it certainly influenced my remarks “I get the impression that anything I could teach you, you wouldn’t have any interest in learning.”
      I think bf answered this reasonably well, in a non-emotionally-threatening manner. Not everyone wants to see a significant other as their teacher. Still others have no interest in learning the particular subject matter of offer. With this statement, she is going far beyond needing him to be supportive and respectful of her work, even quite far beyond his being willing to talk about it. He may simply not be seeking instruction on this particular subject. He may see this as a passive aggressive attack on himself and be in his own defensive crouch.

      He is a technical IT type who likes AI. He will need to communicate his results to superiors and peers. Is LW not so subtly suggesting that his skills are subpar in this area and that this will stunt his career? I don’t have to stretch to much to envisage his taking it like that. Why else is it so important that he take his gf on as his communications instructor? Did he show her something that he wrote for school or work and this is her reaction?

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    Painted_lady December 28, 2011, 4:12 pm

    LW, I’ve been through the whole grad school gambit, and even though I’m stating the obvious, I’m going to point out that grad school is not the real world. You’re up to your elbows in your work, you spend all day – longer than regular working hours, I’m sure – with people who are every bit as passionate as you about it, and it’s in many ways your entire world. I was exactly the same way about theatre. I went to class all day, worked in the scene shop every afternoon, spent my evenings at rehearsals, and then after rehearsals I would grab a bite or a drink with the people from the show, who were usually at school with me as well. Being with like people makes you all more like-minded than you already were. We used to happily announce that theatre wasn’t a career, it was a lifestyle choice, and then discuss the dramatic stylings of Caryl Churchill versus Peter Schaffer or some other bullshit, go home and do work on school projects, wash, rinse, repeat. Most of us dated within the student body, and most of those who didn’t were single or dating someone in the industry at large, and the handful of those who dated or were married to non-theatre folk would either complain about the ins and outs of dating someone who “didn’t really understand how important this work is” or they were only half-involved with the rest of us because they had someone at home who wasn’t one of the theatre zombies and needed conversation beyond just “I tried the 36-degree Source 4, but we didn’t have any hard frost gel in stock. Should I order more and just deal without Gaslight Green gel, or should I put a PAR can there instead?”

    Thing is, now, every one of us has had to branch out. Of my group of friends from grad school, only two are working full-time doing nothing but theatre production. One is a professor, one went into creative writing, one is in entertainment law, one flipped over into arts administration, and one joined an architectural lighting firm. Only one of them is in a relationship with a fellow theatre artist, and even that guy does work besides theatre. We all do freelance work when we can, but life necessitated that everyone had to branch out, and after the intensity of grad school, I think we were all a little relieved. We all have ties to theatre, but it’s not the only thing we do all day, every day.

    My point is, you’re at a moment in life where what you do consumes who you are. It should – grad school isn’t easy, and you have to both want to be consumed by this and allow it to happen to succeed fully. I once tore into my dad for suggesting that teaching might someday be a good option if I got burnt out painting sets every waking second because how dare he suggest that wasn’t a completely legitimate career path that I was 1000% committed to? It was hurtful at the time, but a few years later, I got burnt out, got certified to teach, and now I still paint sets, but because I want to rather than cramming as much paid work into my schedule as humanly possible so I won’t starve. This feeling of not just loving what you do but *being* what you do will pass, not because you’re not committed to it, but because that sort of fervor burns out eventually. You’ll be one of the lucky people who enjoys what you do, but it will ultimately become nothing more than a really fantastic job. If your boyfriend really cares for you and supports you, and it sounds like he does, you’re really going to be pissed at yourself post-grad school fever when you realize your life wasn’t going to be all social science all the time forever and ever. Do what Wendy said and give him the best parts of what you do sans jargon and technical details. If he bites and asks more questions, give him a pass on this, because eventually you yourself are not going to need or want to talk about it quite so much either.

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    Marie December 28, 2011, 6:39 pm

    I totally get where you are coming from. I have basically spent the last four years absolutely consumed with my Ph.D. topic, yet if I asked my long-term boyfriend what I did he’d say . . .”um biology?” But you know what? I don’t care. That’s not his thing. You can absolutely love someone and care about them but just have different interests at work, especially when what you do is super specialized. Focus on what you do have in common and try to share bits and pieces of interesting aspects of what you do. Trust me this is not a relationship deal breaker but I can see why it’d bother you.

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  • katie

    katie December 28, 2011, 8:22 pm

    my boyfriend is the same way. the things i really love and talk about all the time (scrapbooking, couponing, dear wendy….) he just kind of rolls his eyes and probably tunes me out. You should have heard him groan when i told him about the new dear wendy book club!! and it used to make me really mad… but i have now begun to understand that just because he doesnt like scrapbooking and dear wendy that doesnt mean that he doesnt like ME, as much as I feel that they are a part of me. so i have realized that if there is a really controversial letter, i have to talk about it HERE. and my scrapbooks I have to show other people. with my boyfriend, i get to talk about and do a whole bunch of other things that we are both crazy about, like food! and so it works- i have a life besides him (as does he with his stupid football and nascar lol) and we have a life together.

    could you honestly imagine a world where all you talked and lived was your chosed field- 24/7/365? that first of all isnt realistic, and secondly doesnt sound like a healthy way to live! you need balance in your life!!

    i think you just have unrealistic expectations about what relationships entail as far as interest in stuff. you cant blame the guy for not liking what you do! it doesnt mean he doesnt like YOU. even though you feel like your feild is such a part of you, you have to remember that it is just that- a PART of you. there is more to you!

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    CMonster December 28, 2011, 10:00 pm

    I have to agree with some of the comments that state that she is in the grad school bubble where her subject is all consuming. My bf and I met in grad school, and studied under the same subject but have vastly different interests within it. Me? I like emotional/social history, particularly of post WWI, and the Victorian Era. He likes IR and the fall of France during WWII. We have chatted about these things, but have a whole lot more interests and things that link us together than history. My bf was supportive while I did my Masters (he was working), and we’d talk over some aspects of my research, but he certainly wasn’t deeply interested in my topic – and I don’t blame him. I’m not deeply interested in his, and I don’t expect him to be interested in mine. I mean, some of the MA topics my peers studied seemed incredibly boring to me, and I’m pretty sure mine was boring to others. You can’t force someone else to be fascinated by what can be a very personal interest.

    We have plenty of other stuff to talk about. We both like gaming and technology, are gym rats, and talk over current events. Some nights he games on the couch while I listen to music/the radio and read. Other nights we hang out together. He now works in IT, and while I don’t mind hearing some work stories, he has little desire to come home and go on about his day at work, and I respect that. It’s the same for me – he has a basic idea of what I do, and that’s enough. There’s so much more that ties us together, including the things we DO together.

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    SpyGlassez December 29, 2011, 12:08 pm

    There’s a difference between being generically supportive, and being dismissive. For example:

    My undergrad degree was in English with an emphasis on religion and literature. My masters is in theology, again emphasizing in religion and literature. I get that I have narrow interests. My BF was raised essentially without religion. He likes to listen to me discussing the conflux of religion and lit, how literature affects religion and vice versa, and likes reading some of my stories that include explorations of religiosity. However, I have had to explain to him that when my roommate and I – we went through the same MA program together – get talking about nuts and bolts issues surrounding ethics, or world religions, or the ever elusive idea of meaning, we really find his excessive eye-rolling and loud sighs hurtful. I recognize that has no interest for him – it is why I don’t try to explain it to him, and save those conversations for the friend who went through it with me. He’s gotten much better because he knows it is hurtful, and while it will never interest him the way it interests me, he knows now to just put on his headphones or hop on his computer.

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    sue clearly December 29, 2011, 3:32 pm

    If you feel he doesn’t RESPECT what you do, that’s one thing and yes, is a dealbreaker. But if you’re bonding over other topics, and feel fulfilled by the relationship otherwise and you say “He loves that I am a researcher, and he is hugely supportive of my goals and ambitions” I dont know what more you can expect from a partner. You can’t force someone to be genuinely interested in a field they aren’t in. Yes, he could be polite and ask you questions sometimes. He says “You teach me deep things about myself.” Your relationship sounds great, I wouldn’t nitpick about this issue. Personally, I dont like discussing work with my husband, even though I derive pleasure from my career. When I come home at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is talk shop.

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    Whiskers December 29, 2011, 5:58 pm

    This letter really reached out to me, as both my boyfriend and I are doing PhDs in two science subjects, I do cancer research and he does physics. We’ve been together for 5 years now and part of what keeps us together is how ambitious we both are in our respective fields, we both know the drive to want to expand knowledge. However, I cannot explain the first thing about what he’s doing and neither can he about me. It’s not a lack of interest, it’s purely that I cannot completely understand what he’s doing. I have no idea what the hell a 2D light wave is, much in the same way he has no idea what the hell a phosphatase is. I see him literally glaze over when I try to explain how a protein is made (which is quite rudimentary biology knowledge), in order that he might try and understand my subject. I’m sure I do similar when he’s trying to explain how his computer simulations and codings are working. Here’s the thing though, if I show him how my experiments are working, say through a graph or one dish more confluent than the other etc, he is excited for my results, in the same way that when he shows me his results I’m happy for him. If I were so interested in his subject I would have taken my BSci in Physics, and tbh, the last thing I’d want when I get home from the lab after a whole day of thinking and stress is someone trying to teach me in depth all about photons. We can respect each others research without knowing exactly everything each other is doing, I don’t feel like his lack of knowledge belittles my studies, and vice versa.

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    demoiselle December 30, 2011, 11:59 am

    Unless you date and marry someone in your field, there will be compromises. However, if your BF shows a consistent lack of interest in your interests–in all your interests, I mean–there is a big problem.

    My abusive ex was VERY invested in my career–but it was because he saw me using it to promote his own career, which was faltering and in the same field. He wanted me to be the director and producer of every show HE wanted to do, putting him in the starring role.

    But at the same time, he showed no interest in things I liked. I watched him play video games, and watched the entire James Bond series with him (winning Girlfriend of the Century awards from all his buddies) but he refused to watch my beloved and favorite films (more historical dramas and literary films) and whined and whined if I asked him to show interest. He snubbed my friends because he was jealous of him, even though it was harmful to my career to be cut off from them.

    Anyway, if he *truly* is supportive about your work, he will talk to you about it, and listen when you talk about it, and will slowly learn some and be able to talk about it a bit more intelligently. But he may never be able to entirely get it–and that’s not his fault. I work in theatre, and have learned that my husband just will never get shock theatre or very depressing or contemporary or avant garde plays. I can’t take him. And that stings. But I love him, and it doesn’t pay to push him. He’ll chat with me about my reactions, but he can’t share 100%. On the other hand, his work involves very specialized knowledge that is beyond my scope–both in book studies and computer science. I learned enough so I can talk to him about things and give advice and suggestions, but there comes a point when his work is beyond me.

    So where is the real problem? Does your BF really not express interest beyond a token “I support whatever you like, dear”? Or does he so far lack the vocabulary to talk, but he makes some attempt anyway and is learning? Has he hit the wall on how much he can learn to share your interests, and despite his best efforts he’s never going to love the equivalent of avant-garde theatre in your field? Or does he not actually value what you love while expecting you to share everything he cares about (big warning flag)?

    Good luck. All relationships have compromises. One compromise that is important, though, is finding the right balance between sharing/expressing interest in your partner’s passions. I hope you can find that balance.

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  • theattack

    theattack December 30, 2011, 6:05 pm

    I haven’t read all of the comments here yet. While I personally don’t think couples have to share interests in everything, it is important to be respectful. If he’s not respectful to you period, drop him. Otherwise, let him know gently that you want to actively share that part of your life with him more.

    Something along the same lines happened to me earlier this month. I made a comment about a well-known fact in the field of psychology (which my field draws information from), and my bf thought it was ridiculous and disagreed. I got really offended and accused him of not supporting me or finding value in what I do. (This wasn’t the first time it happened, so it was kind of built up inside me). This explosion upset him way more than I imagined, and my tough manly boyfriend shed a few tears over it, because in reality he really did want to be there for me. My point here is to go easy on your boyfriend and to gently let him know how it makes you feel before you jump to anything extreme. You don’t want to miss something good over an issue that could have been fixed.

    But otherwise, you two don’t have to have everything in common. Your fields are both science related, and I’m sure you two can find common ground between them. For example, my bf is an attorney, and I will be a social worker in a few months. We take totally different approaches to things, but there are areas where our fields intersect, and we talk about those. Sometimes one of us doesn’t get why the other does something, so we explain our differing approaches and learn from it. If you can get your bf to open up to these sorts of conversations with you, you can certainly find a lot of benefits to having different fields.

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  • avatar

    TD March 27, 2017, 10:39 pm

    I have somewhat the same issue. I’m into conservation and museum studies, art history, maybe even restoration. I love biology and genetics as a side note. BF and instructor encouraged me to go into genetic counseling, but I’d need a lot of credits I lack as an AA.
    Mine is supportive of me going back to school, getting my degree after life setbacks. But he will blatantly be callous about repeating things or things I’m excited about being uninteresting. (I have an illness that causes memory issues.)
    He doesn’t do it often but it cuts to the bone when he does.

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    • avatar

      TD March 27, 2017, 10:40 pm

      Someone in the same field isn’t always the best, because you can end up on different ends of the spectrum of it. It can cause arguments and unrest. You learn a lot from someone in different fields, it can be exciting and fun. just imho.

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