Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ The Nagging Girlfriend

Dear Dr V ~

My girlfriend, who I dearly care about, is driving me up the wall. This sounds stereotypical, but I feel like she’s trying to change me. I’m a bit of a night owl (I work from home and just end up doing most of my work in the wee hours of the morning) so I drink a lot of coffee and energy drinks, since I’m up late I usually end up eating not the best food for me (stuff that’s easy to prepare and eat), and I usually like to wind down from all that with a drink or two before bed. I know that’s not the most healthful lifestyle in the world, but the way I see it I’m young and can be healthy once I’ve established myself more in my career and don’t have to work as hard. I want to get along with my girlfriend, how can we sort this out?


Dear Michael,

So basically what you’re saying is, “Can my girlfriend please mind her own business and let me destroy myself in peace?” That may sound melodramatic, but I have to say that from how you describe it, if you keep going like you are, you may not need to worry about having more time to yourself when you’re older, because you will have long since shuffled off this mortal coil (i.e. you will be dead).

I realize this is probably not the answer you were hoping to get from me, but I hope you can hear me out and read the response to the end. Of course I understand how frustrating and at times even enraging it can be to feel as if someone’s nagging at you to eat your vegetables and do more push-ups, as it were. However, my intuition tells me that just as you care deeply for your girlfriend, she cares a great deal for you as well. As such, it probably upsets her to see you not taking optimum care of yourself (or even reasonably decent care of yourself, for that matter). So first off, try to recognize her behavior as an act of loving concern, rather than a bid for control over your life. If she were being critical of non-destructive behaviors, or trying to change some fundamental aspect of your personality I might be concerned (and should things move in that direction then perhaps the onus to find balance again would be on her).

Balance really is the central issue here. You sound as if you need to find a better balance not just in how you regulate your diet and activity, but more so in how you manage your time. Is it absolutely imperative that you do your work in the wee hours of the morning? I realize for some people creativity arrives with a stronger signal at particular hours of the day, but I’d also like to think we might be able to train ourselves to be ready to receive our Muse at any hour of the day, provided we’ve cleared the physical and mental space for her arrival. I bring this up because human beings are by nature not nocturnal animals (at least most of us). Perhaps if you were not forcing yourself to work at a time when your body is telling you, “Dude! I’m tired, let’s go to sleep!” you wouldn’t need to drug yourself up with gallons of coffee and/or energy drinks. Plus, when you say you like to wind down with a couple of drinks afterwards (to me that says “Drink until I’m buzzed enough to sleep”) that means you’re drugging yourself up again with alcohol so you can sleep. I hope you can understand why this is a very bad thing to do to your body without me going into a seventh grade health class lecture.

Setting aside the cumulative effects of sleep deprivation and basically subjecting yourself to a low-grade speedball every night, I’d like you to consider the immediate effects this lifestyle has on you. I’d venture you’re probably tired most of the day, perhaps a bit irritable at times? Are you slugging down java all day as well? What’s the point of working your ass off (which you no doubt are) if you’re going to be too hung-over to enjoy the life you’re earning for yourself? I think we can thank the Puritanical vestiges in our culture for this particular rotten way of seeing the world: hard work is an end in and of itself. Hard work is all well and good if it’s done with purpose and balance, with a definitive and terminal goal assigned to it. By terminal I mean I can see it being OK to pull one or two hardcore nights for a big project (or however long it takes), but to continuously slave by the light of the moon, to work for work’s sake to me is missing the point of living on this planet to begin with.

My suggestion would be to try and set aside hours during the day (or if daytime isn’t available, at least early evening) to get your work done, and when that time window closes, put work away. That means don’t think or talk about it either unless absolutely necessary. Go for a walk with your lady or get outside on your own. Do something else; get the spike out of your arm.

I hope I haven’t been too brash with you. You opened by saying you cared deeply for your girlfriend and want to preserve your relationship, so I believe you must be a loving man in addition to being a hard worker. However, in your individual circumstances I see in miniature what I believe a culture-wide addiction not just to unhealthy living, but also to work.  I also hope you don’t fall into an “all or nothing” mentality, believing that you can either devote yourself to your girlfriend or your career. Once you find your internal and external balance, you can have both.

With Love and Light,

Dr. V

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