Soapbox Therapy: The Thing About Dating Someone with a New Career

Finding the person of your dreams and landing your dream job are two of the most important things to people in their 20's. So what are you supposed to do when your dream girl says she can't date you because she's afraid of messing up her dream job? Brooke has the answer.

Dear Brooke,

I recently had a few sessions with a new trainer — new to the gym and new to the profession in general—anyway, I had no thoughts or intentions of anything beyond working out, but during the past few weeks she and I became extremely flirtatious inside and outside of the gym. It started with her giving me her phone number, and then progressed to us making plans for two dates in the next two weeks.

We recently had a conversation about keeping things outside the gym personal, and inside the gym professional – it seemed that we were both on the same page, but soon after that conversation she sent me this message:

Hey J, sorry bout the funky attitude today…been a long week with lots going on and not enough down time for me. I have to be honest with you though, these past couple days have hit a sensitive nerve for me. I know originally we started joking around flirting and having fun in the gym, but anything that happens between us has to remain completely professional.

If anything were to get around the gym about any “relations” with a client that is my career and reputation on the line. I thought originally it would be cool to maybe catch a show and keep things light and friendly but I feel it has gone beyond that rather quickly. I would never deny you my friendship, but that will have to be the extent of our communications. There are no hard feelings at all and if anything, I can focus more on being your trainer than allowing anything else to get in the way.

I hope you understand in moving forward we'll keep things a little more professional…

I was really confused as to the sudden change of heart. But then a few days later she wanted to re-instate our date to go to a concert, though she’s still acting a little up and down about it. I’m really confused. What do you think the deal is? I look forward to your take on the situation.


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Dear J,

So many guys might just write something like this off as a girl playing games–that’s it. But I’m so glad you didn’t. You were thoughtful enough to take the time to consider that it might not be that simple, there may just be more going on. And surprise surprise, I happen to think there’s much more going on …so let’s get started.

First and foremost, here’s my tutorial on game players: contrary to popular belief, girls don’t just play games with guys emotions because they like being bitchy. They don’t mess with your feelings then go home and belt out an evil laugh of satisfaction. I know, shocking. It’s just not how it happens. Though I can definitely see how guys might think that some girls are just a bunch of game players, I’m here to straighten things out a bit.

There are so many situations that could be interpreted as game playing, but really go so much deeper…

Here are a few examples.

The disappearing act: A girl loses interest but is too scared to tell the truth so she just stops calling and doesn’t return emails/texts. That’s not a game, that’s lack of communication skills and maturity.

Another classic example is the insecure girl: When a deeply insecure girl meets a guy, she’s often extremely flattered and happy to be getting attention. But once a guy shows authentic interest in her, she doesn’t have the confidence in herself to believe she deserves it, so she unconsciously sabotages the whole thing. Looks like she’s playing games…but not at all, she just sadly doesn’t like herself enough to let you like her.

Why am I giving you these examples? Because it’s important to set the stage and understand that if it looks like a game, and smells like a game… it’s not necessarily a game.

I invite you, and everyone reading for that matter, to consider the possibility there are deeper reasons for peoples' actions than those that just meet the eye. Sometimes it’s really not you, it’s her. For real.

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It sounds to me that underneath the seemingly game playing trainer is a classic case of the battle between business and pleasure.

Let me explain…

The good news is, you met a person who is driven and passionate about her career. The bad news is, you met a person who is driven and passionate about her career…and it’s in the beginning stages.

The thing about dating someone with a new career is that it’s delicate—really delicate. This girl is caught between liking you, and wanting to be taken seriously as a first time trainer. Like many modern women, she deserves both a strong career and a passionate relationship. It takes balance, hard work, and compromise to get there, and given her message and her behavior, it seems she’s not quite sure how to approach having both at the same time, especially in such close quarters of the gym. But you can help…

In order to get the girl, you have to show her that you get what’s important to her. Now, I’m not a love doctor or a match maker, but as a woman with a career I’m in love with I can tell you first hand that when a guy respects your career, it pretty much makes him a god.

The Equation

So, how do you do that? Follow a little equation I like to call “Name it – Compliment it – Work with it.” Here’s an example of what I mean…

“It seems like you really care about your career (name it), which is one of the reasons I like and respect you so much (compliment it). I really want to figure out a way that you can continue building your great reputation at the gym and be comfortable going on a date with me (work with it).

Of course, say it in your words…but if you express something like this and follow the equation, she’ll not only appreciate you, but she’ll feel appreciated right back.

Women like to hear that you’re thinking about things (name it), that you notice things about them (compliment it), and that you’re man enough to communicate and face relationship challenges head on (work with it). Good stuff.

To help close the deal, something to propose as a working with it option is: offer to work out with someone else as a trainer (name it), because you respect her career and the work she’s put into building it (compliment it), and don’t want to jeopardize anything. So not training together is an option you’re willing to consider if she is (work with it).

Of course, ending training sessions with her is not the only option, but if she doesn’t seem interested in working with it at all, or helping to come up with a creative way to make this dating thing happen, then my advice is to really consider letting this one go… I know that seems harsh, but here’s my reasoning:

I suspect this woman is early enough in her career that she has yet to master her boundaries in a safe and comfortable way. Meaning; this back and forth of yes I want to date you – no I don’t will continue for a while, which will drive you nuts and create resentment, lack of respect, pure exhaustion, and ultimately your interest in her will diminish.

So, moral of the story: some girls play games…most don’t. Get curious about what’s happening underneath a woman’s behavior. If she’s worth it, call her on her supposed “game” – name it, compliment it, and work with it. She’ll be surprised you’re so damn smart and emotionally in tune. And she may just open up and realize that you’re the kind of guy worth getting real for.

Thanks for you,


*Disclaimer: Brooke cannot respond to every question asked, nor should her responses be considered professional medical advice.
Brooke received her Masters Degree in counseling psychology and is an MFTI (registered marriage and family therapist intern) working towards licensure in CA. Soapbox Therapy/Primer Magazine is not part of the licensing process and should not be considered psychotherapy. Soapbox Therapy/Primer Magaizine is commentary and advice based on Brooke’s personal opinions and insight and should be regarded as such. Soapbox Therapy/Primer Magazine is in no way related to or reflective of the opinions or insight of Brooke’s private practice supervisor, Cynthia Hoffman LMFT.
Brooke Miller

Born in Detroit and raised in Chicago, Brooke Miller, MA is now a San Francisco based advice columnist and relationship expert. Her column, Soapbox Therapy, has been called “ Raw, honest, thought-provoking, and wisely witty” by readers and critics and can be read in several publications including The SF Chronicle’ s affiliate, TheIsCollection, and Cheeky Chicago. Brooke supports clients all over the country via Skype and phone coaching sessions. She can be contacted at brooke(a)