How To Be In Relationship While Having A Career

By Leslie C. Bell, Ph.D.

Earlier this month I wrote about how to handle multiple desires – for career success and relationships, for independence and someone to count on. But how do you start to work on relationships when you’ve been busy avoiding them?

The first step is to invest in relationships you already have. With friends, mentors, and family members who see you as a complex and nuanced person, who don’t just see one side of you. Who ask you questions about your desires and assumptions.

You can also challenge yourself when you find yourself denigrating/putting down the impulses, wishes, and pleasures that come with relationships – to care and be cared for, to need and be needed, to be mutually vulnerable with someone.

Engage your friends in honest conversation about how much they feel they’re getting what they want from relationships and career. How they’re handling building careers at the same time as a relationship.

Seek out older women you admire and ask them about the dilemmas you’re wrestling with – if they give you pat answers, challenge them and ask them how they really wrestled with these complex choices and opportunities. Too often people speak to 20-something women in a condescending way – “oh you’ll figure it out, we all do” or in a myopically glorified way “oh I loved dating in my 20’s – it was so fun!” Neither of these responses is helpful, or particularly reflective of the reality of 20-something life.

When you do find yourself in a romantic relationship, be honest and straightforward about your career ambitions AND allow yourself to be vulnerable and not always in control. I know it feels risky to do so. But it’s as important to take risks in your personal life as it is in your professional one.

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