For some of us, work skirts and date-night heels are an easy mix.
For others, however, it can be hard to navigate the course of love while pursuing a rigid career path, no matter how smooth it may be. Most of us are well aware of the influence work stress can have on relationships (and vice versa).
I consider myself to be somewhat of a career woman. I’m an entrepreneur, fierce freelancer, and ambitious creative. Yet I don’t necessarily let my career dominate my existence. In fact, I’ve taken careful steps to ensure that my career does not fully contribute to my definition of self.
This is far easier to claim than to implement!
But I, too, care about love, and I, too, want a love life as well as a paycheck. And I fully believe in our capacity as brilliant, hardworking women to date and earn those promotions.
Here are a few tips to accomplish this.
Know your needs and expectations.
I am always a champion of this sentiment, regardless of context. Yet in the world of working and loving, it’s vital.
I’m not saying you have to be that girl who shows up to a date with a list or an appendix. (Not saying I haven’t been that girl before.)
But do take some time to identify what your needs are in the love arena--and as a living, breathing human. When juggling a relationship and a career, there simply is no time for poor need negotiation.
Be clear about these needs when committing to a relationship, even if that relationship is strictly casual. Vocalize your expectations for a partnership or a fling ahead of time. This will minimize the risk of heart-wounding, but it will also put you in the power seat (something you’re used to as a career woman!).
Communicating needs and expectations in advance also sets you both up for a situation of mutual respect.
Know your partner’s needs and expectations.
Yes, your partner or Friday night bedfellow also has needs and (likely) expectations. When sharing yours, open the channels to hear your lover’s.
Demonstrate commitment to these needs in tangible--not just general--terms. If you’re seriously dating at this point, tangible terms may look something like this:
I know how much you value authentic connection. I’ll commit to turning my phone off--including work emails--on the evenings we share together.
If you are both interested in a no-strings-attached situation, this is still important to clarify.
Strike a balance.
Work-life balance. We all know the phrase. Yet it can be an elusive beast, particularly if you are in the throes of a demanding career: long hours at the office, agonizing commutes, coffee mug clutching day and night.
An imbalance in this department can mean forfeiting productive dating or even healthy casual encounters. Take steps now to distinguish your working life from your dating life.
Be physical about it. Turn off your phone when possible. Shut off your laptop. Set up spaces in your home that are 100% work-free, including home offices and living rooms. Stow your briefcase or work-related documents in your car or the mudroom closet.
Keep your clothes separate from your work wardrobe. Read more here.
Even wearing different jewelry or hairstyles on date nights can help you fully embody this distinction between “professional” and “personal.”
This can also give you a lovely opportunity to find out who you are outside of the office. (How often do we get a chance to do this, really?) A lover will appreciate getting to know both aspects of your world; yet he or she will also note your commitment to such boundaries.
Plan time if you have to (but be careful of this).
If you are managing a crowded schedule, make actual room for your heart. Block out time if you have to for date nights, dinners, and weekend excursions. Write it in your agenda.
(I even do this for other tasks that keep me happy and productive, like painting, personal writing, and yoga.)
This is a wise tool for careerwomen who struggle to leap the bounds of their agenda. However, be careful of it. Lovers can easily feel “scheduled” or “booked in,” as if they are merely another appointment in your busy day.
Ah yes, the golden principle of any healthy relationship: communication.
The best and surest way to tread the path of careerdom and love is to open your mouth. Speak, clarify, commune. Express what’s on your mind, set up expectations, tie up loose ends.
Communicate to yourself, too. Perform a regular self-check-in to ensure you are practicing what you preach, in the office and outside of it.
Your partner will notice.