"I only looked for jobs in Seattle because I feel like this is a relationship I want in my life. I'm interested in us being together. I limited my search for HIM," my exasperated friend ranted, "and then we're visiting with his parents, and he started talking about how maybe he'll move back to Wisconsin! UGH!" She threw her napkin on the table. I could relate.
We grew up in a time of watching our parents divorce, and at the same time we're bombarded with the message that millennials are selfish and narcissistic. We know that to make a relationship really work, if we want it to, requires compromise and an ability to make decisions in the interest of someone else. But in the stage of your life when you're building your career, how do you know when to prioritize your relationship and compromise on your career opportunities, or when to do the opposite - to pursue that amazing or interesting career opportunity and put your relationship under stress?
Have your cake and eat it too
Lots of us struggle with this challenge of balancing both relationships and careers, because this is the time in which both things are developed. Early on in your career or relationship, it can be especially difficult to make these choices because they feel so big and permanent, and like they'll have exponentially influential power over your future opportunity. And it can feel like focusing on one will limit the potential of the other. I want a great career AND a great partner to share my life with, you might think. How do I make that happen when these are both important to me?
Get clear on your values
In order to create this balance, you need to have some awareness of what's really important to you in both the aspects of your career and your relationship. Because while you can develop a fantastic career and an awesome relationship, you will have choices to make day-in and day-out about how you're going to balance those. Ask yourself these questions:
What kind of person and what kind of career is worth making some compromises for?
What daily choices will you make to accommodate both of these things in your life?
Is there a third way?
Is there a way to integrate these important areas in a better way? Are there options that lead to better work-life integration or a way to enjoy a life together that doesn't involve such a this-or-that choice? Are there other values or interests you have aside from the options currently on the table that suggest a different way forward? When my boyfriend and I were talking about our career futures, citizenship and visa requirements were an obstacle. So we changed the conversation to - what cool creative places could we live and work that we haven't even thought of yet? How could we live together in a country and not have to worry about sponsorship and work authorization? Could we start businesses? Could one of us financially support the both of us? How? Bring some creative thinking to the table.
Then, be prepared to balance these forces in your life as you develop both your relationship and your career. You will likely experience setbacks and you will experience surges of success as well. But the practice of weighing each decision, evaluating what's most important to you in moving forward, will help you with the balance. And check in with your partner and yourself, be honest about how close you are to balancing what's most important at this particular time. And if you need help, just give me a shout-out.