If you're anything like me, you've spent decades honing the skills you need to succeed in business. You're smart, savvy and good at what you do. Scratch that - you're fantastic at what you do.
Society applauds you, your mom brags about you, and you're finally making the money you deserve. You're proud of what you've accomplished and define yourself by the characteristics that help you succeed. The traits that make you valuable in your career give your value in your life. After all, professional success is success in this culture.
Unfortunately what you do for a living can screw you in the romance department.
Here's why: The skills you use to succeed in your career are the same ones that may block you from loving and being loved.
Take me for example. I help aspiring leaders get clear on their purpose and then develop strategies to bring their visions to life. Sounds harmless enough, but it's the way I do it that presents the romantic challenge.
The reason I excel as a life strategist is because I empathize deeply with my clients. I take on their hopes, fears, thoughts and feelings and then use this emotional connection to tap into their true desires. Once I feel them, I can remind them who they really are and hold that vision for them until they're ready to claim it as their own. It's a beautiful process and my clients love me.
Yet I bring the exact same skill set into my relationship and I'm a delusional codependent.
I meld into my partner and sacrifice my needs for the vision of what the relationship could be. I stubbornly cling to this vision instead of acknowledging what is and shift my bounders to accommodate it. Needless to say, these skillful traits that enhance my career make it hard for me to have a healthy relationship.
If you're thinking. "OK, but I don't do that," let me give you another example that may be more familiar.
I know a guy who gets thing done at work. As a senior manager in a company he helped grow from the ground up, he works tirelessly, takes personal responsibility for the company's progress, and does everything himself instead of delegating. His take-charge attitude, abilities and dedication to the mission make him a phenomenal corporate leader and he's well compensated for his efforts.
Translate his business acumen into romance however, and he's a condescending control freak.
His inability to delegate means he doesn't know how to communicate his needs or build trust with another person. His lack of faith in others' capabilities means no one is his equal or capable of being a true partner. Although a huge boost to his business persona, in his love life, his can-do attitude turns into a need to control and a tendency to make decisions based on assumptions rather than dialogue.
But our hard-earned career skills didn't have to be a death-sentence for the relationship, and they don't have to be for yours either.
The trick is to think bigger.
Your professional traits aren't all of you -- they are just the characteristics you practice the most often and that receive the most tangible and public feedback. There's no salary or social prestige for being a good partner, but your ability to climb the corporate ladder is widely visible. In a society that defines your worth based on your professional skills, it's easy to fall back on your work personality even at social events. How many times have your been introduced by your job title or asked "what do you do?" at a party? Ever been asked what makes you feel happy or loved? I didn't think so.
If you want to job-proof your relationship, here are four steps you can take today to avoid sacrificing your love life for professional success:
1. Know your work self.
Spend a few minutes right now identifying how you have to think, act, and feel to be the professional powerhouse that you are. What traits set you apart from your colleagues? What are you praised for? What you're doing when you feel "on" at work? Explore how these characteristics show up in your personal life. Is it in your tone of voice? Your assumptions about how others think and behave?
2. Remember your bigger self.
What other qualities do you have that you don't bring to work? Maybe you're a big softie at heart or incredibly generous or affectionate. What does your partner say they love about you?
3. Decide how you want to be.
Feel into how you want to show up in your relationship. Some of your business traits may be helpful and empowering, while others may not have a place in your love life at all. Identify who you want to be, how you want to feel, and how you want to act as a partner capable of loving and being loved.
In my experience, there is very little that a conversation can't cure. No one is perfect and no relationship is perfect. Just like you negotiate in business, sit down with your partner to say what you need, hear out their needs, and decide together how you can help each other feel good. No one is a mind reader, so don't take it personally if you have to spell out what you want or are asked to do specific things to help your partner feel loved.
With a little self-reflection and a willingness to talk, you can be successful in your career and relationship. There's nothing better than being appreciated and respected for your professional success by your partner. Use these steps to bring your best to both aspects of your life so you can give yourself and your partner more freedom to love and be loved.