We have all heard the horror stories of relationship gone wrong. People are attacked, abused , cheated on, essential body parts are chopped off in fits of rage… things can get pretty ugly. The effect of these larger Bravo-TV-Style moments are easy to see in your life. You lose focus on work or school. The emotional toll is obvious. They usually end in a break-up – albeit sometimes drawn out and painful.
There are other ways that relationships can alter your life path that are not as visible on the surface. There are subconscious changes that you make to your career, lifestyle, – even your Tuesday evening plans, that can have a lasting effect on your life. I have experienced plenty of these, as well as watched friends suffer through them.
Being in a relationship means making someone else a priority in your life. Putting another persons’ needs ahead of your own. But, how can you make the right choices in your life, if you are putting someone else first? Ideally, your partner is making you the same priority in their lives, and things would balance out… however, the majority of our early relationships lack this symbiotic flow. Here are three major parts of your life that can be helped or hurt by your relationship:
Career: This one is huge. Being in a relationship means making the choice to stay in one city, choosing not to take that position with 40% travel time, not taking certain career risks that are only feasible when you are young. The wrong person will talk you out of applying for big jobs. They are not worried about your work life. The choices we make early on in our careers will affect the rest of our lives. And far too often, young professionals are making these choices based on a failing relationship. On the flip side, being with the right person can help build your career. The work world is a cut-throat place. Coworkers can be cruel, projects can be tough… it helps to have someone in your corner. Having the right partner can keep you from bringing the office home with you. A supportive lover will encourage you to shoot for the big promotions, make those huge leaps in your career. And on the bad days, meet you at home with sushi and Chardonnay.
Friends: After college, your number of “friends” tends to naturally work it’s way down. We tend to get busy with our lives and the amount of time we have for others drops significantly. If we do not put effort into friendships during our 20’s, most of them will be gone by our 30th birthdays. Some acquaintances are fine to lose touch with, (although with Facebook it seems almost impossible to lose touch completely), but if you are putting all of your effort into your relationship… chances are you are going to lose touch with majority of your friends completely. The right person is going to encourage you to go on the girls’ beach trip, or boys’ cabin weekend. They will not be jealous of the time you spend with your friends. You will make new friends together. In the right relationship, there is a balance between time with each other, your friends, and their friends.
Family: This is an extremely important part of life. Dating someone should not change your relationship with your family in any negative way. This is especially true if you have children of your own. A bad relationship can put distance between you and your loved ones. Sometimes these gaps can take a lifetime to close again. Your significant other should care about your family is all aspects. With the divorce rates rising, many people are entering relationships with children from their previous marriage and/or arrangement. It is very common to fall in love with someone who has already started a family. The person you are dating needs to understand that this previous family will always be important. There is room in the heart to care for children, other parents of children, as well as care and love for someone new. For a relationship to make, and not break, your family life, there must to be a healthy understanding and respect of the entire situation.
Overall, a successful relationship is all about balance and respect. Love will only get you so far. Making sacrifices for someone without the favor being returned will just lead to repetitive fights and ultimately wasted time on both sides. A true life partner needs to support you in all aspects of your life, including career, friendships and family.