The struggle to achieve work/life balance is familiar to most working professionals, but what about work-love balance? In the age of the Blackberries, iPhones and the 24/7 workday, finding balance between your love life and your job is a challenge that is as common as it is difficult.
Just ask bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky.
On the current season of The Bachelor, Ali had to choose between her work and the show. She had exhausted her time off and had to return to the office if she wanted to keep her job. Sensibly, the Facebook sales professional chose her job. Then she changed her mind. But it was too late; Jake Pavelka, the Bachelor, would not take her back, despite having made his feeling for her very public.
A choice between an established job and a new relationship is a tough one. Work doesn't often put the zing in your heart that a new romance can, but bills still need to be paid and careers need to grow. How to choose?
You CAN Have it All; Just Be Realistic
Philadelphia clinical psychologist Dr. Kristen Cirelli says it is possible to have love and a career. "It's a matter of following through with a commitment to that choice," she says. The commitment may be to working late sometimes and socializing sometimes.
It sounds good on paper, but in practice, life doesn't always fall in line. When a person is forced to choose one or the other, Dr. Cirelli recommends thinking with both the heart and the head. "We all identify more strongly with specific facets of life. Whether it is work, family, fame or a relationship, there is one area that makes your heart beat faster," she says. "Pay attention to these signals. Clearly this is the area that you want to focus on because it is what makes you feel good. But it is important to do a reality check to see if it makes sense."
Ali went through this exercise. Despite strong feelings between her and Jake, rolling the dice on fleeting fame and a nontraditional way to find love initially lost out to the more stable things in her life. Then she decided to shift her priorities but was the victim of bad timing.
Renate Reimann, Ph.D., founder of FreshLife Coaching in New York, suggests looking for the "win-win solutions" to tough situations. "When looking at life as a zero sum game, choices become burdensome and depressing," she says. "For example, there might be times when a partner is very happy that you are at work because it gives her a chance to do something important [to her], such as a time-consuming hobby."
Tough Choices Happen All the Time
This season's Bachelor wasn't the first reality show where a work-or-flirt conundrum took center stage.
On last season's Bachelorette, contestant Ed Swiderski told Jillian Harris, the featured single woman, that he had to return to Chicago because of work demands. But a change of heart pulled him back to the show weeks later and the couple got engaged.
The depth of the relationship matters, of course. According to Dr. Cirelli, one can expect to put a career ahead of casual dating. But each person should communicate his or her intentions and make sure expectations mesh.
Reimann points that sometimes work isn't a barrier to a relationship so much as an escape from it. "When a client feels uncomfortable opening up, it might point to problems in the relationship," she says. "In that case, work is not the problem but rather a symptom. Find out if you actually want to be in this relationship and, if so, what would bring it back to strength?"
Finding Balance is the Priority
While Jake and Ali might not have found love with each other, chances are good that they'll both turn out just fine. Jake is still deciding which of the remaining women will be the love of his life. And Ali is rumored to be the next Bachelorette, with her pick of a litter of handsome, successful, eligible men. As for their jobs? They'll figure it out.
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