feminist food-for-thought: does your relationship matter to your career?

lily comba

When it comes to your career, relationships are treated with a veil of silence and cone of shame.

Choosing a career while also considering a relationship is seen as taboo, distasteful, or even worse, a detriment to your livelihood. I’m talking boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, friends, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins… You get the idea. All relationships matter, regardless of the dynamic or the people involved. And what’s most important is that everyone is in a relationship, whether it’s friendly, familial, or romantic. So why is the dialogue around relationships and careers unspoken?

I believe that you can still be a strong, independent woman or man who cares deeply for a certain relationship, but who also wants a career. To give you some of my personal background, I grew up in Claremont, CA. I am very close with my parents (and my cats, let’s be honest), and although I’ve spent large portions of time away from Los Angeles – studying abroad in Siena, Italy, interning in New York City – I have a strong inclination to stay in California. I have also been dating my current boyfriend for six years. I’m not the guru on relationships, but they matter a lot to me. And I want to encourage all of us to think differently about the people we love and the careers we want – because they’re worth talking about together.

When it comes to thinking about the early stages of your career, it’s important to evaluate your values when it comes to making that decision with your relationship in mind. In other words, think about the criteria that you want out of a career and think about the criteria you want out of a relationship.

Do you want to stay in Chicago because you’re family would only be a 20 minute drive away?

Do you want to find a job in Atlanta because your girlfriend recently moved there for work?

What about choosing a job that pays less but is in the same city as your brother?

Consider the type of person you are, both independently and in the relationships that matter to you. Are you willing to compromise higher pay for proximity? Are you willing to relocate completely for a new life elsewhere? Do you want a work-life balance? There is zero shame in any answer to those questions. Zero shame.

If you want to choose a lower paying job to be with your friends – do it. If you want to move to be with someone else – do it. If you want to stay put and work – do it. The world is your oyster and opportunities are literally everywhere. Best part is? If you’re willing to look and willing to make it work, you can have a career and have a relationship simultaneously. Call me crazy.

In addition to evaluating your own values, it’s very important that you communicate your goals in your relationship. If you keep your relationship’s “other half” in the dark, you’re bound to have problems adjusting in your new stage of life. Once you’ve thought about what you want in a career and what you can envision life being with or without your relationship – tell your partner. Just tell them. Write it down, spell it out, send a carrier pigeon, maybe summon Hedwig. But communication is key.

By opening up the dialogue in your relationship, you not only allow for your wants and desires to be recognized, but your other half will (hopefully) feel comfortable doing the same. So when the lines are clear and the conversation is open, you can collaborate together. You may be surprised that they don’t want the same things as you: Maybe they want to go to grad school, maybe they want to live alone at first, maybe they haven’t given it any thought yet. Be bold, go forth, and conquer the dialogue.

And lastly, give it a try. After you’ve done some reflecting on your own and with your relationship, do whatever is decided. Go for it. Hopefully, it will work out. But then maybe it wont. Who are any of us to know if we don’t try at first? If you’re someone who follows their heart, follow your heart. If you’re someone who follows their head, follow your head. Do what’s best for you and for whomever else you want to do what’s best for. Just promise me one thing: believe in the union of careers and relationships. It’s an extraordinary thing to experience.