Career is one of the most common reasons couples decide to go long distance – and for good reason. There are so many career opportunities that are location specific and won’t wait for love, or anything else!
Having said this, your workload might be so demanding at times that it leaves you wondering how you can possibly balance your career with a long-distance relationship (or any relationship).
But don’t be disheartened. It’s entirely possible to thrive in both areas of life, with a little careful planning and prioritising.
Long-distance relationship vs career: is it ‘all or nothing’?
If you feel anxious about balancing work and relationships, that’s understandable. We live in a society that portrays personal life and career as two mutually exclusive things (hence the movie stereotype of the career girl or guy who just works too hard and forgets how to have human relationships in the process – e.g. Devil Wears Prada).
But in reality, our lives aren’t compartmentalised like this. If you intend to remain in your LDR for the long haul, perhaps to get married and have a family, your career is obviously important for your future happiness and stability.
So, how do you make sure you’re giving equal attention to these two important aspects of your life?
Here are 7 ways to balance your career and your long-distance relationship, without sacrificing either one.
1. Set clear and reasonable boundaries
In my opinion, setting healthy boundaries is crucial in any relationship – whether that’s with your family, your work, or the love of your life. This means being sensible about how much time you give to each one in order to balance your goals.
Don’t work longer hours than you have to if it means letting your partner down. Simultaneously, your partner should respect the fact that you might sometimes need to put in long hours at work and not give you a hard time for it.
2. Plan ahead to stay connected, even when you’re super busy
There are ways you can stay connected with your partner and make them feel loved and appreciated, even when you’re just too busy to chat with them. This often requires some planning ahead, but if you know an exceptionally busy time is coming up for you, being prepared for it can take a load off your mind and help keep your relationship strong until you can spend more time with them again.
3. Stick to your commitments
It’s okay if things occasionally come up which mean you have to cancel plans and dates – but if this becomes a consistent pattern your partner might start to feel like they always come second to your career. Similarly, if you’ve promised to do something at work but flake at the last moment because you want to spend time with your partner, your career might suffer as a result.
Treat your visits and date nights as seriously as you would treat an important meeting. And vice versa.
4. Don’t put all your stress on your partner
Your partner should be there to listen when you’ve had a bad day (and vice versa). That includes work-related stuff. But it’s also important not to spend all your time together talking about your job, or to make your partner feel bad for needing your time.
Neither of you is superhuman – it’s normal for them to miss you and need attention, and it’s normal for you to sometimes have your head still at work occasionally. It’s much better that you both acknowledge these feelings rather than burying them and letting resentment simmer away. So, if you feel stressed during date night because of something that happened earlier, get it out in the open straight away (so that they know it’s not to do with anything they’ve done wrong) but then let them know how glad you are to see them and enjoy your time together.
5. Be honest with your partner about the demands of your job
If you’re a people-pleaser, you might find yourself really downplaying how committed you need to be to your work. But this only leads to disappointment in the long run when you can’t live up to the expectations you’ve created.
Be realistic about how busy you will be, but (as always) reassure your partner that you’re thinking of them and will do everything you can to make time for them.
6. Acknowledge how your career impacts your lives together
It’s tempting to think of career as a solo venture, but if you’re in your current relationship for many years to come, you and your partner’s big life choices – including the work you do – will affect each other and your shared life together.
For this reason, any big plans connected to your career (such as whether to move overseas for it, or take a job with a long contract) also concern your partner and your future plans. Acknowledging this can go a long way to reassuring them that they are a priority for you.
This doesn’t have to be a big, heavy conversation – really, it’s just about being mindful of your partner’s perspective when you need to make any big decisions which will ultimately affect you both. For example, if you get the opportunity to transfer to a specific city for your job, discuss how that would affect them too (they’d need to be willing and able to visit you there, perhaps even to potentially settle down there long-term) and ask them how they’d feel about it.
7. Schedule time just for you
Neither your career nor your relationship is going to bring you joy if either one starts to feel like a chore.
Every now and then, take time out from both things and focus on something you enjoy. If you don’t have a lot of time, this could be as simple as listening to a favourite podcast on your commute – but make space in your head to ‘switch off’ in one way or another and just concentrate on you for an hour or two.