Not to go all “we live in a society” on you, but modern American culture promotes two main goals: Get married and get money…lots of money. From there, you might move on to secondary, related goals like having kids and buying a house. And though a successful career can buy you that nice house, help you afford those kids, and bring you a lot of other things that you probably want, how can you have both a successful career and a healthy relationship when you’re working all the damn time?
Turn on DND IRL
The first tip is one that’s important in your romantic relationship, but also in your life overall: When you’re off the clock, be off the clock. Don’t send work emails at dinner. Don’t even check work emails after you leave work unless there’s some kind of emergency.
It’s natural to want to please your bosses, but remember that you’re a human being, not just a cog in a machine. If corporate wouldn’t send someone to your funeral or pick up your sick kid from school, why should you give them your personal time?
Be attentive at work, demonstrate your skills, but also don’t be afraid to set boundaries and let it be known you are not on call 24/7. When you’re with your significant other, try to be present with them.
Of course, that might not work if you are a business-owner. If you are, you still need to make sure you’re scheduling time for yourself and your love. You won’t be effective as a leader if you’re wiped and starved for affection all the time. Make a schedule and stick to it.
Work hard, play hard—together
Your partner should be just that: A partner. Ideally, they’re supportive of your jobs and you’re supportive of theirs. Ask them if they’d like to help out with some of your work, whether that means a Saturday afternoon collating papers over takeout or proofreading the draft of your stressful email to a big client. If they feel more involved in your work, they’re less likely to see it as a barrier to communicating and spending time with you—and less likely to resent it.
No, you probably can’t bring your significant other into the actual office all the time, but find ways to make them feel like they’re a part of who you are professionally, as long as it isn’t weird in your corporate culture. Bring them to company parties and outings, for instance. When you get home, tell them about your workday and ask about theirs. Work shouldn’t be a big, mysterious blockage that comes in between the two of you.
Schedule vacation time and work-from-home days for your jobs together, too, and spend that time eating both your favorite foods and having fun. You both work hard! When you’re off, spending your hard-earned money on a vacation or even a movie can help express how grateful you are that your jobs enable you to enjoy moments like that. Together, strive to associate work not with the grueling hours, micromanaging bosses, or time apart, but with the fun times your paychecks facilitate. Feeling involved with each other’s work lives and creating a healthier relationship with those work lives will help you grow together.
Communicate no matter what
If your job isn’t strict about having your phone around, shoot your beloved a text. Hell, do it in the bathroom. Call on your lunch break. Send flowers to their office unexpectedly. You might be stressed or ultra-busy, but try not to let the hours of nine to five be a lover-free time. Segmenting your life like that will drive you crazy and make them feel neglected. Plus, they’d probably love to hear from you during their workday, too.
Jarrod Thorson, a full-time warehouse manager who works at a friend’s pizzeria by night, said that when it comes to keeping a marriage strong in spite of hectic work schedules, he recommends “talking and making a plan.”
His wife, he said, works full-time in an office and part-time in retail, and with their four jobs, two kids, and various dogs, cats, and farm animals, it can be hard to find time to nurture the relationship.
“My wife gets stressed out when things are out of her control, so I make a plan ahead of time to save a lot of crabby conversations,” he said. “Make sure there’s time to connect. Quick phone calls or texts throughout the day help. Her love language is acts of service, so setting up her coffee in the morning or letting the animals out so she can have a few more minutes of sleep can start the day out on a good note. She’ll leave me random notes with a joke or saying she loves me. Little things go a long way.”
Own up when you don’t get it right
Even if you want to be a totally devoted employee, partner, parent, friend, and everything else, your work will always get in the way at some point. That’s just how things work in the capitalistic U. S. of A. You can have a perfect picnic planned with your boo and get called into the office that same Saturday. You also might sometimes let the stress of your job overwhelm you and forget to send a text, or otherwise uphold your half of the partnership.
When that happens, own it. Say you’re sorry and mean it. Your partner probably understands; they work, too. Still, you owe them that apology.
“Don’t let things fester,” said Thorson. “Apologize if you were a dick on the phone. Think of each other. Tell them when you are. Listen to each other.”
He pointed out that when his wife is tense or upset, he’ll either give her space to figure out the root cause or “call her on it and try to get to the bottom of it” so they can move on and enjoy the work-free time they do get together. Always address issues head-on because for at least 40 hours a week, you don’t have that chance. “Sure, we’re busy, but there’s no one else I’d rather be busy with,” he said. That’s the goal.