Making a two-professional relationship work

Aug 19 2011 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

Continuing from our last food-for-thought piece, the question that now surfaces is this: can two full-time, fully-engaged-in-a-professional-life partners maintain a conscious, healthy, intimate relationship?

When two professionals spend a great deal (or perhaps an inordinate amount) of time pursuing their careers, is there also time to pursue their relationship? Or does something (or someone) have to "give?"

Does the dual-professional relationship begin to evaporate to where the two partners are more like roommates, or "ships passing in the night", than they are real partners? Do the partners lose sight of their shared values and the value of the "we" and replace these with "my values" and "your values," and an "I" and "you" perspective?

Here are some signs that a dual-professional relationship might be in trouble:

Distance: The partners are growing emotionally distant, where even having a conversation is a challenge, where one or both partners feel they are taken for granted, or one feels the other doesn't "know me". They are spending less and less time together. One or both feel they are not in the relationship they "signed on for."

Job-tensions interfere with the relationship. One or both partners are not concerned about the other's professional stresses or they listen without compassion or understanding of the other's job stress-related issues. One partner takes out their job stress on the other.

Passion is leaking out of the relationship. They touch less frequently, speak less lovingly towards one another and rarely hold one another physically.

Sex is an issue less frequent, less satisfying, less discussed, less loving.

Life changes (birth of a child, relocation, death of a loved one, or illness, etc.) become "elephants in the room" where compromise is lacking, where partners grow distant instead of closer, where events trigger tension and conflict instead of closeness and caring, where worry, anxiety and agitation are threads that permeate the relationship.

Trust: One or both partners become too close, socially, with someone outside their relationship; one or both start to become hyper-vigilant about, or jealous of, the other. Trust begins to fade. Feelings of betrayal and suspicion begin to surface.

Fighting becomes common. Fights erupt over almost any issue or event - small or large. Anger, irritation and resentment become more of a daily occurrence. Partners engage in consistent nit-picking, bickering, and nagging in an attempt to hurt the other. Mutual appreciation and respect are on the wane.

Bad behaviour: One or both partners begin to abuse chemical- and non-chemical drugs, or engage in repulsive behaviors.

Teamwork: The partners are no longer a team, but two disparate (lonely, sad, frustrated) individuals. Sharing responsibilities and chores is no longer the norm. The partners are growing apart, not together. There is an imbalance in assuming financial responsibility.

Sharing: The partners no longer lovingly and consciously share power and influence. Either or both feel disempowered in decision-making. One partner becomes overbearing, a bully, or more dominating; the other assumes a passive, submissive (and silently angry) role.

Fun and play are lacking. The partners really don't truly enjoy one another's company. Stress trumps fun. The partners have become selfishly absorbed in their own interests and activities while ignoring the other.

Lack of connection: There is a lack of spiritual, real, heart-felt, connection. The partners no longer share beliefs they once-held mutually. They will not or cannot discuss new ideas or spiritual issues.

So, dual-professionals in relationship. Can it work? The short answer to both is, in two words: it depends.

Some questions for self-reflection

  • If you are currently engaged in a dual-professional relationship, on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), to what level do you feel you can support your partner emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially?
  • Can, or does, your dual-profession relationship manifest a win-win orientation? How so?
  • Do you feel you are growing apart rather than growing together?
  • With everything you need to cram into your life, are you, or can you, be in a loving, caring, committed relationship?
  • Is your relationship working? For you? For your partner?
  • Where does "relationship" lie on your list of priorities? And do your actions (not just thoughts) reflect that priority?
  • What compromises do you make and what non-negotiable issues exist vis--vis your relationship requirements (non-negotiable), needs (conflicts arise if they're not met) and wants (like-to-haves but no conflict if not met)? How is this working for (both of) you?
  • What choices are you making when it comes to your relationship? Are your choices conscious and healthy, or reactive and unhealthy?
  • Is relationship failure or derailment a real or potential outcome? How do you know? Is failure OK for you, for your partner?

1. If both partners are committed - in thought and deed - to making the relationship work.

2. If both partners are committed to sitting down, regularly, eye-to-eye, knee-to-knee, and heart-to-heart, and offering honest and sincere observations, without judgment or criticism of the other, when answering such questions as: "How are we doing?" and "What's it been like living with me this past (week, month, year)?"

This is not easy, but it is a requirement if dual-professional couples are to successfully navigate the sometimes bumpy roads that dual-professional couples encounter. This kind of dialogue (not inquisition!) requires compassion (for self and other), commitment, love (and a lot of "like"), honesty, strength, courage, will and steadfastness. It's about the Truth.

3. If you know the difference between an observation (the facts) and a judgment (making the other out to be "bad" or "wrong" in some way.

4. If you create a space where each can speak openly, feeling safe and secure, free from attack.

5. If you understand that negative emotions and feelings (when they do arise) are childhood reactions and that "childhood stuff" (in an adult) is coming up and it's common. Sometimes a professional relationship coach or counsellor - can support the couple to explore what these emotions are all about).

The questions for self-reflection provide one way in to such a dialogue. It might serve you and your partner if you answered these questions by yourself and then shared your answers with your partner.

The idea is for both of you to put your finger on the pulse of your relationship, and, through dialogue, assess the health of your relationship.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.