Career v. Relationship: Can it work?

“I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”
– Maya Angelou

Deciding to make a commitment to your career and your relationship can feel like a conundrum. Is it possible to do both? It seems overwhelming, like you have to make a choice. Is there a way for you to make it work? Yes is the answer. Here are some ideas to help you work through this type of situation.

  1. Make the commitment in your relationship to support each other and to work as a team. Talk about your dreams and long term goals such as owning a house, planning a serious vacation, putting a joint financial plan together, having children, and growing both careers on purpose. Talk about your commitment to each by sharing everyday household issues like paying bills, watering plants, keeping track of schedules, keeping food in the house, cooking, cleaning up.

  3. Try giving yourselves a half hour to an hour when you first get home from work to just leave everything else as is and sit with a cup of tea or glass of wine and each talk about your day at work. Don’t interrupt. Let your partner finish whatever it is they have to say. Don’t judge or criticize what they are saying — allow them to get it off their chest. Don’t start eating dinner until you each have had a chance to summarize your work day. This will give you the time and energy to talk about other important and interesting things you have discovered, read about, heard or seen during the day.

  5. Another part of being a team player is to really listen to your partner. Really, just learn to listen. Don’t let your mind wander off to something you need to be doing tomorrow. That half hour or hour after the work day should be almost sacred and not missed even if it has to be done over the phone. Remember to listen to the message, not the emotion of what is being said. If one of you is more dramatic about your day’s story, allow it. It’s OK. It doesn’t mean you have to be also.

  7. It’s important to really support and appreciate your partner and let them know that in ways that make sense to them not you. It’s really easy to say something like, “I really appreciate you and what we have together or how difficult this time must be for you right now or how you must be feeling right now and I want to let you know I support you all the way. Is there anything I can do to help?” Say it even if it isn’t reciprocated. It will come back to you when you least expect I and in spades.

  9. Make time for a real date night or whole day together day at least once a month. Take turns planning the dates. If it’s your turn to dream up the date, find something your partner has really been wanting to do, or is interested in. This could wind up being something you have little or no real interest in yourself. Keep in mind you are planning it for your partner, not for yourself. Your pleasure will partially come from knowing you have surprised and pleased your partner.

  11. Write down both a team plan of action and an individualized career plan of action. Then make a commitment to both. You will notice that you feel a stronger bond to your partner each day because you are in the process of creating a life for yourselves as a team and as individuals. Start comparing notes on both plans. You will notice that your conversations often move to things you have thought of, read or seen that pertain to your long term and immediate goals both as a team and as individuals. See how you can support each other as you move toward your own career and personal goals. You might be surprised to find that there are many similarities along the way. This will also help you keep a better perspective as to what each partner is up against in their career challenges. It will give you each a better understanding and allow you to be more supportive because you know what your partner needs to get done for him/her to reach their goals. It will also help keep you both focused on what really matters in your lives.

Just like your career, you have to work at your relationship and give it the time and attention it needs. Having these strategies and tactics within your relationship will strengthen and help sustain and grow your personal and team goals and will strengthen your relationship as well, including the one with yourself.
This is your life going by so live and enjoy every moment of it. When you are 80 and you look back at your life, what do you want it to look, feel, and sound like? Will your memories be rich, all encompassing and satisfying? So I ask the question now, do you have it in you not only to work at a career, but work on your relationship as well? For me, it’s about learning to balance each aspect of my life as well as I can. But then all of life, music, performing, and our relationships with others and even the one with ourselves is about balance. It’s challenging but it makes you feel alive. So dare to really live your life fully each and every day. Be present and enjoy the journey.
Now let me know what you dare to dream about? Ciao, Carol

Carol Kirkpatrick

For as long as she can remember, singing and performing have always been in Carol Kirkpatrick’s blood. From her beginnings in a small farming town in southeastern Arizona, through her early first-place triumph at the prestigious San Francisco Opera Auditions, and subsequent career on international stages, Ms. Kirkpatrick has thrilled audiences and critics alike. “A major voice, one worth the whole evening.” (The New York Times) Since retiring from the stage, she continues to be in demand as a voice teacher, clinician, and adjudicator of competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Combining her knowledge of performance, business, and interpersonal skills, she has written the second edition of her highly regarded book, Aria Ready: The Business of Singing, a step-by-step career guide for singers and teachers of singing.  Aria Ready has been used by universities, music conservatories and summer and apprentice programs throughout the world as a curriculum for teaching Ms. Kirkpatrick’s process of career development, making her “the” expert in this area.  She lives in Denver, Colorado.