The career or the relationship, can we have both? And who needs a partner anyway?

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The arithmetic is simple.

To build success in your working life requires 100% effort.

To build a relationship also requires 100% effort.

Is it possible to pour so much effort into both at the same time, because the maths would suggest not; and is it even right to want to do so?

Of course, it’s perfectly possible to build a successful career on your own, but for most people it’s not possible to be truly happy without a loving relationship somewhere in the mix. So, knowing that personal and professional happiness require so much from us, is it realistic to believe that we can be highly successful in our work lives without it taking a toll on our personal relationships?

As an Improovio reader you may be wondering why we’re considering this question at all. Are personal relationships connected with business success? Well, in a word, yes!

I don’t know about you, but I am one whole person, not a set of compartments. I cannot separate my career and my private life completely; my head isn’t that kind of place. I cannot have half of me rejoicing about something personal and the other half despairing about something professional. It doesn’t work like that, or at least, it doesn’t work like that for me. Unless you’re a robot, strong feelings will inevitably bleed from one area of your life into another.

Everyone who isn’t totally wrapped up in themselves needs a partner who will support their self-realization in life, otherwise, they are incomplete. True, they may achieve some measure of success, even great success, but something will always be missing. Something that would have made their success even greater.

This is what I believe, but even if it doesn’t sound right to you, you’ll surely acknowledge that a bad relationship can break a career, and vice versa; an unsuccessful career can suck the life out of a relationship. Fortunately, it also works the other way around.

A career and a partner can coexist in mutually supportive harmony. Both take energy but in different ways, and both give back as much as they take in different ways too. A partner who helps us whenever we fall is a blessing and a driver of success, an extra strength, a reservoir into which we can reach whenever we feel at our worst. And a partner who in turn feels loved and cared for by someone who is so driven and positive can only grow from the experience.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you then consider this: sharing feels nice! What is the point of anything good in life if we can’t share it?

So, convinced that partners are great for our success and happiness we go looking, but it’s not easy. We know that for all the blessings a good partner brings, a bad one can feel like a curse. So, how do we sort the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff? What does the right partner look like, and how do we know when we’re ready for someone like that? Well, honestly, I am not Plzak nor Cimický, the famous sexologist, but I will tell you how I answered these questions for myself. Or, I will right after I tell you how to know when you’re ready to go looking…

How do you know when you need someone?

You may be different, but for me it was a case of listening to my dreams, or rather, nightmares. I knew something was up when I had 3 old and familiar ones that showed up in the same week. Each night brought a different movie:

1) In the first one I always return to those places where I lived out beautiful moments, but it’s not the same because the person I shared them with is no longer there. The scene looks faded. The feeling that something is missing is overwhelming.

2) In the next I recall my childhood, falling asleep on the couch in our living room then miraculously waking up later in my crib. I think this is significant to me because somebody loved me enough to put me exactly where I needed to be. It felt uncomfortable because I awoke to the realisation that there is nobody like that around me now.

3) In this anxiety dream I revisit the sum of my life’s progress in these transitions: a lollipop changes into a cigarette, water into vodka, a bicycle into a car and kisses into sex. Again, something is missing. It’s as if I’ve discarded one colour from the spectrum of my old emotions along with all the bicycles and lollipops. It feels as sad as it does tense.

At this point it became clear to me that I was starting to need someone else, that everything I had wasn’t enough, and that I lacked a certain special someone to give it all meaning.

The right partner has the almost magical ability to give me direction and is the oxygen that I need to turn my ambitions into roaring flames. Friends can only ever be a pale imitation of this, and they have their own lives and worries to deal with. They aren’t as invested as a lover who loves you. The right partner lives our life and our worries with us, connected and complementary.

I’ve never wanted someone who gives a nod to everything I say. I don’t need that kind of person. I already have a shadow that does a great job of agreeing with me on demand. The right partner will nod when it’s appropriate, disagree when she has to, tell me when I’m being wonderful or foolish or anything else she thinks I need to hear in a way that is honest and real.

For me, a partner is the person I turn to first because she’s the one who loves me enough to always want to know first. She doesn’t turn off her phone because she is with someone more important than me – or someone else! She makes me cakes when I’m miserable and tells me she will still love me even if they stick to my stomach. She hugs me when I feel lost, and accepts me the way I am.

This all may seem unrealistic, but that’s the kind of person that we all need, and the kind that we should all aspire to be. Someone who will mesh with another person as surely as the cogs in a pair of gear-wheels. A good partner is like chicken soup for the soul!

Friends can be wonderful, but sometimes friends are not enough for what ails us, and we do need to be mindful of what ails us. Mindfulness means practising the kind of self-awareness that allows us to analyse our feelings objectively, with detachment and objectivity.

It’s often said that life is short, but when you’re at your lowest, the minutes feel like hours. Being there the whole time is too much to ask of friends. These are the moments in which you drown in truths from which you cannot escape, and what you need is hope, from someone who can smooth over the hurt and maybe even tell you the little lies that work as first-aid for your soul.

These are the moments when we begin to understand that to find happiness we need what we lack: the right person with their arm around us.

For me, pain always puts me in touch with my surroundings and makes me humble. I start to realize for myself that how I think about others, what I feel about them and how I behave towards them directly determines the story of my own life.

These are also the times that test the one who seems right. Is she the first that we want to call when things go wrong? If so, then she is right.

Building a relationship is the same kind of journey as building success. The result is important in either case, but the journey that led to it is more so. A person who rejoices with us at the finish line only matters if they were there beside us for the whole race, through all the joys and hardships.

Yes, just as in business, we need a partner, and good and bad times are just two sides of the same coin. Even with the most astonishing partner, it won’t come up heads all the time. It is said that there is much to see from the mountains, but we can see and understand just as much, if not more, when we are on our knees.

How she should look?

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