Too Busy For A Relationship? It’s Not His Problem!

This is article #24 to be published on the Get The Guy blog from my brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

This week’s article contains an incredibly important message. Entitlement culture today is greater than ever, and success in one area (our careers) can often lead us to think we deserve something in another (our relationships). Steve breaks this down and shows that no matter how successful you are at work, you’ve still got to do the hard work of keeping your partner happy if you want a fulfilling relationship.

(Photo: Ed Yourdon)

Enter Stephen

I’ve met many extraordinary women at Get The Guy events.

I’ve seen women who are managing successful careers, who manage to juggle multiple high-pressure demands and who are world leaders in their fields.

And at some point in the event one of them will usually stand up and say the inevitable: “Matt, this is all great stuff, but I just don’t have time to invest in a relationship with a guy.”

To which I immediately wonder: Then why on earth did you give up a day of your life to come to a seminar on attracting guys?

I don’t think the unique problem today is that people want it all. I think that’s been true for at least the last few decades. It’s also understandable why people want it all. Consider what we might call the modern Holy Trinity of Fulfilment:

(A) A successful career
(B) An exciting lifestyle (friends, hobbies, travel etc.)
(C) Extraordinary relationships

Who wouldn’t want all of these things?

The problem today is that many people not only want it all, but they want it all entirely on their own terms.

And that’s when things get selfish and unrealistic.

I get it. We’re busy people. We’re used to being able to get what we want ‘on-demand’ according to our own schedule. We’re used to having the option to pause the new episode of Game of Thrones when we want to go fix ourselves a sandwich.

But relationships don’t conform well to this model. Because a relationship won’t wait for you while you decide whether or not you have time for it.

Relationships and people have no pause button. They move on. They change. They react and shift according to the input (or lack of input) they receive.

Yet it’s easy to find lots of people, particularly busy people, who want to apply the ‘on-demand’ attitude to love: They want a relationship, they want attention, they want excitement and romance, but they want it all ENTIRELY ON THEIR OWN TERMS.

Most of all, they want an extraordinary relationship without doing the work of being an extraordinary partner.

Why Success Doesn’t Entitle You To A Great Partner

Many busy people like the idea of a ‘luxury’ relationship – something they can rent on a whim like a hotel, where they are pampered with all the beautiful aspects of life but with all the bad bits ironed out.

I’m not singling out women for this attitude, as this tendency is just as pronounced if not more so in career-driven men, who see casual relationships as merely an injection of stress relief into their hyper-driven lifestyle.

What’s particularly disturbing is the way this kind of person shows utter disdain when you suggest the joy of contributing to a relationship. Things like cooking a meal for their partner, looking after them when they’re stressed or ill, or planning some time to meet their family or take them somewhere special, seem to fill them with revulsion. They groan at the idea of putting in effort, as though it were an annoyance they need to work around to get to the ‘good part’ i.e. sex, validation, and someone to keep them company.

This person views every part of the relationship through the eyes of a shrewd investor. With every kind act they think: What’s my return going to be for going this extra mile to please my partner? Do I have to?

My advice to someone with this mindset (which is absolutely your right to have) is simply this: Maybe a close relationship isn’t for you at all!

I notice a lot of career-driven people tend to view success in their job as an entitlement to success in other areas. They think because they have worked hard to achieve a lot of material success, suddenly they also deserve an amazing partner who tends to their every need. But investing in one area of your life does not entitle you to returns in another area.

It’s like the old-fashioned 1970’s husband who says his wife has no right to complain because he works hard and puts dinner on the table every night, as though that excuses him from being a crappy and inattentive partner. Or it’s like the young girl who spends all of her time only working on her body and her looks, filling her days with makeovers and shopping and beauty treatments, and then wonders why smart, successful men don’t take her seriously as anything but a casual fling.

I’ll say it again: You can’t invest ALL your time in one part of your life, and feel entitled to returns in other parts.

See, I think you can have it all in life. At least, you can have a wonderful relationship, a fulfilling and successful career and an exciting lifestyle, but you have to give a hell of a lot in order to achieve it.

For many people, this is too demanding. To which the answer is: just become less ambitious in one of these areas. Cut back on one of the three and be happy in your decision.

But most people don’t want to do this. Most people want to continue having it all, without investing the amount required to get it.

If you barely have one day a week you’d be willing to spare for a great relationship, then just stop aiming for a great relationship. It won’t happen. It’s like wanting a million dollar company but saying you only have three hours a week to contribute to building it.

I don’t have some secret formula to solve the problem of how to have everything. Balance is always difficult and takes constant refinement. The way I see it, if you are currently stuck in the ‘too busy’ mindset, you have two possible options:

Option 1. – Just focus on your career – For those who are too busy for a great relationship right now, there’s no shame in it. The only thing you have to do is take the guilt off, and accept that while you’re 100% focused on work, you’re only going to be able to have a part-time partner. Be honest with yourself and the guys you date to save disappointment later on.

Option 2. – If this article has brought greater awareness to your desire right now for a relationship, cut back on the time you spend on your career – This doesn’t mean jeopardize your job, it just means that it’s time to accept that you have to allocate your mental energy differently if you want BOTH a career and a great relationship.

The best way to do this is to decide what it is you want, and then work backwards from that vision in how you list your priorities in your day-to-day life. Your daily priorities can shift over time, but you have to be clear in how they’re helping you work towards your goals. Some weeks you’ll have to go crazy and plough every resource into your career, and that’s ok, as long as in the weeks after that you’re going to devote extra time to nurturing your relationship.

One thing that’s certain: if you’re not even trying to balance, failure is practically guaranteed.

If nothing else, just remember: you can’t devote all your time to one thing and expect to deserve everything.

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