Russell Crowe and his wife of nine years, Danielle Spencer, announced their separation this weekend. The two were on opposite sides of the globe when the news broke, she in Australia shooting Dancing With The Stars, and he in Los Angeles shooting the film Noah. Their whereabouts might be an indication of what went wrong with their marriage. Did their careers take priority over their personal lives?
Often, you have to ask yourself the question: which comes first my home life or my work? Sometimes there’s no easy answer. There is a time in many people’s lives when they wonder if they’ve compromised one for the other. Everyone who has a passion for what they do has felt pulled to balance job and family. For celebrities the choice can be particularly hard since their projects often take them far away for long periods of time, but you don’t have to be a star to grapple with this tug-of-war.
This dilemma can strike at different stages of people’s lives: being too busy to find love, being taken away from a boyfriend or new spouse by work demands, and having to choose between your children and your job. At some point, if you have a profession, you will most likely be forced to make a decision. So the question becomes: How much is too much? And how much of a toll does it take?
Having a career certainly shouldn’t preclude having a fulfilling romantic and home life, but sometimes people become so consumed with their work that it depletes the energy that they might otherwise be able to direct toward personal commitments. For example, Abigail, one of my patients, completely threw herself into her work. Because she could make time only for the occasional date, it was so inconsistent that it became impossible to develop a real relationship. She feels there is no other option for her but to take on more creative responsibility if she wants to build her career and continue to move up the ladder. The risk, however, is that if she doesn’t make some room now for her romantic life she may lose the opportunity to have one.
What if you’re the person left at home repeatedly, as my patient Ellen and her baby recently were while her husband worked on a big project? Or what if your boyfriend has to move to another city in order to tackle his new promotion? In fact, when my patient Claire’s boyfriend moved, he was working toward financial stability so he could feel secure and ready to propose to her. However, she took it personally and thought he wasn’t committed to the relationship because he moved away. It is easy to start feeling that your partner is choosing the office over you, while typically they don’t see it as a choice but as their professional responsibility.
If this is going on with the person you are seeing or married to, try to step back and consider what’s motivating them to invest so much energy in their work at this time. Also, it might be helpful to have a conversation with them to see if they can put some checks and balances in place at work in order to make some personal time. If you’re the one who’s been overwhelmed with work and not making it home until after 9:00 p.m. or missing a Friday night with your family, give your loved one fair warning. That way, they can make other plans and not feel ignored or abandoned.
Keep in mind that it is important to take the time now to prioritize your career and work life demands in order to balance them. If you are willing to give something up in the short run, it can help guarantee that you will be able to manage both and go the distance in the long run. You want to preserve the emotional intimacy you share with your partner because that can ultimately help sustain you as you make your way in the world. By doing this, you can maintain your career and your love life, rather than ending the relationship as Russell and Danielle have done.
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