When my last relationship ended, I was so completely devastated. Aside from the confusion that comes with such a shocking heartbreak, I was also left with many questions to face about myself. What was I going to do now? How would I define myself without him? What kind of person was I even going to be without him in my life? I had been stripped of a title I was truly proud of: girlfriend. I loved being in love so much; I loved being a part of a team. What was I going to be without that?
The easy answer to all of my questions was beaten into my brain by every person I spoke to in the painful weeks following the breakup: I was going to be fine. I was going to be better! I was going to be Strong Single Career Mary. I would focus on myself and my career, solely. (The only obvious thing you can do when your relationship ends, amirite folks?)
As much as I wanted to have this moment of empowerment where I realized I’m better off without him and now had all this extra time and energy to focus on bettering myself and furthering my career, it never happened. I got over him, yes, and I did take huge and exciting steps in life both personally and professionally, but I actually felt quite disturbed by the notion that having a successful, satisfying career and a strong, happy relationship seemed so mutually exclusive to everyone.
I remember my best friend telling me that it seemed to her like I wasn’t focusing enough on my passions while in my last relationship, but the truth was that my passion had just changed. I stopped loving a thing I used to love, and started loving other things – my boyfriend being one of them. I don’t think I’m a better me when I’m single. I don’t think I melt into my relationships and lose my motivation or my drive or my passions. I don’t think a lot of people do. But for some reason, a deeply committed relationship is often seen as something that is holding people back from succeeding. However, in truth, it might be the thing making us succeed.
I recently came across a Forbes article by Caroline Beaton that finally fit with what I’ve always believed to be true about relationships. The title of the article says it all: “Why Being Young And Coupled Up Is Good For Your Career.”
As I read the article, I found myself not only surprised, but comforted by the fact (yes, fact!) that, statistically speaking, people in relationships are just as successful as the Single Career Types – and often, they’re even more successful.
In the article, Beaton points out that “People in relationships get paid more than single people. They get promoted more quickly. They’re more likely to rise to the top: nearly 70 percent of the founders of high-growth successful businesses were married when they became entrepreneurs. Likewise, 93% of the Fortune 1000 female CEOs are married, compared to the nation’s average of 64%.”
The article, (which is definitely worth a read), shows that research indicates a clear and positive correlation between doing well at work and being highly in love.
I can wholeheartedly say that I have experienced this firsthand. I find that, although I do sometimes have a bit less of a distraction or a bit more time to dedicate to professional endeavors when I am single (especially when I’m fresh out of a relationship and feeling like I have a hell of a lot to prove), I know that I do better in every area of my life when I’m happily committed to someone. I do better in school, I take more career-related risks, and seek out more professional opportunities, probably due to the fact that I feel so cared for and supported in all of these things by my significant other — not to mention the fact that I also want to do well for them, so they have something to be proud of. I feel more motivated when someone is rooting me on. The happiness from my personal life carries over into my professional and academic life, and vice versa.
Now, I don’t believe any of this research is to say that people who are single don’t or can’t achieve great career success. In fact, I know plenty of people in my small personal network alone who have done just that. To me, Beaton’s article speaks more to the fact that there is not just one way to be a “strong, independent person.” To be “strong” and successful is not just to be single and laser-focused on your career. You can, of course, be strong and have a career that matters to you above all other things. But you can also be strong and independent (and career-driven!) while in a happy and committed relationship. You can also be strong if you decide (gasp!) to not be a career woman. The best way to be a strong person is to be a well-rounded and honest one. If you love being alone, and your career goals are the most important ones in your life, power to you. If you love being in love, and your #relationshipgoals are the most important ones in your life, power to you. And if you love your career and your SO, well, you may just be in luck – as Beaton notes in her article, “The two are inevitably, as one study put it, ‘mutually reinforcing’.”
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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