How to Date an Over-Achieving, Busy Guy

how to date a busy guy2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to date an over-achieving, busy guy, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussions on love, including dating advice for career-driven to date a busy guy - image of a 2 of hearts (card)

Reader S has a great question about dating an equally over-achieving guy…

I know you recently did a post on dating someone making less money/having more time, and I really enjoyed it. But I also think some of us have an entirely different problem where we date someone who is equally ambitious and busy. First of all, it’s difficult to develop a meaningful relationship when both of you are working 60-100 hours as week on a consistent basis. Add to that (and you mentioned this earlier about yourself), a lot of us get really competitive with our significant others about our careers. My SO and I are both in the legal field and want to practice the same kind of law in the same city. Our resumes mirror each other’s in a lot of ways, and I can’t help but feel the tension sometimes. We recently talked about a job for which we both wanted to apply, and that conversation didn’t really go well. I almost wish one of us could find a different area of practice, but I don’t think either of us should make that sacrifice. I’m guessing there are other readers out there that feel this way, especially when both people are working in the same field, firm, company, etc. How do we deal with this competitive nature so that it doesn’t destruct an otherwise perfectly good relationship? And are some people just too competitive that they might as well find someone in a different field of work?

I’m curious to see what the readers say here, because I never had great experiences dating guys who were as busy as I was. I will say, though, that in that class — the high-achieving man — it was easiest to recognize when someone had decided it was Time to Get Married because they were much more intense on a first date, and much more direct when they weren’t interested (which actually was appreciated). (As always, apologies in advance for every time I say “he” or “the guy” — I really just mean the person you’re dating.)  (Pictured: Two of Hearts, originally uploaded to Flickr by Scott5114.)

For my $.02, different stages of the relationship will look different.

  • In the beginning, I think you should look for a person (or take a suitor more seriously) where there’s a level of constant attention. I would hope for a text message or email every few days, and a date with a real connection — not just an activity like a movie — once or twice a week, or serious apologies when he’s legitimately too busy. This can get tricky, because I always found that “I’m super busy right now” was the nicest way to brush someone off (or be brushed off), but the Over-Achieving Guy can also legitimately get super busy. The difference, in my opinion: the guy who’s really busy will continue to text or email you little jokes or things like that, and continue to show interest in your life — the guy who’s “too busy” will disappear off the face of the Earth. Maybe he’ll resurface down the road, but I’d look for a real change in his behavior before I let myself seriously fall for him (or get exclusive).
  • As things get more serious, gauge the level of respect. The problem that I always had with dating someone equally ambitious and competitive is that you will both always be competing, unless you’re in different fields.  So seriously pay attention to this:  Do you respect him?  Does he respect you?  Opinions, careers, ambitions — none of these should elicit an eyeroll.  Does he think his career is more important than yours?  If he does, and you agree, then great… but know yourself well enough to know if you really agree with that.  Similarly, your time is just as important as his — both in a micro sense (he’s an hour late for the homemade dinner you prepared because he had to work) as well as a macro sense (in terms of your own sense of timing re: marriage, kids, moves, etc.).
  • Once you’re “together,” you have to make the relationship a priority. Schedule dates outside the house regularly, and put your smartphones and Blackberries away during at least 95% of the date.

It’s important to recognize that there are different levels of togetherness, and not every long-term boyfriend or girlfriend will be a true partner. I think you really need to assess what level the partnership is at before you make decisions or operating assumptions that will affect your career (or your finances, for that matter). Regarding the job competitiveness:  Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that your resumes, your interpersonal skills, and your personalities are 100% the same — and so no one has a hobby or area of study that helps them bond with the interviewer better. Let’s also assume that conditions on the day of the interview are identical and, thus, neither you nor the interviewer is in a bad mood because of the weather or some personal trouble. Oh, and let’s also assume that we all play on an absolutely level playing field, and the interviewer doesn’t have a preference between hiring a woman and a man. Big, huge assumptions, yes? Even if this Bizarro World is true, you and your partner can still approach these amazing job opportunities (which of course will come along frequently) in the following ways:

  • If you are true partners, take a team mentality when it comes to your careers. If there’s an amazing job offer, if either of you gets it, doors will open.  If YOU get it, he’ll be better positioned to hear about new jobs in the same Amazing Field, and to network with others.  If your partner gets it, you’ll benefit.
  • If you’re not quite at the “true partnership” stage of things, just don’t talk about it. I think there’s a difference between telling your boyfriend or girlfriend, “I’m going to hunt for a new job now” versus telling him or her every little job that you hear about. One of the first pieces of career advice I got, years ago, was from a friend’s Overachieving Mom, who told me, “Never tell your friends about jobs you’re applying for. Don’t hide it, but don’t offer it up either — afterward, if you get the job or don’t, mention it then. No point in adding to your own competition!”

I stand by a lot of my tips in the other post, as well — a relationship is nothing without similar lifestyles, and compatible attitudes towards finance.  Particularly, you should make sure that your 10-year plans are compatible: for example, if either of you plan/hope-to off-ramp (or have your partner off-ramp) when kids enter the picture, that is something that should be discussed now.

Finally: I just asked a friend who just got engaged to an over-achieving, busy guy (albeit in a different field), for her advice for reader S.  She said:

I would say yes, make each other a priority, respect each other’s time. But also respect each other’s career. Understand that at certain times, each of your careers will be at pivotal/high-stress points, and recognize that you need to be extra-supportive at those times.  Sometimes your career will be up/down, and sometimes his will — it’s all cyclical. Rather than being competitive, try to see his successes as your successes as well. Appreciate and support his career and his successes, and those favors & support will be returned. Build each other up. Not always, but often the happier/more satisfied a person is in his/her career, the happier he/she will be in the relationship, so be supportive. [For two people in the same field,] I guess they could try to support each other and build each other up, and to transfer that competitive energy to something else. Or just look to Mary Matlin and James Carville or the Clintons for inspiration!

Readers, what are your opinions re: dating someone as ambitious and over-achieving as you are? Any tips?


Corporette readers discuss how to date an over-achieving, busy guy -- when you're just as busy. Can a power couple exist? We explore.


  1. I’m one-half of an ambitious, high-achieving couple, and we’ve mostly figured out how to make it work.

    Our work: We both routinely 70-80 hour work weeks, and (as sad as it is), working less than 60 feels like vacation. I’m on the road about 40%, and he’s on the road 60%. My work is international, which means I’m routinely gone over the weekends. While our backgrounds are different, the jobs that we do are increasingly similar, and we have applied for the same job in this past. (I got the job- but he got a different one that is a much better fit for him.)

    On how we make it work (logistics): Friday night date nights are a non-negotiable. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of that night, and no phones are allowed at the table. If I’m gone for the weekend, we block out a couple of hours for us to talk. Saturday mornings we have a “family meeting” to go over finances and our travel schedules for the following weeks, and discuss which nights we anticipate having to work late. Again, if I’m out of town, we do this over the phone. We pay someone to clean our apartment 2x/month so we don’t have to spend what little time we have together cleaning – plus, both of us are less stressed when our home is clean.

    We do our best to schedule our travel, so that we are both out of town at the same time, or use the opportunity when the other is out of town to work late. (Last year, we were not good about this, and only spent about 3 weeks the entire year when we were both working from NYC (home) for the full week. This year has been much, much, better.) We do our best to not work on weekends when we are both in town.

    On how we make it work (emotionally): We absolutely build each other up, although I must confess that it’s sometimes hard when one person gets promoted and the other does not. But at the end of the day, he is doing great work, and I am doing great work, and our finances are combined- so it doesn’t matter who gets the promotion, since either way our income increases. Besides, we’re both so proud of the other person.

    Because we are at similar places in our career, and are doing similar things, we bounce ideas off of each other all the time. If he’s struggling with a particular client, we’ll talk it through – and he helps me work through the best way to handle my difficult clients.

    Finally, how we work things is not sustainable if we decide to have kid(s). But our plan at this point in time is to not talk about it for the time being, since we are happy with where our life is right now, and are ambivalent about having children.

    • I want to have your life (no murder thoughts that is). I mean I see myself in few years living like you do. Really an inspiration

  2. Love this post! I think Kat’s point about a consistent level of attention is a very good one. I once dated a doctor who was terrible about this. He seemed to think that being a Very Busy Surgeon was an excuse for contacting me at the last minute if he was available, cancelling dates, not being in contact for days, and generally expecting me to accomodate his Very Busy Surgeon schedule with no equivalent respect for my busy schedule. That relationship did not last, obviously.

    On the flip side, my current S.O. is a Very Busy Business Person. When we first got together, he was very very good about sending little emails or texts, being open about his work schedule so we could plan our dates in advance, and scheduling dates that he could make and rarely rarely cancelling them. And if he did cancel, he would profusely apologize and immediately suggest an alternative (such as getting together at 9 p.m. instead of 7, going out the following day instead, etc.). When you’re dealing with two busy people, communication and respect is key.

    • I completely agree with this. I started dating my husband when he was in medical school and when we were first together he gave me this big speech about how he was going to be super busy in school, blah, blah, blah. Well, that lasted about 12 hours because the moment we were officially together, he was all in and has been ever since. Had this not been the case, we would have never worked. I call BS on anyone that’s “too busy” to make it work — your family and your relationships are your priorities, and if you can’t make that happen when you first start dating, I think you’ll have an uphill battle at ever having a viable and lasting relationship.

      And, you’re right — even when you’re crazy busy, it takes almost zero time to send a quick text/email or call and reach out to the other person.

      • Oh man, where were you two ladies (or friends like you) for the three years I was dating my ex who was always too busy (school, work, family – it was always something)?
        Actually, everything you ladies said sounds a lot like what my friends said to me multiple times. It just took a really long time to sink in. My ex sounds alot like Fiona’s Very Busy Surgeon. It was always something and I was always the one left holding the short end of the stick and getting put at the end of the priority list. I crossed the line between being understanding and supportive of a hectic schedule and just letting myself get walked on.
        Looking back, I feel like a grade A dummy for letting him treat me that way. But reading what you ladies have said makes me feel confident that someone better can be found. :)

    • I agree as well. If you are important enough in your boyfriend’s life, he will make time for you, no matter HOW busy he is. I don’t care if he’s a partner in a law firm, a busy doctor, or whatever.

      I dated a hedge fund principal who told me that I was great and gorgeous, but never seemed to have time to see me or even to respond to emails. That relationship did not last long. I shortly thereafter met my husband, who was also very busy, but the difference was that he made time for me. He called me whenever he could, even if it was just for 10 minutes while driving to his next appt.

      Frankly, even the busiest person has the time to send a quick email or text. If someone is too busy for even that, then he is just not into you enough. I wish more women realized this!!

    • My dad was a Very Important Surgeon–as junior partner in a 2 or 3 person practice, he had lots of weekend call and frequently went out nights. Being an ophthalmologist meant that nights with lots of togetherness and drinking that tend to end in fistfights for some folks were the nights he’d be called out–Christmas, 4th of July, New Year’s… He averaged about 60 hrs per week, plus journal reading and Continuing Medical Education slides and audio (which I often overheard and discussed with him)

      He gave my sisters and me our baths, supervised teeth brushing, tucked in in with stories and singing every night until it was no longer appropriate for us to be naked around him, and then he still tucked us in very sweetly. This let my mom get the kitchen back in order and catch her breath, and their time together every evening was very important to them both. They went out to dinner just the 2 of them. When he went to conferences, he called every night and we all–he, mom, and us kids–clearly looked forward to those calls. We did family vaca and he and Mom took a week every year. This was in the 70s, before sensitive new age guys taking active parenting roles and before the phrase “date night”.

      If you’re important to him, even a Very Important Surgeon can and will make time.

      • The other side of the story :

        My dad was a Very Important Surgeon (actually, he was another kind of MD). He “allowed” his third wife to start law school when they had been married about three or four years. (She was his medical technician.)

        She signed up a the local, non-accredited law school. When he wanted to go to Europe for a three- to four-week trip in the middle of fall semester, and she said she really couldn’t do that a still stay in school, he threw a hissy fit. She dropped out. They went to Europe. A year later, she had kid one, followed by kids two (two years later) and three (another two years later). They got divorced five years ago, when the kids were 18, 16 and 14.

      • This is such a touching story. My heart literally feels warmer.

  3. I love this question and Kat’s response. Very thoughtful.

    My current, cohabiting SO (of 3 years) is in a totally different field from me, but prior to that I dated almost all people I met through school/work–in other words, people in the same field or similar. My tentative conclusion is that competitiveness was a major reason why all of these previous relationships failed. In most cases, I always felt like the guy discounted my intelligence and achievements, or tried to find ways to do so, and fundamentally did not respect me as an equal. Interestingly, when I confronted the issue directly (both before and after breakups, depending), each of them denied it up and down. Some even said that in fact they thought *I* was the superior one in the couple. Well, that’s the flip side of the same coin–the guy feeling threatened and striking back. I have no idea which it was (or maybe it was both)–but regardless, my tentative conclusion is that I just needed someone who was very passionate about his work, but in a different professional world from me. That’s who I have now. We’re both very committed to our careers, and thus understand the constraints this places on each other. I wouldn’t say we have any foolproof system (as of yet), but it’s working. I truly admire all of his work, and I never doubt that he feels the same toward me.

    I’m not saying I had no part in the past dysfunctions, or that it never could have worked out with someone in my own field. I just think it takes an amazing amount of maturity and self-awareness, and apparently at least at that time, we didn’t have it.

    • Still single :

      How did you meet your guy in a different field?

      • We were both in grad school, in different departments, and I went to a party hosted by someone in his department whom I happened to have met through university activities. I will say, though, I was pretty proactive about it! I knew I might never run into him again after the party, so a few days later I totally e-mailed him to ask him out. I figured “eh, if he blows me off/has a girlfriend/is gay/is rude, at least I won’t have to see him all the time and feel embarrassed.” From the first date, however, he acted like he’d been the instigator! The moral of the story is to go for it.

  4. waiting for the other shoe to drop :

    Not totally on topic, but relationship connected. In college, I dated a guy on and off for about two years. It was awful, really took a toll on me emotionally, physically, grades wise, etc. We had a really, really nasty breakup. I took time off after college and worked for a few years and am now about to finish my second year of law school. I realized that both this semester and last semester during finals I have been thinking about him. Not in a romantic way, but wishing I had peace with him and scared he is going to come back into my life at some point. For instance I’m terrified that if I ever get engaged he will show up and tell my future husband horrible things (I don’t even have a boyfriend so I realize this is paranoid). I’m also worried he will find out where I am taking the bar and tell them bad things. He was awful during the relationship, but I did not handle myself properly while it was ending, and do not have much to be proud of. I haven’t heard or spoken to him in 3 years, so this is really bothering me. I have been thinking about therapy but don’t know if that would even help. For the record, I do not want to ever contact him. Any advice? I think I need to forgive myself, but that is easier said than done.

    • I think therapy could definitely help. Hugs to you, sounds like you are carrying a lot of worry and stress with you surrounding this relationship.

    • Could you find out some information about him and what he is up to now without him knowing it (i.e. don’t ask mutual friends about what he is doing now, but google him, search on facebook, look through public records, etc.)? You might find out that he has started a new relationship, gotten married, moved to a new city, started a new job or business, or done other things to give you some indication that he has moved on.

    • If you can’t find him, it may help you emotionally to just write a letter to him explaining what a horrible boyfriend he was and how it impacted you. Even if you never send the letter, it may help to get your feelings out there.

      • I DON’T recommend initiating contact with him at all, though I think an unsent letter might help crystallize feelings. but why poke the lion?

    • Whatever you do, DO NOT reopen contact with him yourself. I know you said you don’t want to, but really do not. Ever. Have some friends agree that you can call them if you ever think seriously about it, and they will talk you down. Trust me on this.

      What happened in the past is past and you can neither change it, nor take it back. Time heals (almost) all wounds, and it is very possible that your ex has not spent nearly as much time thinking about you as you have about him. And even if he has, you two are not the only people in the world to have an ugly, messy breakup. I seriously doubt this man is going to emerge from your past if/when you do get married, or need to pass the fitness exam for the bar, and try to ruin your life. If he does, you have a pretty good defense – this guy is not an ex-boss or law enforcement officer or parole official, someone with some credibility. He’s your ex-boyfriend and people understand ugly breakups, bitterness, and psycho exes. I would never, ever fail to hire someone, be against my friend dating someone, or think badly of someone because their ex-partner badmouthed them many years after the end of the relationship. I would think badly of the ex.

      We all have things in our past we are not proud of. But here’s a good example. Back in high school, I dated a guy who had a longtime girlfriend. He ended up breaking up with his girlfriend to be with me. It caused one of those high school dramas that seem so crucial at the time. As it turned out, he was a loser and she was well rid of him, but her gain was my loss. A few years ago we ended up commenting on the same thread on Facebook, and she sent me a message basically saying, wasn’t that whole thing so crazy? The things we do at 16, huh? I emailed back saying, yeah, sorry but I should get some credit for taking him off your hands :) and we’re actually friends now. Not saying you and your ex will ever be friends, but I don’t think this is probably as big of a deal as you think it is. Sh*t happens, end of story :)

      Therapy would probably help. The most important thing is to stop perseverating on this. It’s over, and as I said, you can’t change what you did in the past, just what you will do in the future. Don’t be so hard on yourself. :)

    • I sometimes think about this, too. I have an ex from high school who emotionally and verbally abused me. He and I broke up and he got into drugs, even missing a close mutual friend’s wedding because he had to go sell drugs at a rave in Toronto.

      We are not in contact. It’s probably been 10-15 years.

      I’m in criminal defense now, and practice on other side of the country. I worry that one day I’m going to see him in court, or I will get appointed to his case. And I won’t want to defend him.

      I know it’s irrational. But there are certainly unresolved feelings there. You aren’t alone.

    • Wow, are we the same person? I could have written this word for word. Reading your post brought tears to my eyes because it hit so close to home.

      Like you, I had a horrible relationship in college that ended very badly, to the point that I had to have a restraining order against my ex. He was never physically abusive, but very, very emotionally abusive/blackmailing. When the ex found out I was engaged, he wrote nasty emails to my husband and divulged lots of personal details about me. Three days before my actual wedding, he sent me a text saying that he was going to sabotage my marriage. It was all incredibly scary.

      The good news? None of that happened. I had the foresight to tell my husband before we married about my past, and I warned him that this ex was crazy and would likely try to contact me or him. Eight years later after our marriage, this ex still reaches out to my husband (but not me) through Facebook email and says terrible things about me. We have always just ignored him.

      Here’s what helped me:

      1) Being brutally honest with my husband before marriage about my past. I made some poor choices in my early years, namely with this ex, and I now regret them. But telling hubby beforehand was crucial, so that when my ex did reach out to him, it wasn’t any big surprise.

      2) Going to therapy. I went to therapy for about a year because I had so much pent up rage/sadness at my ex and for how he treated me. I have never, ever thought of myself as a sad person, but going to therapy made me realize how much sadness I carried around about that relationship. I do think it helped. I realized that I needed to forgive myself for my actions as well as forgive him.

      3) Don’t contact him ever. I have thought about “what if” we reconnected after all of these years and had an adult conversation about what happened between us. But you know what? Some people are not mentally stable, and reconnecting with him could actually make things worse.

      I’m sending you a big hug and good thoughts. I completely get your “paranoia” that your ex will contact your future husband. But if it happens, like it happened with me, it’s not the end of the world at all. Hopefully your future husband will appreciate your candor and honesty with him. Good luck to you. :)

    • My former self??? :

      Holy cow! I could’ve written your story… except that even more time has past, and until recently, I struggled with just what you describe: fearing that the emotionally abusive college boyfriend would reappear in my life and wreak havoc. When I started grad school, I had a dream that he was sitting in the department when I walked in, and told everyone there what a foolish nicompoop I was and that I had no business being there (nevermind that I am WAY more educated). For more than a decade, I was plagued by occassional thoughts that he would show up my life and prove that it was all a sham (nevermind that we haven’t had any contact in years). Strangely, though, the very day that my husband and I went to pick out our engagement/ wedding rings, I got a facebook friend request from this creep. I felt like he was watching me and raining on my parade! Needless to say, I blocked him.

      What has helped:
      1) Therapy – it’s helped me come to terms with my role in the horrible relationship, and the way patterns in my family may have set me up for those mistakes.
      2) Yoga – it’s allowed blocked emotions to release from my body. Not sure if every yoga class/ teacher will do this, but worth exploring.
      3) Major accomplishments that he (or anyone else) can’t take away from me and can’t dismiss
      4) Finally coming to a point of making peace with my role and his role in the debacle. Realizing that neither of us was totally innocent, and neither meant to be a super-destructive person (although he was). I reached a point where I need to jump some major hurdles to move forward in my life, and I mediated on what I needed to do to clear the hurdles. The answer came very clearly: let go of the restentment and anger toward this guy. I went for a long windy walk, and it literally blew away in the wind.

      Good luck! I know this is a hard journey! I hope you can find a skilled and compassionate therapist to help you work through it.

      • waiting for the other shoe to drop :

        Thank you all so much. You have no idea what it means to me to know I am not the only person to go through this. I really appreciate your comments so much I know this is a personal subject. I will look into getting a therapist for my long term, but you have all really helped me short term

    • When I was 20, I had a miscarriage. The guy was supportive at first, but over the next few months became more and more upset about it, angry and mean to me. He wrote me a letter a few years later asking for forgiveness. I had no interest in communicating. More recently (20+ yrs later) he found me on Facebook and laid out his self-centered reason for his actions. I can’t believe he still sees it all as being about him. I think he’s slowly getting the message that I’m not interested in revisiting that chapter.

      • You can do it! Even if he does show up, you can say no and refuse that future contact. Rationally speaking, I’m sure you realize that no employer or anyone else evaluating your performance will listen to the looser. Convincing the non-rational part of yourself is much harder.
        Good luck!

    • Been there :

      I dated a guy all through high school. We decided one afternoon while his parents were at work to video tape ourselves doing certain acts – and I’m not talking about some nice little love making. I’m talking about xxx stuff. It was back in the VHS days and before Facebook and Youtube. We broke up while I was in college and it was a very messy break up.

      I was always worried about the tape but I never brought it up. I should have demanded it back when we broke up but that would have just reminded him of it and given him ideas. I have no idea what he ever did with it and if he still has it.

      I’d suspect he probably showed a couple friends and left it at that. I always worried it would come up some day if I ran for office, etc. How foolish was I at 16 to think that was a good idea. But he was the love of my life that I was sure I was going to marry.

      I still cringe when I think about it 17+ years later.

      • Been there, done that :

        I have the same story. Even worse, my ex wrote me letters after we broke up threatening to show the videotape to my now husband. He never did, and I just keep praying that he destroyed it. My husband knows all about my past, but I still don’t want him receiving that kind of tape. My ex is now married with a child, so I just hope that he’s over it by now. But I do have the same worry that the tape will show up later on in life. Sigh.

  5. Amelia Bedelia :

    First, I hope the reference to the Clintons was tongue in cheek? While both are highly successful business people, I would definitely NOT want to emulate their relationship! I don’t need to “define” sex to my SO so he can figure out whether he is actually cheating on me!

    This question is difficult. I met my SO when I was in law school and he was in residency. We are both intensely competitive and, looking back, I am shocked either of us made time for the other. I will say that in the beginning, I did not prioritize his needs or truly devote real time to him. Too often I used the studying excuse and blew him off. I honestly was studying, but looking back, it was disrespectful. He stuck with me (amazing!) and we had a talk when I graduated and began life at a big firm.

    He let me know that I could work late, but that I had to make him important, too. I had the “aha” moment because I truly did not realize I was doing this. But I was. So, I made him a priority and tried to show him that he was a priority. I did this by keeping him very updated. That was our key. When he had an emergency c-section, I got a text. When I had a shouting partner placing unreasonable demands on me, he got a text. And I became an expert at the dinner break. Once a week at least — usually 2-3 times a week – I left work at 7.30 to enjoy a long dinner with my SO and then returned to work (either at the office or at home) at about 10.30. I would then work until 2am, but it was worth it. I felt better getting “real” time with my SO, and he felt like a true priority. He responded by taking some call from home, even though it really meant he got less sleep because of travel time. I felt better because he cared enough to come home and hold me for a few hours. Also, he was master of the coffee break. He would take breaks from the hospital and write me the longest, most hilarious emails. They made my day – still do.

    And I cannot tell you how important the support thing is. I took a less stellar job once so my SO could have his dream job. After four years, I was so miserable at work that my SO literally forced me to go get a new job — and then left his dream to support me in a new city. The sacrifices may be harder if you are both very competitive and driven, but don’t make excuses. They still have to happen.

    Very long winded, but I agree. It is about feeling like a priority. If he is super competitive and takes time to hear you on your concerns and support you, then he is a keeper. If you do not get that attention, then voice it! if the SO won’t change early on (usually with a “I’m so sorry. i didn’t realize how I was doing that, but you are right!), get used to it . . . you will always be in fifth or sixth place.

  6. Praxidike :

    This post is exactly the reason that I consciously chose not to date and ultimately marry someone in law (my field). I am highly competitive and I knew I would not be able to set that competitive spirit aside, which would make for some awkward times in the relationship. Furthermore, from my perspective, I had absolutely no interest in dating a lawyer – I already spend most of my waking hours around other lawyers, and I didn’t want to spend my “off time” around them, too. Nothing against lawyers, who are some of my best friends, but all we do is talk shop and I didn’t want that for a husband.

    As for dating someone who’s very busy: I routinely work 70-80 hour weeks, as does my spouse. He travels a lot, and I do not. Despite that, we’re able to pay attention to each other and be there for each other when the need arises. If you’re in a relationship with someone and they consistently show that you’re not at or near the top of their priority list, then I think that shows that that person’s not serious about you. And because I am a very no-nonsense person, I would not continue in that sort of relationship.

    This goes for you, too. If you’re busy and he or she’s not near the top of your priority list, then all I can say is that that partner’s probably not right for you. Yes, when you’re in a trial or some other unusual, stressful situation, then the stakes might change (for example, I worked on Thanksgiving of 2010 because of a trial – but I still came home in the early afternoon and made a small Thanksgiving dinner with him).

  7. 1L in Love :

    Oh, Relationship Posts!

    My busy SO and I have been together just over three years. The first two years we were both working busy jobs – he had crazy hours and was doing his MBA part time and I had a crazy commute. This year I moved about 45 min. away to a smaller college town to start law school and we have still maintained a healthy relationship. I think one of the keys is that he is a great phone communicator – he doesn’t really e-mail or text much, but calls regularly and luckily enjoys talking on the phone, which I know some people do not. Of course I wish there was more time we could spend together, but the adventure is about to get way crazier because he is moving to the Bay Area for a new (dream) job. I am 100% supportive and on-board but still do question how it is all going to work out – I’m a worrier. I think the most pressing concern is what my career will look like if I do move out there. I know it is a very competitive market, so worry that fresh out of law school I will not be able to find much since it is so far from the midwestern school I attend. He is adamant that I should not settle for a job just to be close to him, but I do not know at this point what my options will be. Any thoughts on high-achieving relationships that get split up geographically? How does one relocate and try to find a good position? What is the balance between following your own dreams and wanting to be with the person you love? At 25, I’m still trying to figure all of this out.

    • Praxidike :

      Oof, I have an answer to your second question about moving “for love.” I met my husband when I was in law school in NYC and he was living in Wisconsin, where he’d grown up. We fell immediately in love, dated long distance for about eight months, and then he moved to NYC until I finished law school. I had already been offered, and accepted, an appellate clerkship and had no plans to revoke my acceptance, so the plan WAS that we’d live in the NJ/NYC area until I had a few years of practice under my belt and then could conceivably lateral back to Wisconsin (he was telecommuting during this time).

      Anyway, long story short – he did not like telecommuting and he did not like living in NJ while I was clerking. Consequently, I applied for an appellate clerkship in Wisconsin, which was offered to me and we ultimately moved here. After the clerkship, however, I was utterly unable to find a job in the market and was unemployed for about eight months, and it was miserable. I ended up resenting him for what I thought was him “forcing” me to move to Wisconsin, and we almost ended up divorced over it. Even after I found my current position, I was still resentful because of the unemployment and what I thought were multiple lost opportunities because of the move (I had a biglaw job lined up in NYC before we moved). Ultimately things worked out – I love my firm and my coworkers and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else – but it was very, very stressful.

      My thoughts are that one of the two of you will ultimately have to move, and it doesn’t have to be you. But before either of you make that choice, you’ll have to examine how you’d feel if you didn’t get a job, or couldn’t get a job that matched what you’d expected if you’d stayed in another market. I moved from a big market down to a small/medium market. Not only is it just as competitive here, but there’s a real feeling that if you didn’t go to the UW or Marquette, then you’re not a viable candidate. And if that’s what one of you would be doing (ie, moving from a larger to a smaller market), you’ve got to evaluate whether your choice of school is going to impact your employability.

      Without sounding too cheesy, these are the things we do for love. These are the compromises we make. So, do I wish I’d made that biglaw salary for a few years before moving? Yes. Do I regret the move and how it happened? Somewhat. Would I change anything, looking back on it now? No. But I’m not going to lie to you – it is rough.

    • spacegeek :

      I moved 1500 miles to be with my *fiance*. I didn’t do it until we had a firm commitment. Left a great job too. But I figured that when I looked back on my life, would I have been happy to have had that great job or would I have been happier with a good relationship. The relationship won. 20 years later, I can look back on the move and see that it actually benefitted me very much. The experiences I had at the job I got in the new location were career builders after all, and I am very very happy with the direction my career has gone! If I’d have stayed, I would probably not be married to the same guy, nor would I have the great career and fantastic salary my new skills brought me! So… you never know.

      That being said, I also moved away from him after 4 years living under the same roof to pursue my career. We did that with the knowledge he would eventually move “home” with me. And we did long distance for 2.5 years. That was very tough.

      But as I stated below in another post, we are both very independent people!

      • 1L in Love :

        Thanks for the responses! It is tough to find the “best” solution, but I do believe in the mantra that you have to find your own happiness in your life and your career, without depending on your partner to provide that happiness.

        • What a great mantra!

          I just read Lois Frankel’s follow-up to NCDGTCO, “Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich,” and it’s chock full of stories about women who depended on men* in their lives to manage their money, and then something happened, and the women were left with nothing, or with a bunch of mismanaged assets. (*Husbands, fathers, law partners, financial advisers, etc.)

          The lesson is – no matter how much you think someone else might be looking out for you, YOU also have to look out for you.

  8. Diana Barry :

    My in-laws (brother- and sister-in-law) are both family lawyers, went to the same law school and then were competing for the same jobs afterward. I could never do that! DH had a startup and I was a law student when we met, so we both had flexible schedules and both made a lot of time to see each other, right away.

    My husband is a hedge fund/angel finance/tech guy, and I am in estate planning. So our fields complement each other – we have one client in common, where he directs the investments and I do the estate planning documents, trust administration, etc. It is GREAT – I wish we had more clients in common. It gives us something to collaborate on and lets us see each other’s perspective, how the other person works, etc. I hope that in the future we can expand that to do more of our work together.

    If it were me, I wouldn’t want to be competing for the same jobs – that is uncomfortable enough when it is a friend, I can’t imagine doing it with an SO. I would set up a ‘chinese wall’ so that if you are looking at the same jobs as your SO, it doesn’t come out until one person gets the job. That won’t help hurt feelings after the fact, but it would help with the competitiveness to get the job in the first place.

  9. internet person :

    my fiance is in law school (p-t), works (p-t), and operates a business. he is super busy and stressed! i, on the other hand, have a great career at a really relaxed office, ie: can work from home, make my own hours, have lots of leave time. this is difficult because i have so much time and he is always busy. i understand that this is not a bad problem to have, but sometimes it does get frustrating. i do most of the housework, and i know i do it because i have time, but sometimes i resent the gender roles. i try to stay active in the community, but i feel like a lot of times im just doing these extra-curriculars just to pass time until he is free. anyone else experience this?

    • Yeah – probably every childless woman in the history of time. :)

      If you resent something about the relationship, then it’s important to let him know. (Like housework.) If you’re bored, get into something you actually like in the community, or get a hobby. Or get a more stimulating job.

      I’d give a lot to be in your shoes.

    • I’m in a very similar situation — hubby is trying to start a business and is very busy, I have a fulfilling but pretty easy (hours-wise) job, and lots of free time on my hands. I’ve made it a point to keep myself very busy during the evenings with various activities. I schedule social happy hours/dinners with friends, work out, go to the theater with friends, etc. Hubby and I also make it a point to do date night every week. I’ve also joined the Junior League, and have found it helpful for meeting more women in my community as well as volunteering, which is important to me.

      Yes, I definitely do most of the housework, but I don’t mind because the tables were turned a few years ago when I was in law school and my hubby did everything around the house! I would just say be glad that you have the free time, and try to do fun things in your free time so that you will feel fulfilled and happy.

  10. Associette :

    Lawyer – married to another lawyer here. “…you will both always be competing, unless you’re in different fields.” I do not agree! My husband and I are not competitive with each other. What works for us:

    1. We plan ahead by using Microsoft Outlook calendar items to keep each other clued in on when we are working over the weekends, so that we know when we are both around for a “date” or even just quality time hanging out together.
    2. We RARELY discuss work in any specific terms.
    3. Compromise. At the end of my billable year when I am hustling and billing time, non-stop, he grocery shops and cleans the house, and vice versa!
    4. Email/gchat. We are not around each other that much during the week but sending a few lines here and there def. keeps us connected.

  11. spacegeek :

    I have been married for 15 years to an MD who works 12 hr shifts, but they can be noon to midnight, 6am to 6pm, 6pm to 6 am, 11pm-11am, etc. And often he works two of those shifts on the weekends.
    I am very ambitious and travel a lot for my career, and also work an hour from my home. (So my days are 12+ hour days too.)
    We have 2 children
    While we aren’t perfect, we have mostly come to terms with our lifestyle. We have ALOT of help to keep the day-to-day household stuff going. That has been one major concession to avoid spending our together time doing the mundane things. (Housekeeper who does the laundry, nanny, gardener, pool guy, handyman. We also own horses so we have a barn manager and a guy who mucks the stalls 2x/day.)

    My husband’s schedule precludes a regular date night. But we try to have evenings at least once/month together and we do many BBQs etc with other families so that we can be social and together at the same time. We’ll take an afternoon horseback ride which also counts as a date, for us.

    But it is tough.
    We are both extremely independent people, which helps. We can carry on alone as needed.

    • I’m sorry, I just have to ask – who is with your kids if you and your husband both work that much? Do you EVER get to see them??

      • She says clearly in the post that there’s a lot of household help and a nanny.

        60 hours a week is not “too much” for a woman to have children – particularly if some of that work is being done from home, as spacegeek indicated. And husband’s schedule, while difficult, probably allows some nice blocks of time to spend with the kids too.

      • “Um”, I’d bet everyone on this site who has kids works 12 hour days from time to time, if not routinely. The attitude I’m seeing (maybe misreading??) in your question bugs me, especially on a site that’s supposed to be geared to women who are “overachieving chicks.” It looks to me like spacegeek and Dr. spacegeek work at different times of day, so they probably get solo kid time. That’s what most working parents do.

        • spacegeek :

          Yep! We separately parent often–I do most of the weekends, and he does some week days. You are right, we don’t see the children as often as some people might prefer, but this works for us. There are sacrifices made in all lives. These are the choices we’ve made.

          We have a super nanny and my husband’s parents also live 7 minutes from us. I said we had ALOT of help! I get home by 6pm every single week night without fail, unless I’m on travel. When I travel my husband organizes his schedule so that he doesn’t work at all while I’m gone and can be with the children.

          Life isn’t straight forward, and I think flexibility and creativity are required to make it work!

          • Diana Barry :

            Your follow-up post here makes things seem a lot more reasonable. Kudos to you for making it work for your family!!!

          • Great response, spacegeek. :)

          • As the daughter of parents who both worked full-time, I really just want to say that I think your post highlights some of the really good things about having adults other than biological parents involved in “parenting” children. At various times as a kid, I was watched over by a nanny, an assortment of (mostly wonderful) babysitters, preschool teachers, friendly neighbors, church ladies, relatives, and, of course, my mother and father. I really benefited from having (to use a hackneyed term) a village to raise me – and I think my parents (currently going strong on 42 years of marriage) did as well.

            In short: rock on, spacegeek. I bet your kids are awesome.

          • Thank you for posting your comment, cbackson. I like to think it is good for my kids, particularly my daughter, to see their mom kicking ass in the corporate world and being an equal partner in their parents’ marriage, but it really helps to hear how an actual grown-up turned out!

        • I’m a single mom, so my little one has learned to hang out near me doing his own thing. I remember finishing a grant just before the midnight deadline when he was 5. He got his little fleece rug, put it on the floor next to my chair, and fell asleep there. You better believe he got some good mama time over the next few!

          • That image is so cute! My little boy insisted on staying in my study when I was on an evening telcon though he was very sleepy, and I ended the call to find him curled up on the chair. He got to sleep “with Mama” as a treat that evening!

      • Desperate Housewife :

        Although I know where @Kay is coming from, I’m actually glad to see this comment, b/c what you do before kids when you a part of an ambitious couple and what you do after kids when you are a part of an ambitious couple can change drastically. Communications is clearly key (and wish I had enough foresight to apply this advice to myself).

        My husband is a workaholic and ambitious but in what is ultimately a low-pay field (academe – he is perpetually working, around the clock, 7 days a week – he does much of his work from home, but what that means is that he is not ever really “present” though his hours working at home “count” towards his contribution to our family). I’m a lawyer. We had no problems at all during our 15 year DINK phase – we survived being bi-coastal, bi-continental, moving to different cities for the sake of the other’s career. But when the kids came along, husband turned into a real 50s throwback. Not so much because he expects me to be a dutiful wife, but because he expects a dutiful mother for his children.

        So, yeah, for him, it is not acceptable that a mother is only spending an hour here and there and then some block time w/ “his” children. A mother is supposed to make nutritious meals with her own hands from scratch, and be there for every family dinner, and be responsible for pick-ups and drop-offs and doctor’s appointments and social calendar and homework, and plan all the minutiae of a child’s life, and attend all the performances, and plan elaborate birthday, easter, christmas, thanksgiving, fourth of july, st. patrick’s day, and cinco de mayo celebrations, including the extended family. A mother certainly cannot travel for work, because how would the children get fed or get up in the mornings?

        And what makes it all so much worse is that the academic market is ferocious and dying, and after 10+ years of being an assistant professor, tenure remains elusive for him. Which means I cannot afford to be a stay-at-home mom, which is what he’s effectively demanding (though he’ll never admit it).

        But this means that my perfectionist nature makes my life a living hell – trying to meet the demands of work and home. Right now, I’m on a part time schedule in a mid-sized firm, but it looks like he’s about to finish yet another contract without tenure. Which means we’ll have to move (again), and I’ll have to figure out how to re-balance everything (again) with a new job (if I can find one). I’ve started taking steps to plan a life that doesn’t involve his chaotic and risky career – maybe not anything as drastic as “the big D,” but maybe taking the kids by myself somewhere where I’ll have a stable job and he can continue to flail from random city to random city in his completely consuming job. He’s noticed and is angry about me “systematically writing him out of our [mine and the children’s] lives.”

        So yes, @Kay, a woman can have a good family, even if she works a 12+ hour week. But if she has an ambitious spouse, she’d better make sure that her husband has the same understanding of what makes a “good family” as she does.

        • Desperate Housewife :

          umm… that would be 12+ hour days.

          • Dear Desperate, I’m an academic too. My son was born as I was dissertating & his dad never really lived with us. I’ve done the flailing through several different contracts. It sucks. I eventually gave it up because I could see that moving every couple of years wasn’t good for my son, but I also couldn’t put in the knd of time writing that I needed in order to nail a tenured position & like you said, I always had work on my mind, got my first smartphone so I could reply to students’ emails from the playground.
            Despite your resentment over your husband’s conversion to 50s values, I see that you accept final responsibility for the kids. That sucks for you, but is good for them.
            I absolutely agree with your decision not to move this time. If your hubby misses you all, have him set up his writing goals & teaching schedule (including blocking out days for grading, etc), then tell him cheerfully you really hope he can knock em out in order to be able to spend time with you. He’ll be astounded the first time you demand he take time off for you & the kids, & will accuse you of being nonsupportive but successful academics have organized lives that let them have time off and you can sweetly point out that there have been no impediments to him pulling all-nighters to get ready for the visit.
            If this is a visiting, not TT position, you don’t ever need to live there. Once he gets a TT position, he’s nowhere near home yet. If & when he passes his pre-tenure review (3-5 yrs into the job) then it’s time for you to move the kids & yourself to be with him (or move on).
            One other thing–you mention the sucky wages professors get. You don’t want to be stuck paying manimony. Set up separate finances. Simplest would be each of you paying for things in your own city. That sticks you with taking care of the kids, but might prepare you for future reality anyway. If he’s such a 50s guy, he might contribute financially to their upbringing, & if it comes to that I think you’d have a better case for child support. Just don’t let him guilt trip you into covering his household when he’s already shirking his duties at home (see my post above about my dad).
            You said that you both use to travel & did some LD stints premise. Maybe you can present this as returning to that model, & as supporting his career by getting out of the way (much as I love my kid, I long for the days when I could flat-out write for 10 days straight, then pause to cook & clean, repeat).
            Good luck to you!

          • I meant prekids, not premise.

            And a note to those criticizing prof dad–getting tenure is like making partner. Most academic positions do not lead to tenure. You have to land a tenure track position, work your ass off for 5-8 years, then have a committee review all of your teaching evals, publications & contributions to your university, your discipline & your town. I bet the guy isn’t a jerk, just has to talk himself into believing this could be the one every time he starts a new position and probably hasn’t taken stock of how uninvolved he is with the kids, cause he thinks each thing he misses is just one (which is how I gained 20 lbs post-baby without ever thinking I was giving up working out). All those 10 min delays add up–sounds like he’d better recognize the total amt of time in the delay or his flight may be cancelled.

        • “So, yeah, for him, it is not acceptable that a mother is only spending an hour here and there and then some block time w/ “his” children. A mother is supposed to make nutritious meals with her own hands from scratch, and be there for every family dinner, and be responsible for pick-ups and drop-offs and doctor’s appointments and social calendar and homework, and plan all the minutiae of a child’s life, and attend all the performances, and plan elaborate birthday, easter, christmas, thanksgiving, fourth of july, st. patrick’s day, and cinco de mayo celebrations, including the extended family. A mother certainly cannot travel for work, because how would the children get fed or get up in the mornings?”

          Oh, man. Desperate Housewife, I am sorry you’re put in the middle of this push-pull. I think as working moms, we all have enough guilt about not being with our kids, and then to have a spouse with these kinds of expectations – that’s doubly tough. My hat’s off to you. I think trying to make some of your own plans is a good idea. Very honestly, it seems like he has prioritized his life and happiness over you (and your family’s) life and happiness for a long time. I think one of the greatest lessons in life is learning when to say when. There’s nothing that says he can’t hop on along to a new city and you can stay where you know you have a good job and a set routine. Moving from honesty to bluntness, it appears you’ve been coping as a single mom, more or less, for awhile so having him not be physically present probably wouldn’t change that much of your routine, but also would probably ease a big weight from your shoulders.

          There are no right or wrong ways to make this work, only the way people can make it work for their family. I personally could not live spacegeek’s life but I don’t judge her for doing what she can to make things work for her family (and frankly, for Um or anyone else who may be doubting, I think we can all agree there are worse situations for kids than lots of time spent with a nanny they love, and grandparents). Kudos to all of us out there who get up every day and try to make it work.

        • Just posted a response that got eaten. In short: sounds like HE really ought to be staying home and being a “perfect” parent to the children.

          Also, it sounds like you realize this, but in case it helps to hear it from a third party – his expectations of you are completely unreasonable.

          If he cannot pull himself together and adjust his attitude, I completely agree that you should either stay put where you are or move to a city where you’d be happy rather than following him around. It sounds like he cannot support your family on what he earns, so it is inappropriate for the family to put his career first.

        • Amelia Bedelia :

          That is horrible. I am sorry for this undue pressure on you. Like I said earlier, my husband left his “dream” job to relocate recently for me to have my dream job! Now he works three -four 12 hour shifts at a local hospital and has thrown himself into the prospect of being the “primary” parent. He already does so much more at home than I do (though we “hire out” the regular work – lawncare, cleaning, laundry). He frequently makes dinner, always does the dishes, always runs errands. it seems like he has taken his intensely competitive self and thrown his energy into being the best husband and (hopefully future) father there is.

          I know how lucky I am, but that wasn’t the reason for my post. It was to encourage you to have a frank discussion with your husband and make changes. This 1950’s gender role is no longer the norm. If it works for some, great. But it should no longer be forced on anyone!

        • Wow, Desperate Housewife.

          That sucks.

          It seems to me like he’s crazy demanding, and doesn’t seem very flexible. I don’t know much about academia except from being a student… but might that explain why he’s had a tough time getting tenure? (Could he be a difficult guy at work, too?)

          I think your instincts are right to begin the process of writing him out…

        • Wondering :

          This sounds absolutely awful. I’m so sorry. Your spouse sounds like he needs to get his head checked, candidly. I have no idea how one person can work as well as always cook meals from scratch, take the kids everywhere, throw huge parties, etc. You sound like a single mom.

          I would have a very frank discussion with your husband about your feelings and his unrealistic expectations of you and your role as a mother. You can still be a wonderful mother if you get take out once in a while or throw in a frozen pizza. And this isn’t the 50s anymore, so he needs to step it up and help out significantly more.

          Wishing you well.

        • My heart goes out to you. It sounds like you are in a tough situation.

          If the marriage is to survive (and I’m not 100% sure that it should — just don’t have enough info), it sounds like you guys need a mediator — have you thought about couples counselling? It sounds like things might reach a crisis point soon, where you are at the point (understandably) that you may feel the need to put down an ultimatum. If you aren’t ready to live with the outcome of that, it sounds like you guys need help.

        • I’m so sorry, Desperate.

          For what it’s worth, my husband does not have these expectations for me, but I kind of have them for myself. I hear you on the perfectionist thing.

          However, my husband wasn’t all that supportive or appreciative about exactly how much work all of this was, so I asked him to plan one (and only one) birthday party for our daughter. And every time he’d try to get me to make a phone call or prepare a guest list or send out invitations, I refused. In the end, I did make the cake, but that was it.

          Now he gets it. Not all the time, but occasionally I say, “Remember when you planned the birthday party?” and he will back off a little.

          • p.s. I may be reading between the lines, but it also sounds like your husband is depressed.

        • Seventh Sister :

          Those seem like wildly unrealistic expectations to me.

          Only mildly related, but I tend to (internally) judge my working mother guilt level on a “Father of the Year” scale. If I am guilting myself about filling plastic Easter eggs for the daycare egg hunt *and* not taking the day off to go to said egg hunt, I’ll try and remember that a guy who filled plastic Easter eggs or took the day off for the egg hunt would be given a “Father of the Year” medal.

          Likewise, while my aversion to grocery shopping with a child is seen as practically a moral flaw, my husband practically wins “Father of the Year” from the Amalgamated Board of Busybodies every time he walks into Trader Joes with our kid.

          • “my husband practically wins ‘Father of the Year’ from the Amalgamated Board of Busybodies every time he walks into Trader Joes with our kid.”

            Love it. It’s so true. Reminds me of past comments on this site regarding the pressure on working moms to create the appearance of endless availability and job dedication, while their male colleagues get standing ovations when they leave early to make it to a parent/teacher conference. I guess all we can do is choose a partner who shares our values and tune out the rest.

        • So, yeah, for him, it is not acceptable that a mother is only spending an hour here and there and then some block time w/ “his” children. A mother is supposed to make nutritious meals with her own hands from scratch, and be there for every family dinner, and be responsible for pick-ups and drop-offs and doctor’s appointments and social calendar and homework, and plan all the minutiae of a child’s life, and attend all the performances, and plan elaborate birthday, easter, christmas, thanksgiving, fourth of july, st. patrick’s day, and cinco de mayo celebrations, including the extended family. A mother certainly cannot travel for work, because how would the children get fed or get up in the mornings?

          WTF? That’s really unreasonable. Alternatively, he could do all of the above – and see how he liked it?

        • Instead of premarital counseling, I think people should get pre-children counseling. Marriage in and of itself doesn’t change life all that much. It’s children that can really upset the apple cart.

          Before we had kids, I would’ve said my husband was a fully “modern man.” We both cooked and cleaned the house. I made twice as much money as he did, and he had no problem with that. But he was raised in an extremely traditional home (I doubt his father knows how to make a sandwich), and the imprint of that surfaced after our son was born. I’ve come to realize that my husband is happiest when we’re splitting childcare responsibilities about 70/30. When he’s doing 30%, he feels like an involved father who’s doing his fair share. If he’s doing more than that, he starts feeling burdened and resentful. And I’m just talking about basic day-to-day care here. My husband has never done anything like, for instance, buying clothing for the kids or planning a birthday party.

          I’m not sure he would have know this about himself before kids were actually on the scene. But it’s been a strain on our relationship for sure, and I often wish we’d made more of an effort to dig into these issues on the front end.

  12. I’m a general surgeon married to a cardiologist. We have a 2 year old. We have had very busy schedules. The 18 months when I was finishing surgical residency and he was working full time as a cardiologist and we had a child was tough on our relationship. We got through it with an amazing nanny/housekeeper and hung on to the knowledge that we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    After graduation, I took a job that didn’t pay much (for a surgeon) but had a very reasonable schedule and light call responsibilities. Four months into that job, my husband got laid off from his practice (a mix of bad financial decisions on the part of his multi-specialty group and complex hospital politics). He looked at local jobs, but there weren’t a ton, and a lot of them had downsides that we considered significant (45 minute commutes each way in terrible traffic, increased call responsibility, lack of security in regards to pay check, etc). So we looked outside our local area, and found what feels like a fabulous opportunity in a ski town (my husband is a HUGE skiier, and I really like it).

    The job was fabulous for me, but only good for him. That balanced with the fact that he was more interested in the area than I was, but I certainly am happy with it. The compromises seem to work well.

    In our relationship, we talk a lot of shop. He calls me about surgical stuff, I call him about cardiology stuff. We also talk about interesting cases. We rely on our nanny to do our laundry, light housekeeping, linen changes, etc. She also keeps a running list of things we need, which I order online. I do all the grocery shopping online.

    We text a ton. We understand that emergencies come up for both of us and we have to be flexible. We also have chosen to spend a lot of money on a childcare plan that gives us a cushion incase both of our days go sideways. We haven’t gotten into a date night, but I think we’ll move that way, especially if we have a second child.

    Communication is key — I probably text obsessively, but I do think it helps my husband to know when I’m starting my last case, and it helps me to know when he actually arrives at the gym, so that we can plan.

    We also have decided that our compensation as physicians is more than adequate and that we don’t have to max out our potential income — I may cut back to less that fulltime when/if we have kid #2, and he has already chosen a job that considers 4 clinic days a week to be fulltime. I guess the way we’ve worked out “how to have a relationship with a super busy person” is to make some choices that leave us less busy.

  13. Sorry, threadjack (but it’s about busy people!)

    I know we’ve got a few doctors that read this, and I need suggestions for a med school graduation present. One of my good friends is graduating med school and will be moving to nyc for her residency. She’s incredibly stressed right now with moving/residency, and I wanted to get her a graduation/welcome to new york present that might be some sort of stress relief. She doesn’t like spa-type things, though, so I’m at a loss. Doctors, was there anything particularly useful to you as a new resident that you would suggest? Should I maybe just get her a gift certificate to fresh direct or something so she doesn’t have to worry about finding time to shop for groceries and what not?

    • Anonymous :

      Tiffany has a really nice medical pen.

    • Your Fresh Direct idea is awesome! How cool would it be to move to a new city and not have to schlep to the grocery store to stock up on condiments, food, etc to fill a new fridge/pantry? I would love that gift!!!

    • Some friends and I pitched in for a Keurig 1-cup coffee maker as a med school grad present

  14. Wow, so many things to reply to on this thread already! Regarding the original post, I think there’s a huge mental piece of the puzzle. I think you really have to consider either person’s success as a personal success, and that a promotion or opportunity for one is really a great thing for both. At least for me, I felt such intense pride for my husband when he got his dream job/promotion, etc., that I didn’t feel the need to compete with him at that moment. From what he’s said, he feels the same pride for me when I do well. He mentioned to me at lunch today, actually, that the highest praise he receives comes from me. I think that is very telling when two people are ambitious… where does your highest praise come from?
    As for “moving for love”, I did that when we got married, and unfortunately, my career was in the toilet. I did start to resent my husband for “forcing” me to move, and I became a less-than-lovable person. He finally decided to make the sacrifice to “allow” me to move and take a good job and start grad school. We spent about 6 months doing long-distance marriage, and we’re finally living together again. We are MUCH happier now, and he is very proud of me and my path. He’s found his new position to be satisfying as well, and we’re constantly patting each other on the back for our progress.
    Finally, when we’re both super busy, constant communication has been key. I’ll second the Gchat suggestion, as it’s nice to know during the day that he’s only a chat box away :) We’ll forward funny stories or thoughtful articles to each other sometimes, just so that we can keep “in sync”.

  15. My question is the opposite of this post. I’ve never dated a guy at my level, either PhD or high-achieving in any profession. How do you get a guy like that? Here are my thoughts on it:
    I love competition. Guys think it’s fun in tennis or chess, maybe not so much at work. I don’t think I’ve ever scared away someone who was interested, but who knows?
    Make time for the relationship by having dates outside of home? Isn’t it easier to get to know each other better and adapt to each other at home? At “outside” dates, I feel like attention is on activity instead of on each other.
    Moving for a guy is something I would ONLY do if I knew that he would have no problem supporting me if things didn’t work out for me job-wise the way that we hoped.
    What do Corporettes think? Am I on the right track to find a professional who fits me better than the liquor store owner, plumbing installation specialist, or phone order taker who I’ve dated in the past?

    • Wondering :

      Some ideas:

      1) Find professional guys through online dating. There are some weirdos granted, but a surprising number of friends and family members have found wonderful spouses online (high achieving, well educated, etc.)

      2) Join a professional organization where you will likely mingle with other like minded men

      3) Get set up by friends. It doesn’t always work out, but I would be open to the idea.

      good luck. :)

    • No suggestions here, only empathy. Professional men are scarce where I live. I have tapped out the friends-of-friends networks. The average member of my state bar association is 53 (or about 20 years older than my target age). Online dating? been there, done that, no luck. I have even gone on blind dates set up by my mother.

  16. The significant other and I are in a long distance relationship. We’re both at about the same level in our careers but I will out earn him this year (by a small but noticeable amount) and I expect to out earn him next year (by a small but noticeable amount). This is largely a reflection of what firms pay in our different cities and the tax benefits of where I live. I’ve also been at my firm for over a year while he is just entering into a year long contract at firm in a city where he has never lived before. I also have much better benefits at my job than what he will receive at his new job.

    I have difficulty believing it would be hard for him to find a job in my city (and he might in fact earn more than if he remained where he is) but it would be hard for me to find a job in his city and I would earn less. Neither of us have family in the cities we are currently living in or own property though he does have family within driving distance of where he currently lives.

    We are both getting sick of 6 hours of flying to see each other and with plans to marry and buy a home in the near future; being in the same city this time next year is definitely the plan.

    Is it wrong for me to say that since I earn more than he does that he should move to my current city once his contract ends?

    I feel that this is a blunt way of putting it but since we are planning to enter into an economic partnership in the near future I feel that finances are very relevant. We both also have significant student loans and stable incomes are necessary to pay them off.

    • “Is it wrong for me to say that since I earn more than he does that he should move to my current city once his contract ends?”

      I don’t think it’s “wrong,” per se, but I think it’s unlikely to result in an affirmative response.

    • It does sound to me like he should be the one to move, but not really because you earn (slightly) more. You’re in a fulltime position while his position appears slated to end in a year anyway and that would be a natural time for him to move – whereas for you, not so much. You’ve also got some nice benefits to which, if you were to get married, he might be entitled.

      If you’re thinking of bringing this up with him and haven’t already, I’d highlight your COMBINED higher earnings potential in your city (assuming it’s not gobbled up by cost of living) and the other factors that make this make sense for you as a couple – don’t be so blunt as to make it about “I make more.”

      Or are you asking because you’ve already discussed it and he seems to think you should move?

      • I am getting the impression that he thinks moving to where I live would be hard for him to explain to his family. The majority of his friends and his male cousins have ‘married down’ so to speak in terms of education and salary so I think it’s just something he finds hard to explain to them even though he is more than fine with it. There’s no doubt in my mind that he is happy dating someone with more or less equivalent education and salary but it is something that other people seem to think reflects poorly of him.

        His family is fairly traditional (his mom gave up a career to raise her kids and now is part-time employed at his father’s business) so on some level I am kind of concerned that his parents think I’m just going to quit my job anyway in five years and have kids so I might as well quit it now.

        Regardless of whether or not that happens, we have probably 50K in combined debt (most of it his) that we’d like to pay off in the next two years and if I move to his city and am unemployed for 3 or 4 months it won’t help. He’s said that if that happened he’d make my loan payments for me but I don’t like that idea, particularly when I know he could be easily employed where I currently live.

        • Sounds like the adjustment to a successful career woman is one he’s still fighting with. He’ll have to get there if/when you have kids–better to figure it out now while breakup costs are relatively low.

        • “…so on some level I am kind of concerned that his parents think I’m just going to quit my job anyway in five years and have kids so I might as well quit it now. ”

          – does he think like this?
          – is that why he might be resistant to moving?
          – have you spoken about this/your longterm aspirations?

          • I’m fairly set on having one kid in about five or six years. He is one of those guys who are keen on kids but have never changed a diaper or even babysat so I think his eagerness for multiple children will die fast.

            We both have high maintenance lifestyles (expensive sports, a love of travel, love of gourmet food) and both of us working is definitely the plan for the next few years.

            I’ve always felt that he loves that we can split travel expenses, hotel costs and expensive dinners while his male friends and brothers have to pay for everything. I sure he wishes our pay was equal but I’ve never doubted that he is happy with my income.

            I do suspect that he overplays what he earns to friends and family and that he has downplayed what I am earning to fit into their expectations. I don’t really care but I suppose it would make it harder for him to justify leaving his current job next year.

          • Sounds like you guys have a lot bigger issues than where to move.

            The decision about where to live as a couple needs to be one that is made by the couple – you need to make this decision as partners.

            Have you talked to him about what you’re writing here? That you think you’re different from what his friends and family’s expectations are? That would be step 1.

  17. A semi-related threadjack: how do you know when it’s time to give up on a relationship with an overachieving/ambitious guy?

    DH and I got married less than two years ago. He was clerking in another city while we were engaged, and we struggled to strike a good balance of work/personal time during that year. Unfortunately, we chalked it up to the distance instead of dealing with the underlying issue. Since we moved to the same city, it has not gotten much better. When we find time for a date night (which happens once every two weeks or so), DH is not engaged in our conversations unless it is spent discussing the details of each case he is working on (I’m also a lawyer, but practice in a different area that has no overlap with his). Alternatively, we end up ordering in at home and watching tv, which is one activity we seem to be able to do without fighting anymore.

    This has been an ongoing struggle for awhile, and I’ve been honest with DH about my desire to have a better balance. He was fairly non-responsive for most of our relationship. He has started to make some sort of effort now that I have indicated that it’s time to “shape-up or ship-out”, but I’m finding it hard to emotionally engage with him after trying to convince him to make more of an effort for the past 2+ years.

    At what point do you stop trying to convince the other person that you’re worthy of their time? Any advice from corporettes that have been in similar situations would be greatly appreciated.

    • You did say he was making an effort. I think that’s a sign in itself that he thinks you’re worthy of his time, he just might not know how to show it or be showing it in a way that you’re noticing. Just my two cents.

    • I may have been your DH :

      I may have been your husband in an earlier part of my life.

      My former husband and I met in college, worked for a few years, and went to law school at the same time in our mid-20s. We divorced when I was a first year at an AmLaw 100 firm. At the time, I believed our divorce was caused by his year-long affair (with a law school classmate to whom *I* introduced him, no less). But to be fair, I was working 100+ hour weeks all through law school (it was the recession and I was not going to graduate without a job when I had quit my job, moved 3,000 miles across the country for school and “made” my husband do the same) and at my law firm. And I continued to work 100+ hour weeks (aka 3000 hour years) at said firm for seven years until I made partner. During that entire time, I think I may have gone on 2 or 3 dates. I was NOT interested in dating or boys or marriage; I wanted to make partner. So I would not have been marriage material either during those years.

      I am now in-house and re-“married” (long-term fiance — there are former spouse and children legal/financial issues). I feel I am a much better partner to my fiance now that I was to my former husband. No, it doesn’t excuse the affair and it may not fully explain the divorce. But I think much of it is because I am more mature and I have already “slain my dragon” professionally. Maybe your guy needs to do that, too?

    • I was in exactly the same situation just last week. After our 2.5 year relationship (we had planned our wedding, named our babies and everything), I finally decided to call it quits . When we were in law school, I blamed in on classes, journal etc; when we started working, I blamed it on unreasonable partners’ demands and networking events. All I asked for was him to plan ONE date a month- just one date where he made plans ahead of time, called me to make sure I was available, and organized an activity (ANY activity). He couldn’t do that. I became emotionally disconnected over the past 1.5 years during which I tried to rehabilitate the relationship, reconnect, attempt to take him to couples counseling, and just communicate honestly about my priorities and expectations in a relationship. He made me feel like I was asking for too much. And for some time, I believed him. But I’ve seen the light after ending the relationship just a few days ago and could not be happier with my decision. He still thinks this is one of our phases and that we’ll be getting back together. But I know better now.

      I ultimately learned that, no matter what, you cannot change your S.O. Know that if he is making an effort to change, it will likely last only a short while because it is very difficult for someone to change their behavior pattern after living a certain way for several decades. And if he is one of the very few that can keep up the change, you still need to remember that all of that requires sustained effort and vigilance on his part and make sure he is not resenting you for putting the pressure on him.

      My S.O. tried at times but could not keep up the effort. And he definitely resented me for having such grand expectations. But some of the posts above are making me realize there ARE guys out there that are willing to put the relationship first. I know you’re married, which makes things more complicated, but I think we both need somebody that can really BE in a relationship with us. We at least deserve that much. And we definitely deserve to be happier than we are/were in our respective relationships.

    • BigLaw Refugee :

      Knowing when to leave is really hard.

      If he is really trying now – i.e. you are getting what you want but find you can no longer appreciate it because you have been disconnected so long – then you should at least try couples counseling.

      My ex and I went to one where we did an exercise. Each of us would get the “floor” and talk about something that was bothering us. And each time there was a pause, the other person was just supposed to say “tell me more about that.” Each person would get the floor for 20-30 minutes. It felt silly and artificial, but all kinds of things would come out that we had no idea the other person felt or even that we ourselves felt, and it made us feel much closer to one another.

      It was not enough to save our relationship, but if feeling disconnected is your only issue at this point, it might save yours.

  18. Two lawyer couple here, both in litigation. We talk about work in a way that is really wonderful, and are careful not to enter into conversations that can turn things competitive. It helps that we both have very different strengths, enjoy different things about the law, and have different long term goals.

    We don’t have kids, but have our fair share of busy times when we rarely get to see each other. What makes the difference is that when we have free time, our relationship is his #1 priority. I say this to any single ladies in the house to let you know that such men are out there. You don’t need to be second fiddle. At first it kind of shocked me that I’d met a man who put me before his family and friends and could be so explicit about making me and our relationship #1. In some ways, he is better at this that I am.

    I think when we add kids this will be a whole different ball game, and have very much enjoyed reading responses that talk about how y’all balance it all.

  19. I would like to marry a guy in Investment Banking, like my Grandfather. The only trouble is that those guys do not want to date, they just want to have non-committal sexual relationships. So far, I have dated at least 4 guys who worked for different I-banks, but have never gotten close to getting a ring. Is there any way I can get one of these guys to commit? I am very attractive, and am 32 years old and am afraid I am getting too old for this.

    • Yikes Debra unfortunately you are to old! You will be single forever. There is an Alan I know who might be interested however..

    • Anonymous :

      Oh Debra, how heartbreaking. Just yesterday, you waxed poetic about your wonderful Larry, and now you’re all alone. Like Cora said, maybe you can catch Alan on the rebound.

      Alternatively, if you don’t mind BALD men with bad BREATH, you can ask Ellen to set you up with her manageing partner instead of an I-banker.

    • It is very fun when we get new trolls. I have heard of this website Debra — called DABA? Maybe you have heard of it? It is probably the best way to do this.

    • Maybe you can check with Ellen?

    • I recommend that you look for a guy who is interested in you for your personality and brains, not your looks. Then you will not be leading off the relationship with sexuality. If you give in to a guy sexually way too early in a relationship, all he will think of you as a sex outlet. If you want a lasting relationship, have the guy get to know you over time — with your clothes on.

  20. My husband and I (8 yrs) have similar resumes and met in class in law school. I have never felt competitive I don’t think, more that it’s a team effort. It was hard when either of us was unemployed just feeling jealous of the others’ situation, but I never wished less for him. Once we interviewed for the same job! Our attitude was that if they picked either of us it’d be great, and who knew which one they might connect with best. The only time I thought it could get tough was when I was in the shower and our bar results came out… he called his name out first, which I thought alphabetically meant I wasn’t there, and thought.. this is going to be tough with one sad and one happy. But I was there too:)

    I’d say know there will be ebbs and flows in schedules. It’s been an adjustment for us lately with my international business travel. He gets lonely and wants me all to him when I’m home. I want social stuff too. But we just work out deals and figure it out. We’ve had many different phases at this point.

  21. Also he is my best friend and we help each other all the time with resume prep, work issues, etc. I think of him as my secret weapon. I think it must be hard for more competitive personalities- I can’t imagine not sharing stuff with him or feeling threatened or unsupported. We did have times where the other would take the bosse/coworkers’ side when the spouse complained about a work situation, but learned from a marriage seminar that the person needs your empathy not to try to solve it, so we are better now about being on the spouse’s ‘team’ even if you don’t fully agree with the issue, especially while the person is upset and venting.

  22. I agree with your post and truly believe respect, open communication, and willingness to be adaptable are the pillars for making this work. On the flip side, it can be nice to have a bit of a balance!!!

  23. I guess my husband and I are both high achieving? I’m a bigfirm litigator, he’s a banker turned high-ish level regulator, we both serve on a decent handful of boards and have a couple county/state level appointments. We also have a not quite 2 year old. We’ve been on so much community stuff that there’s a joke that a commission cannot be formed without a representative from [our address]. We should be competitive — and we are a little — but we temper it.

    We’re a team – completely, and absolutely. There is no my success or his success, there is only our success. Which means somedays he “blows off” work (the Chief has an easier time doing so) to work from home with a backup care nanny in the house while I go to the office / court. It means sometimes I check my brain at the door, turn on the smile, and am the perfect corporate wife.

    Our secretaries sometimes coordinate our schedules, we schedule the baby as a “resource” — like a conference room, we support each other, and integrate our lives and careers.

    We also met young (22/23) and married young (25/26). Sometimes I think that helps a lit.

  24. Hi!

    Ive been having no end of trouble recently with my SO who’s just started training to be a Very Important Surgeon and already considers himself one. He’s always super busy and ignores calls while away, and cant get enough time to hang around with the family when he’s home; its mostly about his need to “unwind”.
    I’m training in another specialty of Medicine which is less demanding on time though equally stressful.
    Add to this our beautiful 2 year old DD.
    We were both equally competitive during Med School, so perhaps I should’ve seen this coming.

  25. Hi, I just started dating a very busy guy in the arts. I am in medicine. I make more money, but his hours are worse. Routinely he works six days a week. He has a lot of dinner meetings and galas as well. He has not dated for five years. He is smitten with me. I was not looking, I am 2 years out of a divorce. He told me flat out his last partners, every one of them has said they we “tired of not being a priority to him”. This of course is huge. I googled and found this site. Does anyone have any concrete suggestions for early dating behaviour? We plan dates sometime a week in advance. He knows not to be late or cancel because that is a deal- breaker for me. I have also told him no sex till we get to know each other. He is surprised but pleased by this and he thinks it is really a great thing. He wants a long- term commitment. Thank you.

  26. Hello,

    I found this article very helpful. I just broke up with my BF..or better to say we decided to break up and now I am analyzing the situation. He seemed too busy, specially recently with a new project that he had. He was a lawyer and I was not seeing him more than weekend to weekend . If I was very lucky we would meet once in the middle of the week but did not happen very often. I was receiving very very few calls (once a week) and not more than few very short texts a day to just say ho or wishing me a good day. I thought he is too busy to make our relationship that was a BF and GF relationship a priority. Now I feel awful since I miss him and think maybe he did his best and I should have not complained about him not knowing more about me during the week.

    I am a PhD and work as an Application Scientist so I am pretty busy too but just wanted more attention. Any suggestions on how I should have handled it?

    • Dear shadi, I can very much relate to you. I have just been dating a lawyer for only a month. We do exchange just simple text messages, but rarely a phone call. I really want to get to know him better, but it’s not happening thru the text messages. I’ve been very busy with my daughters wedding this past weekend. Since the wedding, the text messages have been less. So of course I text him basically saying that I just miss him and that maybe the feeling wasn’t mutual. His responses were simple just saying that I matter a lot to him. But he did also say I should not over analyze the relationship. I feel that rather than bringing him closer, I may just have pushed him further away. I realize now that my feelings are a result of my ex-husband ignoring me for almost 20 years. I reacted not rudely, but maybe I should not have complained. He is someone that I feel happy with when I am with him. Our meetings have not been too often and brief, but I like his way about himself. He seems to be an honest man and good man. I hope I didn’t mess things up, but I thought it was better to speak my mind rather than hold it inside.
      I ‘m sorry I do not have any advice for you. Just sharing that I understand what you are feeling. Good luck to you.
      If anyone has suggestions for shadi or myself, it would be greatly appreciated.