Dating is hard enough as it is without the added anxiety of working long hours in a high-stress profession. Now, what if you’re having a relationship with an attorney? Whether you just started seeing each other or you’ve been dating for a while, it’s always difficult when your partner is spending long hours at the law office. It may even feel like they don’t care about your relationship or they’re too consumed by their job.
Understandably, this can be frustrating. However, hear me out: stick with it. You may think it’s nigh on impossible to have a healthy relationship with a lawyer, but I assure you it can be done. It just requires some work. Everyone’s favorite word! Here’s a list of ways to navigate the sometimes tumultuous waters of dating an attorney.
Have Compassion and Empathy
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s vital that you understand or at least empathize with the immense amount of stress your partner is under. They’re working incredibly long hours at their practice, handling high-stakes cases, and attempting to stay afloat in a competitive market. Of course, you may also be stressed and anxious at your own job, which can affect how you interact with your beau.
Thus, having compassion and empathy for your significant other is crucial in a relationship. Understanding that your lawyer partner isn’t simply blowing you off or ignoring your texts, but is more than likely working on an immensely crucial case or meeting with clients. What they do is incredibly hard. Imagine how they feel — anxious, depressed, and a little more than stressed. Your beau probably feels as they’ve failed you. Reassure them that they haven’t.
Learning to see their perspective will not only make you feel better, but it opens the doors of communication and deepens your (hopefully) mutual respect and understanding of one another. Naturally, the partnership support should go both ways, especially if you also work in a tough career field.
Having a relationship with an attorney means rigidly managing your time. Which leads into my next point…
Set Aside Time for Meaningful Conversations
Schedule, schedule, schedule! Having a schedule is important for your professional and personal life, more specifically in your relationships. Exhibit A: your attorney partner. Chances are it’s already difficult for them to schedule or set aside time for much of anything outside of work. Obviously, relationships are a team effort. That’s why it’s vital to ensure you have the time for meaningful conversations.
You need to know your beau’s schedule inside and out, just as they should know yours. Then, give yourselves that allotted time to have crucial discussions about the state of your relationship or even to dish on your hectic day. Make sure nothing else intersects with that time slot. That’s just for you and your significant other.
Setting aside an hour or so for deep talks will not only strengthen your relationship, but you’ll feel like everything is on the table. No suppressed emotions. No unacknowledged feelings. No concealed resentment. Just be sure that you’re not too pressed for time. You want to enjoy the precious moments you have with your other half without feeling pressure or anxiety to move things along.
Agree to Leave Work at the Office
You’ve probably heard countless employers tell you to “leave your problems at the door.” When you’re at work, you’re at work. Your personal issues will have to wait. There’s a certain freedom to that — it’s almost as if you can “escape” that aspect of your life as you move through another. The same principle can apply to your relationship with your lawyer love.
Because you only get so much time together, perhaps it’s best to “leave work at the office,” as it were. Of course, if one of you needs to vent after a particularly hectic day, then do it. But for the most part, try to limit your shop talk, if you can. Compartmentalize. Wikipedia describes the art of compartmentalization as a…
“…subconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person’s having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves. Compartmentalization allows these conflicting ideas to co-exist by inhibiting direct or explicit acknowledgment and interaction between separate compartmentalized self-states.”
In other words, temporarily shelve the work problems so you can spend time with your partner. Ensure that they do the same. Once your path of communication is cleared of excess clutter, then you can truly enjoy being together. There’s more to life than work, which may be a difficult concept for a lawyer to grasp, but try to help your significant other find happiness in the aspects of life that don’t involve work.
Now, this one goes hand-in-hand with the second point. Planning ahead is vital for most things in life that are within our control. But when you’re in a relationship with a busy attorney, planning becomes your best friend. Let’s say you want to take a weekend trip to a cabin or you’re hoping there’s a date night on the horizon. Discuss it with your beau. Figure out the best time to take that sabbatical that doesn’t clash with either of your schedules.
Again, this one seems like common sense, but folks tend to lean toward spontaneity, especially in relationships. There’s nothing wrong with being spontaneous, but sometimes it’s difficult to do when almost every hour of your life is mapped out. If your relationship becomes too rigid and lacks pizzazz, then set aside time to be spontaneous.
If you both have the weekend off, decide what you’re going to do with your free time on the fly. Go on an adventure. Granted, it’s a somewhat scheduled adventure, but you can still experience variety and those impromptu moments if you let them happen.
Honesty is the best policy. So, be transparent about everything. Especially when it comes to how you’re feeling. Yes, your attorney partner is busy, but when you set aside time to talk remember that your mental health is valid too. Your feelings are valid. Get those emotions out — even your insecurities. If you’re feeling unsure about your relationship, talk about it with your beau. Perhaps they feel the same way.
Experiencing insecurity is entirely normal, particularly in a relationship wherein one half is always working. You may feel as though they don’t have time for you. Make that time. Set aside a chunk of uninterrupted conversation so you can lay your feelings bare. Get it out of your system. Lawyers don’t have time for BS, so don’t beat around the bush. Be honest and straight to the point. Like a New Yorker!
Having those open channels of truthful communication will be the crux of your relationship, especially since you won’t be seeing each other every day. You may go days that consist of intermittent texting or the occasional phone call. Don’t let that deter you from maintaining an honest relationship with your attorney partner.
Whatever You Do, Push Through
Relationships are hard. They’re all the more difficult when jobs can impede success. When other aspects of life take precedence. Be honest with each other about your relationship and how important it is to both of you. Now, if your lawyer significant other finds it may be too much to cultivate a relationship while working long hours at the office, then see if you can come up with ways to lighten their load. This list is a start.
Before throwing in the towel, plan some personal time with each other and plenty of time for meaningful discussions. Check in with each other. Try to limit work talk, if possible. Empathize. Understand that, if they don’t respond to your call, it’s probably not a personal slight, but a work matter that was too critical to ignore. Compassion aids in our comprehension of most things in life, and it certainly applies here.
There’s a quote from actor Henry Winkler regarding relationships that I think is apropos in this instance: “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” Don’t assume that you’re being rebuffed. Instead, ask outright. Get to the root of the problem by openly communicating with your attorney beau. Maybe not while they’re in court, but utilize those free moments that you both plan for uninhibited dialogue.
Whatever you do, push through. Try to jump over whatever obstacles are impeding your path. If you both want this relationship to work, then put in the effort. Give your partner the time they need to work as a lawyer, then ensure you get some spare free moments. If you find that your efforts aren’t resulting in anything fruitful, then know when to cut your losses. But try. Give it all you’ve got. You’ll regret it forever if you don’t.