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Ask an Expert Question: Can you be in a relationship and still be your most productive / career-driven self in your 20’s?

My boyfriend and I (24y/o) are doing a long distance relationship for 1.5 years. He’s my 1st major love.

We make a plan to live together after my PhD is done and his business settles. I’m happy with him (he’s very supportive). However, I’ve lost myself as I put so much energy, time and efforts into us, instead of investing in myself. I’m not as productive or disciplined as I was.

I don’t know how to balance myself as this is my first boyfriend. I’m not sure if a relationship is good for me or I’m ready to be in one since I’m starting out my career and I want to focus on myself.

What’s the best step for myself? Is there a way to be in a relationship and still be your most productive / career-driven self in your 20’s?

Thank you


Ask an Expert Answer

Hi Sandra,

Wow sounds like a very busy and exciting time for both of you in your lives at the moment and I think it’s fair to say it would be difficult to manage it all at the same time. You know one of the most difficult things people are struggling to manage today is what we call the work life balance.

What is definitely true is that it is impossible to give all of yourself to everything all of the time. In fact, there is not one human being one the planet today who can accomplish that. And so, all of us have to learn how to manage multiple things in our life and relationships is one of those things.

You have mentioned that your boyfriend is very supportive. Let me tell you that is a major plus and is very important in any relationship. But what that also says to me is that he would probably understand if you needed to put a little more time into your PHD at certain times of the year. If he is building a business there are times that he needs to just focus on that and has less time to focus on your relationship.

How about having a chat with him about what you believe you need in the relationship right now or you could ask him does he have any ideas for you both to manage your competing interests and your time spent talking with each other? One of the most important things to learn to do in a relationship is to talk openly with your partner about what’s going on in your mind.

It’s something I see a lot of in my work with couples, partners hide things from each other for fear of upsetting their partner or not wanting to rock the boat or a variety of different reasons. What I also see is that once they say what’s worrying them, they often discover their partner has similar worries. What happens next is the couple can then work together to find a solution. That’s what relationships are all about. Being a team and working together.

In closing, my answer would be yes you can still be productive and focus on your career and still be in a relationship. However, you need to manage your time with each other and time spent on your career interests. Remember though your partner is not a mind reader and neither are you. So, you need to talk to him about what your thoughts are and encourage him to do the same.

Good luck!


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