Love, Self

6 Reasons To Put Love Before Your Career

man at a computer

Back in February, YourTango contributor John Bowe posted a piece called "Work vs. Love: A Man's Case for Putting Work First," arguing that it's best for us all to go solo until we've made a living, regardless of how it hurts our romantic prospects in the meantime.

As a fellow (male) writer, I'd like to contend that he's dead wrong. Love doesn't have to interfere with your career; it can actually support it. YourTango reader BookMama asked Bowe, "What if you have more than one dream in life: a partner who loves you, children, and writing or whatever your career is?" My answer would be: Pursue them all, all at once. Here's why:

1. Relationships don't interfere with your career; dating does
In my experience, it's dating that gets in the way of writers and other ambitious people. Dating can become a serious time suck if you're doing it remotely right and going out at least once a week. The phone calls, the IMs, the discussions with friends—it all adds up to a good deal of work and greatly reduces the ability for career people to focus on their professional lives. 

Personally, getting past the constant going-out-and-meeting-people and arriving at the one-person-only relationship phase is integral to my concentration and momentum as a writer.

The bottom line is, if someone truly cares for you, they will understand when your projects are more important than your plans to take them to tango class. (A simple "The money I'm making from this design will help pay for next semester lessons, I promise" certainly helps.) The New Way To Have It All: First Baby, Then Love

2. Living with someone and being creative is better than living alone and being creative
Picture this scenario: you're working on a long-term project that's taking up all your time and energy. You have no significant other at the time and are too busy to date. You sink into depression and become easily distracted while the deadline looms. If you had a boyfriend who came over and brought you takeout, wouldn't that help turn things around?

Your girlfriend or boyfriend can talk you through tough creative patches or keep on your case to apply for a fellowship you're being pessimistic about. Sure, building a career and a marriage ended in disastrous results for greats like Sylvia Plath and Norman Mailer, but it wasn't the writing that caused those relationships to collapse. If you are going to fall in love, why hold back in favor of your career when your Facebook page is about to have its first fan?

3. Marriage won't distract you
The main issue I have with Bowe's perspective is the idea that a dream would have to be shoved aside to let someone else join the team. If a marriage involving a creative person is going to work, both partners need to support—not hinder—each other. The couples whose dreams of glory fall by the wayside are probably made up of people who would have given up sooner or later anyway.

As for Bowe's worry that marriage equals having kids, who are obviously going to greatly diminish your "me" time, I've found that ambitious people tend to find a way to get things done between diapers or parent-teacher conferences; they're going to make it no matter what "gets in the way." Why I Chose To Be Unmarried And Childless

4. There's a reason "richer or poorer" is in those marriage vows
Considering the stiff competition and difficulty of having long-term success in artistic careers, it's good to remember that, like many of the best things in life, love isn't about money. It's about sticking with people, regardless of whether they ever make it, and being grateful that at least you're together and working through it.

5. Do we really have a choice?
Bowe says he recently fell in love for the first time in 15 years. I want to know: Would he have changed his views on love vs. career if he had met someone undeniably special along the way, or if he hadn't lucked into love now that he's decided he's ready?

To look at it another way, everyone falls into a Jennifer Aniston-sized love rut once in a while, and that is the time to focus on other things like family, the debt situation, and maybe changing jobs or cities. But to give up entirely on dating and focusing only on the career until you're 45—is that even possible?  Love doesn't care if you're working on a novel or done with a screenplay and now looking for love. You can't force it, so there's no point in saying, "I'm just going to pretend not to have feelings until I'm well-established."

6. Long-term outlook
I agree with Bowe that it's extremely difficult to create a career as an artist with kids—especially without the dough to go out and schmooze while Mary Poppins does the tutoring. In fact, it's hard enough to make a living as a writer being single and not dating at all. But even if he's right, if being alone does make it easier—is that what we really want? To wake up at 45 with successful careers after ten or twenty years of being alone? I, for one, would rather strive for balance. And then if I do achieve success, there will be someone there to celebrate with.