You Need To Treat Employment Like A Romantic Relationship

People grossly underestimate how much your job is akin to a relationship.

Woman interviewing for a job, much like a date kate_sept2004 | Canva

Abeni* had called my husband in tears. She was distressed and, if we’re going to be honest, in a shape I had never seen her before. You see, Abeni was my husband’s coworker-turned-friend and she made the mistake of returning to an extremely toxic job.

“Steve, put it on speakerphone, please,” she said. “I need both of you to talk to me. I am very scared and I don’t know what to do.”

The moment she got put on speakerphone, she started to pace and talk rapidly about the state of her job. Long story short, her employer was paying her below minimum wage and claiming that it was “a favor” since she was an immigrant.


Abeni had been considering calling the labor board on her boss, but she didn’t want to. She explained, “You know, he never really says anything bad to me. He makes us feel like we’re a family there. I don’t know if I have it in me to even try to get better”

“You know, you sound very gaslit,” said my husband. He would know, he’s had a gaslight-y boss who made him question his worth.

“But I’m also friends with the boss’s family,” she explained. “My family knows him. I feel like his family would never talk to me again if I said something.”

Abeni sounded like she was in an abusive relationship because she was.


Abeni is not a dumb woman. She is going to school for STEM. She can finagle and finesse with the best of them. She came from Lagos to the states as one of the top of her class.

And yet, she found herself doubting her intelligence on a daily basis. She felt too tired to actually pursue finding a job in her chosen field after a day of work. After a while, she felt emotionally responsible for her boss’s success.

“I keep hoping things will change, but they never do,” she said. “How can I make him change? How can I make him see that it’s hard for me to afford food? I’m here legally and it’s so hard because people still don’t want to hire me.”


We both had to sit her down and explain to her that she was being abused by her boss — not romantically, but in an employer-employee sense. What was happening to her was illegal and also just plain financially abusive.

RELATED: 10 Signs You're In A Toxic Relationship With Your Job

Many people do not realize that employment is a form of relationship.

When we think of relationships, we think of the people we date, our friends, and even our family members. However, our relationship with work is also a thing — and so is our relationship with our workplaces.

As an American, I don’t have to tell you that toxic workplaces are fairly common. Corporations are designed to make as much money as possible, regardless of the effects it may have on society and their workers.


Pair that with a greedy or abusive boss on a power trip, and you may experience a lot of abuse at work. In my own career, I experienced:

  • Gaslighting
  • Sexual abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Triangulation
  • Reactive abuse

These are all types of abuse that people associate with a bad lover or a bad friendship. However, we often overlook those same types of abuse when it comes to employers because it never really registers that we have relationships with our employers.

RELATED: 5 Damaging Effects Of A Toxic Work Environment On Your Body & Mind

A major life hack I learned the hard way is to treat employment like a romantic relationship.

Think about it. Both romantic relationships and employer relationships have a lot in common that we tend to overlook as a society:

  • Both types of relationships start with a courtship phase. In romance, we court by dating. In the career world, we court by doing job interviews. Courting is basically “sniffing each other out” to see if pursuing a relationship makes sense.
  • Both types of relationships require vetting. Would you marry a drunk person you just met at a bar? No? Cool. You are probably vetting your dates a bit. Employers vet you by doing background and social media checks. You … are you vetting potential employers by searching them up online? You should be.
  • Both can be life-changing in a good way. A great job can change your life for the better and also help you evolve as a person. The same can be said of a great romantic partner.
  • Both can result in trauma. I’m legit traumatized by my last major office job. My husband had to take literal months of recovery before he actually started to feel confident in himself after walking off his last job.
  • Both types of relationships can make you feel personally responsible for the well-being of others. Sometimes, in romantic relationships, this is warranted. However, in work relationships, this is rarely ever truly the case.

I’ve started to treat work relationships like I do my personal relationships.

I don’t know about you guys but there are only so many times a person can get burnt by a bad partnership before they realize that relationships aren’t about competing with others for the right position. Rather, it’s asking whether you’re better off with that person or on your own.

The funny thing is, this principle holds water for both relationships in the romance department and working relationships. You can remain single or start your own business any time you want.

If you are doing things right, you can avoid taking crappy jobs just because they are the only thing you can have to increase your income or keep you alive. Having multiple side hustles can help that happen, as can pooling resources with friends and family.


RELATED: 8 Signs You Should Quit Your Job To Find Something That Makes You Happy

The truth is that you do have to prepare yourself to be in a position where you’re a viable person in the dating market and the job market. There’s a reason why many of the best people have said, “I’m not in the right place to get a relationship right now,” in the past.

It’s because they are prepping themselves for the best relationship they can have. They also may be working on putting together a cushion or a support network so that if that relationship fails, they’re not out on the street.

When you have a lot to offer, you’re going to be able to enjoy life regardless of whether you attract a relationship. That’s why it’s important to build your empire, vet your prospects, and keep an objective view of the way your relationships are going.


Dates have to show that they can improve your life if you want to keep them around. Companies have to provide something that business owners can’t always get — a decent, steady paycheck with workers’ rights and insurance.

By viewing each job or client as a date, you can start to be more objective about things. Are they adding to your life? Are they abusing you or making you feel bad? Do you feel safe in your position with them? The more you think about work in that way, the more empowered you are to make better decisions.

It’s important to remember that there is a major difference between work relationships and dating.


And no, I’m not talking about the obvious sexual elements that generally have no place in a workplace. I’m talking about the fallout portion of a breakup. A romantic relationship was there for love and a future together. It is normal to cry a bit and feel betrayed when the relationship ends.

A romantic relationship is an act of trust. You truly grow to love them. Breakups are generally going to hurt, even if the relationship is toxic. Both parties are emotionally invested in a relationship that involves social ties.

A breakup won’t always make sense to all parties involved. There is a chance that a great romance will end up wilting in a bad way, and yes, you could break their heart. But that’s the risk we take with love — to hurt and to be hurt.

With work, that’s not the case. Business is business. The purpose of a business (or employment) is to make money. Smart people recognize that business is about a specific goal — not emotional engagement.


What I’m saying is that if you cut ties with a bad job or a bad boss, don’t feel bad about it. It’s business. If you’re really that emotionally invested in the welfare of your boss or client, talk to them outside of work about non-work topics.

I guarantee you, good employers won’t just treat you right. They’ll understand if you have to leave.

RELATED: 5 Signs Your Job-Related Stress Is Actually Workplace Trauma (& What To Do Next)

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.