Recently, I was having a conversation with a male friend who asked me “Do you think that being a relationship expert makes it harder for you to date?” Beyond my own relationship status, his question made me wonder if there are in fact certain careers or jobs that are more likely to create difficulty in dating and relating. (And for the record the answer is that dating can be challenging even for the “experts”).
It’s true that 69% of Blacks are unmarried (U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey: 2005-2007). It’s also true that not everyone is hankering to jump the broom. Even if nabbing a spouse isn’t on your radar, human beings are social creatures who are hard wired to mate.
There are some jobs that seem to have relationship drama built into them. Actors, professional athletes, and musicians are legendarily known for their relationship difficulties. This isn’t just because they live in the glare of the media spotlight. It’s also due in part that they tend to be more narcissistic than non-celebs. Outside of entertainment and sports, it’s also been proven that certain professions or work environments are toxic for relationships as well.
In 2009, researchers at Radford College did a study to determine if law enforcement officers had higher rates of divorce than others. During the course of the study they discovered that while police officer’s divorce rates weren’t elevated, certain occupations were indeed hazardous to marital health. The occupations with the highest divorce rates included dancers, bartenders, massage therapists and home health aides, while those with low divorce rates included optometrists, farmers, clergy and actuaries. If one’s occupation puts one at greater risk for divorce, it stands to reason that one’s job can also create issues in getting a partner as well.
Some of the reasons why some jobs are more toxic are obvious, such as the lack of accessibility or proximity of potential partners for those working in isolated environments. And others, because of values inherent to the field itself, clash loudly with the spiritual and emotional values needed to truly create healthy relationships. I mean seriously. How many happy basketball wives do you know? Before you decide to ditch your law degree and buy a pig farm in Indiana, consider this. It’s challenging to meet quality, compatible potential partners, even for pig farmers.
I’ve often heard people complain about being single and how difficult it is to meet quality people while being dedicated to their career. Grueling work schedules and the never ending demands of parenthood or other personal responsibilities can make finding love seem about as likely as a Milli Vanilli reunion. Although the online world has completely turned the way we date on its traditional head, work is still one of the most likely places where we’ll meet a romantic partner. I’m always skeptical when people tell me that they’re single because of their work, unless they’re working on a oil rig in the middle of the Pacific. But then again, even rig workers have love lives.
However, I think the problem is often less about one’s work and more about the individual. Whatever you focus on expands. If you’re spending the majority of your time focused on your work, you’ll probably build your wallet and professional competence. But it’s likely to be at the expense of your ability to relate to another in an emotionally meaningful way.
If you’re finding it difficult to meet that special someone, you’ve got to get honest with yourself about what it is that you’re doing or NOT doing to contribute to your situation.
- CONTINUITY: Make sure that unconscious commitment fears aren’t causing you to pick unavailable or inappropriate partners. If you’re unclear, speak with a licensed psychotherapist who can help you work through your underlying issues.
- OPPORTUNITY: Expand your interests. Break your routine and try new avenues to meet people outside of your regular social network. It doesn’t matter that you’re an introvert. Introverts like to socialize, too.
- QUALITY: Take a serious look at your values. What are the key characteristics that you’re using to select a partner? Make sure you’re not choosing them primarily based upon things such as profession, looks or sex appeal. Dig beneath the surface…all that glitters is not gold.
- TIME: If you’re finding there aren’t enough hours in the day for a relationship, then you’ve got to make a decision. Something has to go. Find one thing that you can live without and put it on the shelf for a period of time so you can open up your schedule. And then reinvest that time into spending time with someone else.
The reality is that we live in stressful economic times that make leisure time and dating challenging to find, but not impossible. Success in love and work is not a myth…I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Having both requires discipline, focus, the ability to prioritize, and a constant seeking of balance. You’ve got to be willing, however to get honest with yourself and be willing to ditch whatever ideas or behaviors that are keeping you from getting the love you need.
Sil Lai Abrams is EBONY.com’s Relationship Expert and the author of No More Drama: 9 Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough and a board member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want Sil Lai’s advice? Email SilLai@ebony.com to have your love questions answered in a future column!