“I had so much fun. When can I see you again???”
These are the most frightening words for an entrepreneur to hear when starting a new romance.
We both take out our iPhones to do the GoogleCal dance. “How’s next Tuesday?” “It’s not good. How’s your Thursday?” “Faculty meeting”
The first few weeks of a new relationship between two busy people are the most obnoxious. But after letting go of the pre-conceived ideals that we hold for traditional relationships – we are free to be uniquely happy. And busy relationships quickly become pretty amazing, because there’s no room for bullshit.
I know this first hand.
The only men I date are phenomenally creative, successful, driven and fucking busy. Which is a good thing! Because so am I.
It makes for a super interesting life. My relationships are always fascinating and filled with collaborative projects that have the potential to change the world. But the traditional logistics of a relationship are not realistic. Living outside the structure of a 9-5 means that we don’t always get to make dinner together, watch a movie, get a little sex and go to bed. Sometimes that happens, but it’s not a typical day.
Frankly, it’s better.
In order to really explore a relationship between two busy people you need to set a different standard and redefine what it means to be “successful” and what “love” looks like. Good! I haven’t seen the traditional model work all that well for other people.
It means having more conversations about how to make things work, and takes the willingness to really sift through what is truly important to you in a relationship and what is not. It takes an understanding that you’re definitely going to screw up and that the other person isn’t going to hold that against you.
In order to make things work here are a few of the rules that have really worked for me:
Don’t gauge your relationship by other people’s standards
Letting go of other people’s expectations is the first thing that has to happen in order for you to feel confident in your relationship. I used to sit with my group of friends as they talked about how they spent the night at their BF’s house every night last week. I would get bummed and feel like my relationship wasn’t as good (boohoo). I creatively ignored the part where they hadn’t had sex in 5 weeks and were getting on each others nerves. Creating your own benchmarks for a good relationship are absolutely necessary. Do you feel loved and cared for? Are you sexually fulfilled? Are you supported in your own progress and success? Then you’re doing fine. Figure out when you feel best in your relationship and communicate those needs.
Less time but better
Letting go of other people’s expectations means choosing the parts of a relationship that are absolutely necessary to your happiness. Especially when it comes to how you spend your time. I have seen my relationships thrive on the concept of Less but Better. I would rather spend a few hours a week unplugged and emotionally present with my partner, than constantly checking my email and distracted by a project. But there is a fine line here. Work can be all consuming if you let it, and I’ve seen dozens of friends lose great relationships because they failed to create the emotional space and calendar space for their SO. With a person that you care about – you create the time.
Be open about your goals and how your partner can support them
Talking about what’s going on with your business, project or career is a part of having a busy relationship. It can be very isolating to have a conversation where you each rattle off your to-do lists and stress over deadlines. Instead of focusing on all the things YOU need to do in the next week, ask your partner what they need from you. The whole point of having a relationship (at least for me) is to take part of the load off your partner and ease both your paths to success. That could be emotional support, cooking them a meal when things are nuts, helping them organize their home, or contributing to a simple task to make their life easier.
Compromise and Collaboration
Sometimes you will need to compromise. You will need to leave a project half finished in order to prioritize your relationship for a few hours. But don’t see it as a pain in the ass. Realize that great relationships feed productivity. And investing in a great sexual relationship will refuel your creativity and passion more than anything else. Taking a few hours to shut your computer and spend time with someone who you care about will re-energize your work. If you see your time in a relationship as an investment in your purpose – you will be able to relax and appreciate those moments of compromise. And collaboration is the next best option. Some of my favorite moments with my past partner were sitting half naked sharing a pot of tea in the morning, while I wrote a blog post and he prepped for his classes. He is still one of my greatest collaborators.
I am not your everything
This realization takes so much of the pressure off of a busy relationship. There’s a false perception that couples have to enjoy doing all of the same activities. We carve out time to share an activity we only sort of enjoy doing. We also stress our friendships when we choose to do these things with our partners rather than our friends. As busy people, you have to be honest about what really matters to you, and lean on the rest of your people to make sure that you are filling that need. It strengthens your partnership by bringing brutal honesty and trust into the center of your relationship. That is only ever a good thing.
Don’t tell me you “miss me” when I’m not around
This sounds a bit harsh, but believe me, it takes a huge part of the emotional pressure off a relationship. The habit of saying “I miss you” at the end of a conversation is lazy and confusing. It makes people feel guilty and torn between being a good SO and being a good “whatever else”. If you miss a person, make time to see them. Tell them “I am going to reschedule a meeting so I can take you to dinner this week.” or “I am going to be distracted until I finish this proposal, let’s meet for breakfast and a quickie after I send it off.” And then do it. Real life action is so much more powerful than “I miss you”.
Open and honest communication
Not surprisingly, open and honest communication is at the heart of making a busy relationship work. Speak your thoughts and feelings before they start to fester. Busy couples are making shit happen and they have the potential to change the world, but they aren’t easy.