Can two people with drastically different levels of ambition make it as a couple? Felicity offers a reader some advice. Her answer: it’s all about what you value.
Hey Felicity – I’ve got a dilemma. I am a successful woman who owns a growing business. I’ve busted some serious booty to get where I’m at and I’m proud of my accomplishments. And even though I’ve done a lot, I’ve got so much more to take on in my career. I admit, my marriage suffered a bit due to my workaholic ways. And through my divorce, I channeled all of my energy into my business.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve got a new man in my life. He is handsome, funny, and kind…and we’ve got great chemistry. The problem is that he seriously lacks ambition. He has worked for his family business since he graduated high school. His older brother is the one being groomed to run the show down the road. So my boyfriend doesn’t take things too seriously. He’s got minimal responsibility and can slack off and still collect a paycheck. Which is fine with him. What is causing the issue is that he doesn’t understand my drive or how much time I devote to achieving my goals. He gets grumpy that I can’t play all weekend or goof off during the day. He thinks part of owning a business is having the luxury to take time off whenever I want (time off? What is that?). It’s frustrating and I don’t feel supported. I’m beginning to question if we have a future. Am I being too picky wanting to have a boyfriend who is handsome, funny, kind, sexy, AND ambitious?
Hi there and thanks for writing me!
Congrats on your hustle, girl. I applaud you for going after it in your business and aiming for (and achieving) success. I understand how much work it really takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Allow me to unpack your situation a bit before answering your question.
The Toll of Workaholism in a Relationship
You mentioned your drive affecting your marriage and how you threw yourself into your business during your divorce.
Being ambitious and enjoying a loving relationship aren’t mutually exclusive. The two can go hand in hand but it takes awareness and compromise.
It used to be that in most marriages, one partner brought home the bacon while the other fried it up in the pan. The man was traditionally the breadwinner and go-getter while the woman tended to the home.
As times have changed, many of those old traditions have fallen by the wayside. However, many men in the 40+ age group still hold some expectation that HE will be the one pursuing the big career, not his wife.
So is it possible that your ambition and “workaholism” simply didn’t fit into your ex-husband’s idea of gender roles?
Or was it a case of focusing so much on your business that your marriage wound up neglected?
If it’s the latter, being aware of the toll working too much takes on a relationship is the first step to prevention.
Carving out time in your schedule to devote to connection and intimacy is crucial. BOTH partners must make quality time a priority.
You also must make time for yourself so you don’t burn out. I know you didn’t ask about that but I’m gonna tell you to do that anyways 😉
Ambition Incompatibility: Is it Really a Thing?
When it comes to dating and finding love, we know to focus on compatibilities across many areas: values, morals, sexual, intellectual, lifestyle, and communication just to name a few.
But many people don’t realize the importance of ambition compatibility.
Both men and women forget to focus on it. And it can seriously undermine a relationship.
Let me share a personal story.
I’ve always been ambitious. Several years ago I was working as a freelance designer. And I had big plans to grow my client list, put in crazy long hours, and eventually rake in the dough.
My boyfriend at the time had a successful career in the restaurant business. He’d worked his way up the ladder to become General Manager of a high-brow fine dining restaurant. He put in long hours, and when he came home from an exhausting day, he wanted to decompress by sharing his frustrations. While I lent him a sympathetic ear.
However, the second I wanted to share about my day, he tuned out. My career was totally secondary in his estimation. He even told me once he “didn’t care” about my struggles.
I knew he valued my intellect yet, in his mind, if we proceeded down the relationship track, HE would be the bread winner and my business would be a hobby at most.
No big surprise we didn’t last.
I realized I needed a partner who valued my ambition, just as I valued his.
Now turning to your particular situation, even though the details are slightly different, it sounds eerily similar to me.
Your boyfriend doesn’t value your hustle and desire to grow your business.
This doesn’t make him a “bad” guy. It’s simply a case of ambition incompatibility.
So let me answer your question…
Are You “Too Picky”?
No. You aren’t.
Your business and success as an entrepreneur is part of your identity.
Your determination defines much of who you are.
However, I think you need to reframe your checklist. Rather than look for a partner with similar ambition, look for a partner who VALUES yours.
Let’s face it, two intensely driven people don’t automatically make the best pairing based purely on having ambition in common.
What makes it work is having two people who support one another and share similar values.
Your boyfriend doesn’t have to match your drive, however, he does need to understand and appreciate it.
What you need to consider here is whether he can learn to value your devotion to your career. The flip side to the equation, as I mentioned above, is how much time you can devote to your relationship in turn.
What you ultimately realize upon reflection may be tough. However, you owe it to each other to be honest about how you match up in this area.