It’s time to call it: the days of work-life balance are long gone. These days, you’re lucky if you can manage a 9-to-5 with no “emergency” requests of additional 8-hour weekend shifts, without taking on an extra part-time job to pay rent or tackling 60+-hour workweeks in your quest to make partner before you retire. In these times, we struggle to find the time to make sure the laundry gets done on a semi-weekly basis, let alone make time for our partners.
And yet. The good ole love bug insists that we try. A lonely life is not worth living, and for many of us, life as a single person reaches a certain point where it stops feeling like a “lifestyle decision” and starts to feel more like venturing on cat lady territory before we’ve truly given this whole dating thing a chance. So we get a Tinder account and maybe also haunt OkCupid once in a while, hoping the next swipe will be The One.
Except. What happens when we actually meet The One? Suddenly that work-life balance we had just about gotten down, complete with clean bras for every day of the workweek and just enough time before bed to catch up on “Billions,” that’s all out the window. Suddenly there’s a person carrying one half of a relationship, and we are expected to carry the other half.
Easier said than done, for those of us who live in the real world and not an Instagram-friendly, Cosmo beach shoot version.
That being the case, the first thing I’d like you to remember is? This is hard. This is hard. It’s hard for all of us. You are not some dysfunctional incompetent because you cannot figure out how to fit 40 hours’ worth of things into a 24-hour day, and also make sure sleep often happens enough that those dark circles under your eyes don’t make you look like so much of a raccoon that even makeup won’t fix it.
Remember that this is an impossible situation, through no fault of your own. Give yourself and your partner both some credit for even trying to make this work in a world that is not friendly to love.
Second, I’m going to paraphrase what my favorite kick-that-badassery-into-high-gear yoga teacher taught me: balance does not mean that you sit in the middle of two extremes, breathing deeply and calmly, hands froze in Zen-like position for eternity. Rather, balance means you oscillate between two extremes, comfortably, and with grace and forgiveness for yourself.
There are going to be days where you want to see your partner all the time. There will be days where you wish you could literally attach yourselves to each other with a cord. Hopefully, those days will coincide with your partner’s intimacy-driver days, and those will be the times when you take off for some impromptu adventure or smutty staycation. Enjoy!
Other days, you will be so frazzled with upcoming deadlines and so disgusted by your own coffee breath that you will not want to see your partner until the end of this millennium. That’s okay too. Presumably, your partner is an adult and, therefore, also has deadlines and responsibilities and nonsense to deal with. Therefore, presumably, your partner will understand if you have to cancel your reservation at Chez Panisse so you can instead crash on the couch to Lifetime-channel repeats of Grey’s Anatomy as a break in between study sessions.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and need. Gone are the days when romance meant pretending bodily needs aren’t a thing. These days, you get to have a life. You get to set boundaries. You get to choose.
That means you can rethink what elements of the stereotypical relationship really work for you personally, and what elements to wave goodbye to. Maybe you’re someone who would rather cuddle at home on the couch than go out to a movie at the local arthouse theater. Maybe museum tours make you cranky, but you never feel more relaxed than when the symphony offers a public dress rehearsal. Maybe you feel energized by just the thought of getting dressed up to go out somewhere trendy, but maybe you’re the type who would rather dress up for a candlelight dinner for two on the roof of your apartment. Whatever your preferences, know yourself! Figure out what works for you and then request that from your partner. If y’all really are as compatible as I know you are, they’ll find it a relief not to have to pretend to like shelling out fifty bucks for a movie you can buy on Amazon in two weeks anyway.
Finally, express your actual priorities through what you prioritize with your time. If you really feel like you’re working a dead-end job just to make ends meet, why are you spending two hours after you leave the office still talking about the office?
If you believe your relationship is the best thing you’ve got going on right now, why did you just cancel date night to listen to your sister rant about her ex for the umpteenth time? Use your relationship as a time to reconsider demands on your time. Don’t treat your relationship like a triage situation. Give your partner all the love you have to give now. After all, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.