My client Jennifer is an executive for a global company, managing her department and leading dozens of people on a daily basis. She's also busy raising two teenage boys who are just as active as their mom is.
Despite her success at work and as a mother, Jennifer has also experienced a divorce and another heartbreak from a recent lover. She feels strongly that her romantic life is unsuccessful. This same independent, adventurous and confident woman finds herself feeling deeply lonely, like a failure at love.
I could relate to what my client was experiencing. I too used to be a corporate executive coping with feelings of failure in my personal life. When I was a driven business person who was being paid to make things happen all day at work, I led a team of people who looked to me for their direction and answers.
During my drive home at night, I wasn't able to magically transform into this softer, more vulnerable person. So what did I do? Well, I brought that same energy (directing, controlling, having all the answers) home to my marriage. Needless to say, this didn't exactly create fertile ground for a loving, nurturing, sustaining relationship. And if you're not going to be vulnerable with your partner, who are you going to be vulnerable with?
When my marriage collapsed, I thought finding love would be easy for me. I was wrong. I experienced heartbreak from a younger man, subsequently fell in love with an unavailable man and then continued trying to force impossible relationships. I couldn't understand how I could accomplish so much almost anything in my life, but struggle so much when it came to love.
I now know the answer, and it has to do with a fundamental difference in how we ought to approach professional success versus romantic fulfillment ...
In business, if we are willing to put forth massive effort, we will eventually have the success we want. It won't be a question of if, but rather when. We can literally will success into being through hard work and determination.
In relationships, if we attempt to force love to "happen," we find ourselves chasing the impossible. When it comes to creating a feeling of connection, we have to be willing to allow it to occur naturally and organically, following what feels good for everyone involved. Love requires us to be open and honest, patient and authentic.
Here are three tips for how to shift your perspective, so you can leave some of your "ambitious" behaviors aside (or at the office!) when pursuing love. That way, you can allow ambition and romantic connection coexist in your life ...
1. Don't always chase the challenge for the sake of it.
Professionally, especially when we feel at the top of our game, we actively like being selected as the one who can lead the new project or fix the broken process that will save the company millions of dollars. But when it comes to our interpersonal relationships, it can be quite self-destructive to chase the "challenging" man or woman, to try to make an unworkable relationship work.
You don't need another "project." You don't need to set yourself up for failure by trying to "turn" an emotionally unavailable person into an available partner. It can't and won't happen, and it's not a reflection of you. That's why you need an open place to land where you can be yourself — your messy and magnificent self.
Sure, even the healthiest relationships have their fair share of challenges and learning experiences. But that doesn't mean we should seek out problematic relationships as "challenges" to ourselves. As a general mantra: look to be challenged at work, not in your relationships.
2. Realize that there's nothing and no one you can control.
If you've successfully managed or led people in a professional capacity, then you've likely seen people grow and change. For that reason, it's logical to think we can extend that into our interpersonal relationships. But this line of thought can get a little tricky.
People can absolutely learn new skills in relationships, but they cannot become different people at their core. You cannot love someone enough to make an unaffectionate person become affectionate, to make a boring person suddenly adventurous or to make a jealous person trusting.
The people we allow into our lives and our hearts are constantly showing us who they are. We only cause ourselves pain and suffering when we don't like the answer, so we attempt to change them into what we want them to be (and then get frustrated when they don't magically become a different person).
3. Notice the difference between effort and force.
There's a subtle, but important difference between effort and force. To start, there's not a damn thing wrong with effort. Many good things in our lives come with some effort; there's strength in effort.
Now, almost nothing good comes from force. It can be painful, grueling and leaves us feeling weak and often, defeated. This is especially true in relationships. Pay attention to the physical queues about when you've crossed that line past effort and moved into force. Force can actually work in our corporate jobs (although it won't feel good), but it never works in our love lives.
If you'd like to learn more about how to embark on your path to love, join me for my free teleconference, Your Last Valentine's Day Alone.