When You Date Someone, You Date Their Profession, Too

Let’s admit it: Some professionals have a prestigious or exciting reputation. If you start dating someone who has one of the following professions, it’s hard to deny that these jobs sound prestigious: lawyer, doctor, banker, business owner, or high-level manager, among others. Similarly, your new date may have a profession that sounds exciting: pilot, fireman, law enforcement, or even a chef, among others. At the beginning of a relationship, it’s easy to be swayed by flashy titles and to avoid imagining how such characteristics will strike you a year down the road. The rule to remember is this: When you date someone, you also date their profession.

A female client of mine in her 30s started dating a police captain who had all the trappings of success. Not only did he have money and a powerful position, but he was also full of personality and passion, and he had the good looks and physique that attracted attention wherever he went. My client was attracted to him from the moment she met him. As her therapist, however, I was wary of his profession from the start. I told her to think long and hard about whether she could handle a relationship with someone who worked 18-hour days when there was a crisis, and whether she would be comfortable with dinners regularly being interrupted by work calls. My client dated her (exciting) police captain for several months until she got tired of the inevitable: he didn’t return phone calls until much later because he was dealing with an emergency; she wouldn’t see him for days at a time because he had to work overtime; and she couldn’t plan trips or make social plans because a crisis would always emerge at the last minute.

How would you feel about dating someone who works long hours?

If you’re a highly independent person with a big social network, you could probably make such a relationship work. However, if you need a lot of consistency or you have a habit of getting insecure from time to time, dating someone who works long hours is probably not a good idea for you. Though prestigious professions bring a lot of bonuses – money, status, and so on – most prestigious jobs require long and intense work hours. In short, these individuals are married to their career more than they will ever be married to their spouse.

People with exciting professions can be hard to date, too. With many exciting careers, there’s the risk for physical danger. Imagine how many millions of people say goodbye in the morning to a spouse who is being deployed in the military, who is hopping on an airplane to pilot it, or who is putting out fires in burning buildings. To make a relationship work with someone who has an exciting and stimulating job, you need thick skin and you cannot be a worrier. If you are prone to anxiety or worry, having a relationship with this type of person means that you will spend much of your life worrying about whether your partner is okay. Is that something you can handle on an ongoing basis?

What happens with many couples is that one member realizes too late that they can’t handle having a spouse with a given profession. But why didn’t they see it earlier? Because they chose to believe what they wanted to believe at the time (that everything would be just fine).

Talk to the romantic partners of others who have a similar profession.

When you start dating someone, you will often meet your date’s coworkers and their romantic partners. When you’re out together, ask the partners one-on-one what it’s like dating someone with that profession. Ask, “Does it bother you? What are some things I should expect?” In addition, poll some of your friends and ask how they’d feel about dating someone in that line of work. Finally, visualize what you’d like a typical week to look like once you and your date are in a serious relationship. Are you someone who wants to eat dinner together during the week, or would you be okay with catching up on the weekend? Do you want your partner to be home in the evening, or would you be okay if he has a lot of nights when he gets home at 9 or 10 and is too exhausted to talk?

Final Analysis

Deep down, you know who you are and what kind of home life will satisfy you. So often, we play mental games with ourselves and try to trick ourselves into believing something that’s not authentic. (It’s for this reason that the divorce rate is so high.) If you start dating someone who has a prestigious or exciting profession, make sure you consider all the sacrifices as well as the perks.

About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.

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