Sometimes, the qualities that are our strengths in our work environment– such as being assertive, driven, strategic, forceful, authoritative, decisive, and able to make cuts as needed– can make us pretty crappy partners. Having insight into our personalities and learning to check some of our “bad” traits at the door when we come home, might just do wonders for us in our personal lives.
Those that are driven to succeed may suffer from tunnel vision– their ability to focus is such an asset in their professional endeavors, and yet ironically such a detriment to them in their personal relationships. Unfortunately, gentle nudging does not usually do the trick– the only way those blinders come off is as a result of some catastrophic or life-altering event.
By sharing some of my stories, it is indeed my goal to try to find a way to spare others some pain and help my peers avoid some of the mistakes that I have seen so many make over and over again throughout the years. If there is one key thing I would urge everyone to do is take a good look inward and try to recognize how some of those attributes that might be rewarded at work might not be so highly regarded by your loved ones. Try to compartmentalize and learn to leave the work self behind when you clock out at the end of the day.
In addition to taking a little introspective exercise, try to have an honest conversation with your partner about how challenging it by be for you to change certain behaviors– especially for those of us trained over the last 15 plus years to think like lawyers, who need to think of the worst case scenarios and then work backwards to avoid or at least minimize horrible consequences, it is not easy to just stop thinking that way all of a sudden. When you are trained over and over again to be on your guard and keep people at arms length during negotiations or litigation, is simply is not easy to let people in and take major leaps of faith.
If we can try to see how some of our strengths may also be weaknesses, depending on the different scenarios we are in, I think we are much better off having this insight. Faced with danger, perhaps my instincts to always fight may not be the best, and indeed sometimes fleeing may be a better course of action. If we all keep our guards up all the time and operate as islands, we will in fact be sentencing ourselves to a life of solitary confinement. To make the choice of living a life surrounded by family, friends and loved ones requires that we take some risks and major leaps of faith. In order to do that, you’ll probably need to let go of that tough-guy (or gal) attitude, because that is NOT the reason your partner is going to fall in love with you.