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Dating Maze #379: Marriage or Career?

April 21, 2013 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Do I need to slow my climb up the corporate ladder in order to get married?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I’ve been reading Cheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and thinking how it applies to me. I’m a 31-year-old professional woman who seems to have everything most people strive for – a prestigious job, six-figure income, plenty of investments, my own condominium, a beautiful wardrobe, yada yada yada. I have a few good friends and get along well with my family. I love my job, which is challenging and gives me an opportunity to travel and interact with many interesting people.

Only one thing has eluded me. I have never been in any sort of a relationship with a man. I rarely date, for two reasons – first, my job is so demanding that I don’t have much time for a social life. And second, most of the men I meet are married, and the offers I get are usually single guys who don’t sound so interesting. So while my life is very fulfilling now, I am concerned that a few years down the road I will wonder why I’m alone.

I've got a real dilemma. Should I slow down the pace of my work (as well as my ascent up the administrative "ladder" in my company) and start dating now, or can I put it off a few more years? I know that as I get older it’s going to be harder for me to find Mr. Right. I also worry that if my professional success intimidates some men, I might have trouble finding someone whom I can respect as an equal.

I know that it’s up to me to resolve this dilemma, but I'd really appreciate your insight.


Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Rosie and Sherry's Answer:

Dear Susan,

You're right – only you can establish the priorities that will help determine the direction your life will take. We hope that our response can help you sort out those priorities.

It’s true that the older a woman gets, the more difficult it is to find suitable men to date. Until modern medicine can perfect a way of slowing down our biological clocks, this will continue to be the case. In addition, as we age, we often increase our expectations and become more difficult to satisfy.

If you begin marriage-oriented dating now, we can't guarantee how things will play out, but you certainly will have an easier time now than if you begin a few years later.

The question is: What place does marriage, as well as family, have in your own long-term goals, and how high is it on your list of priorities?

Personally, we are dismayed with the American cult of near-total devotion to work as the route to wealth and success. Like you, tens of thousands of men and women take stock of their lives and realize they may have been missing out on some very key elements that help constitute a happy and fulfilling life.

Some skills that make a successful "fast track" employee may also make interpersonal relations more challenging.

If you want to carve out a personal life for yourself, which includes giving yourself time to date effectively, you must make room in your life before filling your day with work-related obligations. You’ll want to begin scheduling in time to work on meeting suitable dating partners through networking (friends, relatives, rabbis, singles groups, matchmakers) and through social activities.

Will this slow your ascent up the ladder of corporate success? Probably. Is it worth it? That's for you to decide.

If you choose to start dating now, bear in mind that some of the skills that make you a successful "fast track" corporate employee (aggressive, efficiency, single-minded focus) may earn you workplace promotions, but may also make your interpersonal relations more challenging.

Take some time to explore and nurture other aspects of your personality that make you a good friend and confidante – a caring nature, sincerity, the ability to share your time and talents, loyalty, a sense of humor. Similarly, think of similar "non-corporate" personal qualities that you would like to see in others, and look for dating partners who possess these qualities.

You write of wanting someone whom you can "respect as an equal." It is common for a strong woman to want to be paired with a strong man, and you should look for strengths that compliment your own. But be careful not to use material or corporate achievement to measure strength, or you'll set yourself up for a competitive relationship.

Instead, look for someone who enjoys his vocation (it shouldn't matter if he's a professor, a carpenter or a caterer) or his avocation (such as dedication to a community group or charity) and takes pride in doing his job well.

We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,

Rosie & Sherry


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