How a Toxic Relationship Can Hurt Your Career [VIDEO]
Sheryl Sandberg made waves when she included this advice in Lean In: the most important career decision you’ll make it who you marry.
But whatever you feel about the institution of marriage, research shows that the quality of our relationships affects our career success in big ways.
It’s no surprise that being in a toxic relationship can leave you feeling depressed and depleted. This was certainly true for me in the first few years out from college when I found myself burning out – and not just because I had a crazy-demanding job. I was also in love with and living with a brilliant but very troubled man whose struggles with addiction soon became my waking nightmare.
I stayed in that relationship for years longer than I meant to, because honestly at the time, I was focused on my budding career and didn’t think my relationships – good, bad, or ugly – would prevent me from creating a life I love.
Boy, was I wrong! A growing body of research shows that happier, healthier people are more productive, focused, and better for the bottom line. Just this past year, Harvard researchers who pioneered the longest-running continuous study on human development confirmed what many have suspected:
Relationships are the key to a happy life.
And when I say “relationships” I’m not talking about your Instagram following.
“Quality and intimacy,” the study found “as well as stability and consistency also matter. Casual relationships, like the ones forged on social media won’t do; neither will contentious ones like an abusive marriage or an unreliable friend.”
So it’s not quantity that counts – it’s quality.
But in a society focused on achievement and success, this can be hard to remember. And with full-time working women still doing twice the amount of childcare and housework than our male counterparts, where’s the spare time in the day to invest in maintaining quality relationships?
One recent study from Washington University in St. Louis hit the nail on the head and uncovered the single most important characteristic for any ambitious person to look for in a partner: conscientiousness.
“When it comes to pay raises, promotions and other measures of career success,” the researchers found, “it’s the husband or wife at home who may be exerting a bigger influence on workplace performance.”
Why? Because being a devoted worker sometimes means we need help on the home front. So having a partner that gets that and respects that is absolutely key.
So if you were like me, thinking that your relationship choices were unrelated to your career success, think again.
And if you do find yourself in a toxic relationship, know that it’s not only affecting you personally, it could be preventing you from reaching your full potential at work, too.
Here’s how to start to turn that ship around:
1) Recognize the problem
You don’t need to rationalize you discomfort in a relationship. A relationship is toxic if it leaves you feeling worse about yourself instead of better about yourself.
2) Believe that you deserve to be treated with respect, love, and compassion.
So many of us stay in unhealthy relationships because we don’t truly, deeply believe we deserve better. This kind of change in thinking may not come easily, and may require professional support from an objective third party, such as a counselor or therapist – but trust me, it’s the best investment you’ll ever make in yourself.
3) Address toxic behaviors with “I” statements
“I feel X when you say/do/act Y.” Follow that pattern to help isolate triggering behaviors and bring clarity to the root of the problem.
But don’t feel the need to take this step if you don’t feel safe. If you think you may be dealing with abuse of any kind, contact the national domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for a judgement-free safe space to learn more about options and resources available to you.
4) Give yourself some distance
Separate yourself from toxic people and environments – because you really do need psychological distance in order to heal and build back up your confidence and sense of self.
I think this is part of the reason that so many women find solo travel transformational. It’s about having the time and space to get clear on who you are and who you want to become.
And remember – studies show that being single is better than being in a toxic relationship. You’re better off on your own than with some one who brings you down.
What do you make of all this?
Have you found your way out of a toxic relationship? What was that journey like for you – and what advice do you have for others looking to do the same? Do you feel your relationship has impacted your career? Or do you totally disagree and feel that career is up to you and you only?
Weigh in on the comments below – I can’t WAIT to hear from you!