Sheryl Cattell, an online marketing director, says her passion for her work is so intense she is often still at her desk at midnight. “I just go into a zone and literally have no idea of space and time.” With such single-minded focus, Cattell says personal relationships have been challenging. “Most partners are jealous when you love your job that much.”
As the country moves into summer wedding season, an increasing number of singles say they are happily married to their jobs. On television, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest and Bravo’s Andy Cohen are high-profile examples, two single entertainment/media mavens who devote most of their waking hours to their careers.
As of 2011, there are 101 million people in the United States over the age of 18 who are single, up from 83 million a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s America’s Families and Living Arrangements survey. Of the singletons, 62 percent of them have never been married and about 2 million of them earn more than $75,000 a year.
Research often cites the ideal worker as someone who is perpetually available, has no outside responsibilities or interests, rarely gets sick, and prioritizes work above all else. Barbara Teszler, 26 and single, says that describes her 100 percent and she’s OK with it. “I’m totally a workaholic. I’d much rather be doing something I’m insanely passionate about for 80 hours a week than getting off at 5 like Fred Flintstone and doing something I didn’t enjoy.”
Teszler started a Los Angeles public relations firm six months ago. She wants a social life and relationships, but work gets top priority. “The last couple of guys I’ve seen have accused me of being cold. They thought I didn’t show as much interest in them as I did my job. I’m not going to apologize for that. My business is my baby, and that has to come first.”
Entrepreneurs are among the most likely to report being married to their jobs. “They feel the 24/7 pull to get it right,” says Todd Dewett, a professor of management at Wright State University, who wrote The Little Black Book of Leadership. “For many of them, being successful at work is fulfilling but it’s never stress free.”
To maintain a romantic relationship, Dewett says, overachieving professionals must have an understanding spouse or partner. “One of the top reasons relationships have trouble is one person puts their job first. For it to work, you’ve got to have a partner who is absolutely supportive.”
Miami relationship expert Bari Lyman says making a relationship work when you’re married to your job often requires a new mindset. “If finding true love is a priority, you have to make the time and space to meet someone.” Then, to sustain a relationship you need communication, maybe even an agreement that emphasizes quality time together rather than quantity, says Lyman, founder of MeettoMarry.com. “What’s important is to find someone who shares your vision of work-life balance.”
Paul Streitz, author of Blue-Collar Buddha, says he used to be married to his business. When he sold his company, Advanced Lighting, for $7 million he became “emotionally bankrupt.” “I signed the papers, became an ultra-millionaire and cried.” Though he had relationships, Streitz says business came first. “I look back and say I could have done it differently, juggled better.” He now runs a new business as a motivational speaker, but plans to give a relationship priority.