Navigating Romantic Relationships while Supporting Career Goals

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2017

Relationships require a lot of give-and-take to ensure both partners’ needs are met, especially when it comes to work-life balance. Starting this summer, psychology PhD students Grace Ewles and Rebecca Lee will interview female professionals to find out how they navigate their romantic relationships to support their career goals.

Although work-life balance has been the subject of many studies, the researchers found a void in the literature.

“As women are becoming more vocal about their career goals, what happens in terms of that negotiation process?” says Ewles. “How are they selecting partners, how are they having those conversations to see at what point who takes on what role, and how do you divvy up those responsibilities to support one another?”

Lee says previous literature has focused on the outcomes of dual-earner families but not on how the relationships started or developed over time to accommodate both partners’ needs. Specifically, the researchers are interested in the values, goals and decisions involved in the communication process between partners. “We’re really interested in how they got there,” she says.

A partner’s promotion, for example, could require him or her to spend more time at work. “There’s obviously pros and cons to every life change,” says Lee. “How do you negotiate that?”

Open communication from the beginning of a relationship is key to ensuring both partners are on the same page regarding work and family life, adds Ewles. A lack of communication or mismatched personal goals can lead to conflict.

What makes a successful partnership? “It’s an understanding of initial goals and values from the beginning and honest communication with feedback,” says Ewles. “Having that at the very beginning and fostering that throughout is really crucial.”

The researchers will interview working women who are currently in relationships, those who are seeking relationships and those who are single by choice. If you’re interested in participating, contact Ewles at or Lee at They expect to have results this fall.

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