Balancing work and a relationship

Joined Feb 22, 2002
I wasnt sure where to post this, so feel free to move it...but how does one balance the uncertainty of a career path, and the responsibilities of a relationship? I know this does not in any way only apply to the foodservice business but you are known to have long, odd hours, and perhaps opportunities to travel, depending on what you do. How do you balance a significant other, and perhaps kids, with the possibility that you won't be around all the time to take care of them and be with them?
I ask because I am in culinary school right now, and looking forward to traveling and working those long weird hours. I have a boyfriend of 4 and a half years who has recently told me he wants me to be around most of the time if we get married; that he would be ok with me travelling for a week or so at a time, but always returning home.
I am just realizing this is a rather dumb question, either he learns to deal with the fact that I might get opportunities and might have to move or travel, or I ditch him, right?
But I would like to hear your stories about your relationships, how they do or don't work out because of your career choice, what you do when a conflict comes up, etc. Thanks...


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Depends greatly on what you want out of the relationship and your life. From what you've written, I'd hazard a guess that your career is more important to you than this relationship. That's not necessarily bad or a problem.

The cliched though accurate response is communication. Talk out what both of your expectations and wants are. This isn't to try and find compromises, but to be honest with yourselves and each other.

Then you'll have an idea of whether to compromise or not and on what issues. Which could lead to a break up of the relationship but that would probably be for the best if there are no satisfactory compromises.

There is no one absolute balance in these things for all people. There are and will be people in your life for whom you'd compromise more for than others. The balance will be different for every relationship. When you say "... either he learns to deal with the fact that I might get opportunities and might have to move or travel, or I ditch him, right?" it says to me that he is not that important to you. That's merely my interpretation of your statement and I don't mean to hurt you by saying this. His statement "he wants me to be around most of the time if we get married; that he would be ok with me travelling for a week or so at a time, but always returning home" says he values you more than he values what your job is to you.

I can't tell you what the right answer is on this for you. This is a deep hard-core personal values issue. You may find yourself examining your values more deeply than ever before in your life.

Having said that, I do have an opinion based on my values. My values hope your life is more than just your career to you. But that doesn' t make them your value nor the right decision for you.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
A good relationship will get me through times of no work better than work gets me through times of bad relationships. IMHO. But then again, she means the world to me.....
Joined Oct 28, 1999
Until recently, I spent my entire working career working long, weird hours. I missed a lot of holiday meals, nights out with friends, etc. I was living to work. So, not to complicate things, but here goes-
I received an email from a friend of mine that went something like this... When you are gone, will it be your job that mourns you most? Or will it be the family you left behind? What about the friends enjoyed your company? When you are on your death bed, will you look back and say "gosh, I should have worked more"? Or will you say "I will really miss my family's laugh"?

Okay, so its deeply philosophical and introspective, but the message is fairly clear. I am not bashing long/hard/weird hours, just merely trying to offer perspective. I can tell you this, though, since I have moved into the academic realm and work regular days & hours, I would have an extremely difficult time giving up the precious hours I have with my family.
Joined Feb 22, 2002
Ok, so I am getting the message that love comes before career. But what about the love of a person who wants to restrict my opportunities? Is that love?
Yes in a way my career is more important to me than a relationship, but in a way they are just as important as each other but for different reasons. To me, career=opportunities and change, and relationship=stability. Ideally I want to have opportunities and change as well as stability in my life. But I guess I am wondering how I can have both, because they seem to contradict each other.
This relationship problem goes beyond the career question and I guess I am looking for the answers I already know in my heart.
Joined May 26, 2001
Kate: it is not easy to have both. But it is harder if one of you expects the other to accede to your wishes on most or all of the big issues. And giving up opportunities to learn and grow professionally is a very, very big issue. It may be that you CAN develop your talents and skills within the boundaries he's asking. Anything is possible, if you look hard enough. Does he understand that he's asking for something that may require a lot more support from him, as you try to make the situation work?

This is (almost) hypothetical: What would he be willing to give up for you, if you limit yourself for him? You are fully within your rights to ask. I don't believe in keeping score, but I do believe that ALL burdens should be shared. And if one of you feels the balance is off, it's hard on both of you.

All that said: there are so many factors to a satisfying relationship. It's never easy, but sometimes the most unlikely characteristics keep two people together, just as they may drive them apart.
Joined Dec 4, 2001
Kate, I don't know how old you are but I would guress relatively young. If you really, truely have a burning desire to realize the total culinary experience with the travel, weird hours and all the rest, my advice would be to DO IT!. If the relationship survives it, all well and good. But if you give up on your dream, the "what if" factor will mar any realtionship you might have now or in the future. Sure, you can compromize but not yet.
I guess it all comes down to which fire in you is the bigger; the one for your boyfriend or the one for your passion?
Just my 2 cents, and good luck, whatever you decide.



Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Kate, you have asked a question that chefs have been asking themselves for years. It is a difficult delimma, that many of us have been through or are still going through. Everyone has offered some very good advice, but ultimately the choice must be yours (as you seem to have already figured out). It is a rough decision and you will end up making a sacrifice at one end or the other.

For me, I made the decision, early in my career, to focus on food, to make it the center of my life. It destoryed many of my relationships, but at the time, I didn't mind because my love for this profession got me through. Eventually I found someone who not only accepted by encouraged my pursuit. I am definately glad I made the decisions that I had. Now as a young married couple, I have started to view my life a little differently. I would like to spend more time at home and contemplate a family. But the great thing is, I will make the decision. My wife will support what decision I make and will not pressure me to do one or the other. For that I feel I am one of the luckiest men alive. Yes, my decision closed some doors, but opened up others. The decisions I made where right for me, at the time, and in the long run turned out to be the best. Only you can decide which path is best for you.
Joined Feb 22, 2002
Yes I guess I am rather young; 24 next month. A couple nights ago my boyfriend and I came dangerously close to breaking up, as we have done before, but reconsidered, as we (obviously) have also done before. There are lots of issues with us, one of them being the work issue. We are close to getting married and I guess I keep panicking because there are lots of things we haven't worked out yet, but then I realized, who says we have to work *everything* out before marriage? We don't, do we?
We have discussed the question "what would we give up for each other?" The truth is we have both sacrificed a lot for each other but he has done more for me, I think. I agree we shouldn't keep score but I know how the resentment thing goes. I know if I really put my foot down there isn't much he wouldn't do for me. But neither one of us likes to put our foot down. I think the work thing is something he says he doesn't want but is something we can definitely work on.
Joined Mar 12, 2001
Kate, it sounds to me like you are not quite ready to "settle down" to married life. No, you don't have to, nor can you realistically expect to have "worked everything out" before you get married. Being married to someone changes your entire perspective and style of living. You have formed a committmant to another person with marriage and you now have someone else to consider when you make decisions...after all, you are a team. And living with another person requires teamwork..

My only advice would be...if you have ANY doubts, wait...And also stop to consider if you will resent being asked not to follow whatever dreams you have. Resentment can be a bitter pill that will stick in your throat...

And you're right about not keeping score. In a good marriage, each partner gives 90% to the others 10%.

We will celebrate out 30th anniversary next week.
Joined Feb 22, 2002
Originally posted by Jill Reichow
And you're right about not keeping score. In a good marriage, each partner gives 90% to the others 10%.

Congratulations on your anniversary! But, how does the above quote work? Wouldn't one person be giving a lot more than the other? Perhaps it is just a little too abstract for me, like "giving 110%". Please elaborate...
Joined Oct 6, 2002
I can realate with you on this one.
I am fairly young ( turning 24 next week) and married for 9 months. I was just promoted to a sous chef position last month and therefore work extremely long hours with mediocre salary.
The secret to having a great marrige while in this industry is to get your priorities straight. My wife never tells me to quit my job but, if she feels that we are not financially able to provide for ourselfs or if she needs me to be around more I would get another job in a heartbeat. There are other food related jobs in this industry than the restaurant.
What I'm trying to get to is that, you should make decisions in your relationship because you want to do them not because your husband is bugging you. If you are going to change careers due to his resquest, you should do so because, the joy of giving him what he wants is much greater than actually being in the field. (Easier said than done, "Giving is better than recieving") This in a sense is what true love and marrige is about. However, if you chose to change your career because he's constantly nagging you, it will only lead to resentment in the future. So it's not much the action but your motovation for doing it.
I'm implying, (and only implying) that your desire to work in this field is stronger than your desire to get married. Nothing wrong with this, but if this is something you and you fiance cannot come to grips with you guys should just wait a litlle longer to get married. I know this may seem a lil harsh but it's comming from personal experience.
Joined Feb 22, 2002
I don't think that was harsh at all, and maybe I should clarify because we really aren't even engaged yet. Last Christmas he gave me a "promise ring" and said he would propose to me in the next 6 months. Well that deadline is promptly marching up and I know he has a ring. The question is when will he do it? He says we should wait, and I say we should just do it because I am always going to have doubts and waiting isn't really going to help much. They aren't really doubts as much as fears I guess, fears that we are going to get married and finally realize that we can't come to conclusions on one or more of our top issues. And then ending the relationship will be harder than saying "ok I'm breaking up with you" lol.
Joined Apr 17, 2003
When it comes to life advice I also am fairly young (26), but I would say that you should follow your heart and not your mind. Dont think about the excitement that is marriage, think ahead to 20 or 30 years time. Will you be happy with this person? Are you sure you will still love this person?

If you are all hesitant on those questions than dont rush into marriage. When it comes to the crunch, in the end you should really be looking after number 1!

NEVER EVER let someone crush your goals and ambitions. No matter what! Allowing that will only be crushing yourself!

I am lucky enough to have found a girl who has the same love of food as i do, and the same love of travelling...we have been travelling the world for the last 7 years, and will be travelling for a long while yet.

A trap which many people fall into is the fear of being alone. Dont settle for any less that you should. It is a big world. And you never know what, or who, is coming around the next bend.

Anyhow good luck and blessings in your career and life.
Chef Dan
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