Sheryl Cattell’s 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, an online marketing director, said 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, said 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,” said 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 said, 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 said making a relationship work when you’re married to your job often requires a new mind-set. “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, said 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,” said 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 said 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.
While an all-consuming career can complicate relationships, the benefits of being married to your job can be significant. Singles often climb the corporate ladder more quickly and experience a greater sense of job security. Cattell, 56, director of online marketing for Cross Country Home Services in Sunrise, Fla., a home warranty provider, said that over her career her devotion to her job has allowed her to travel the world, take overseas assignments and start two professional interactive marketing associations.
Richard Delio, 49, regional vice president at Zacks Investment Management in South Florida, said he too has experienced career and financial success because of the attention he gives to his job, particularly in the recession. “Socially, I find myself spending my free time with clients, going to fundraisers for their pet charities or going fishing with them. That doesn’t leave me time for (romantic) relationships. But with the volatility in the market, duty calls.”
Complicating matters, some managers still assume singles don’t have anything to do but work. This not only makes relationships difficult; it makes hobbies, volunteer work and exercise time a challenge, too.
Grace Lopez, office administrator at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Miami, said she loves her job but squeezing her other passions into her schedule - in addition to a relationship - gets tricky. She balances long work hours, a leadership role in a professional association and her involvement in the Susan G. Komen Foundation. “I feel guilty because I realize that sometimes I’m not giving the time needed in a relationship.”
Cattell said that after a failed marriage, she’s now in a good relationship and thinks she’s figured out what works for her. “I’m blessed to be with a partner who is also married to the job. When I come home at midnight, I don’t have to explain where I’ve been.”