The Role Ambition Plays in Dating and Relationships: 3 Areas to Analyze

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Women in our society are still consistently discouraged from having ambition in so many ways. Screw that.

You can and should be ambitious about the things that you want in life. After all, you are the one who has to live with your choices, therefore you should make the ones that mean the most to you.

That said, ambition can be a tricky thing for women when it comes to dating and relationships.

Don’t worry! No one is going to suggest that you tone down your ambition in order to become more desirable to some mythical partner. Nope, nope, nope. You should be you and find someone who loves, respects, and appreciates you for exactly that.

However, if you struggle with the role that ambition plays in your dating life, then you might want to look more closely at these three areas.

1. How You Feel About Your Own Ambition

If you are confident about how ambitious you are, that’s great! However, chances are that you might have a more ambivalent relationship with ambition. On one hand, you are proud of how driven you are. On the other hand, you might have received some conflicting messages about ambition that you don’t even realize are causing you to self-sabotage.

Think back to your childhood. What did your parents or any other important people in your life say about ambition, particularly as it relates to you specifically and their idea of your gender role more generally? What messages did you receive about what it means for a woman to be determined and assertive?

If you look up synonyms for “ambition,” you’ll notice that some of the words that come up are things like “pushy” and “forceful.” As a woman, you might have been accused of being a bitch or a ballbuster, particularly if you’re ambitious in your career.

Yet, you’ve succeeded in your work because you were able to set those messages aside enough to follow your desired path (and kick ass at it, I might add).

However, if you have conflicting underlying beliefs about what that says about your femininity, sexuality, or romantic or marriage value, then it might show up in your relationships. Therefore, the first thing to look at is how you feel about ambition. If you can work through any ambivalence that you have, then it will become easier to attract the right partners who value you for the ambitious person that you are.

2. What a Connection Looks Like for an Ambitious Woman

If you’re going to be in a relationship, you need to find ways to connect with your partner. What does connection look like for you?

Many people struggle to find ways to set aside their normal ambitious attitude when it comes time for vulnerability and intimacy. For example, are you the type of person who always needs to win an argument? That can be a great trait in a courtroom or at a board meeting. However, it’s not likely helpful to your relationships.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to roll over and just accept whatever someone wants to hand you in the romantic realm. Instead, it means that you need to work together with your partner to find creative solutions that help you both.

Above all, get honest with yourself. How does your ambitious (or perhaps even competitive) personality serve you poorly in relationships? You are smart enough to identify the ways it's harming you and it is definitely possible to learn new modes of connecting that give you the relationship that you’re seeking.

3. When You Approach Dating Like It’s a Job

Perhaps you’re not in a relationship at the moment, and you’re trying to date, but it isn’t going the way that you want it to go. The skills that make you so talented in the rest of your life might be limiting you when it comes to dating.

For example, chances are that you put in a lot of long hours and hard work to get to where you are in your career. You may have been taught that the effort will pay off. In work, that’s usually true.

However, that’s not always the case with relationships. Sometimes you work really hard, play by all of your perceived rules, and you don’t end up with the happy relationship you want. If you approach dating with the same guidelines as you do a job, then you may find that you don’t succeed.

So, when ambition is sabotaging your dating life in that way, here are some tips:

  • Enjoy the process. Put less emphasis on the “goal.”

  • Potential partners aren’t a problem to fix or a project to complete. They’re people.

  • You can’t force love. You can put in the time and effort, but the connection has to be there.

  • Don’t dumb yourself down for anybody. However, do learn where you can be softer.

  • Seek a partner who can both challenge and support you.

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If you’re struggling with the impact of ambition on your dating life and are wondering how I might help, read more here about how I work with busy professionals to improve their relationships.