In a relationship, there’s a theory that opposites attract. But opposite schedules? They can attract all the things no one wants, like stress, miscommunication and obnoxiously loud alarms at 4.30am.
If you’re a shift worker, freelancer or someone who works long and unusual hours, dating can be tricky. Getting two different and equally hectic schedules to match up can seem luckless. But, I’ve found there are ways to foster a healthy and happy relationship in the middle of the hustle.
It can take work, and after crawling into bed after a 12-hour shift, work is probably the last thing you feel like. But the good news is (as any entrepreneur will tell you), work is the not-so-secret ingredient for success, even in relationships. And, the even better news is that it eventually becomes second nature.
After months of whining at the enthusiasm my partner had bounding out of bed at 5am, I reworked my way of thinking (some mornings anyway). I took the early start as an opportunity to avoid the sweaty crowds at the gym or commit to my pledge to read 10 pages of a book a day. Coffee was still heavily involved but the bitterness of having an early start wasn’t. Here are some other small changes I can vouch for.
Speak Their Language
Chances are you’re familiar with which of the five love languages speaks to you the most, but what about your partner? Loving your partner in their love language (not your own) is key to connection, especially when you don’t spend as much time together as you’d hoped.
Whether it’s giving gifts or offering words of affirmation, think of ways to show your appreciation in their language. Try sneaking a present in their work bag or stick a few Post-it Notes of compliments on the fridge for them to read when rummaging for a late-night snack.
While we’re on snacks, a tip from personal experience: always bring your significant other a bite to eat too…even if they say they’re not hungry, even if they’re half asleep. They will always want what you’re having, and food is a universal language we all understand.
Organise Dates and Stick to Them
Whoever says organisation isn’t sexy has never splurged on overpriced desk planners and a pen that comes in its own box. If your stationery habit doesn’t need any more encouragement, swap the wall calendar for a shared Google calendar with your partner. It will make it easier to find mutually-free times to schedule regular dates, without the nagging.
A date can be as simple or elaborate as you want: a beach picnic, sunrise walk, movie marathon or coffee over Zoom at work, as long as they’re free of other distractions. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional.
Life is busy – that’s why bookshelves are filled with advice on how to ‘find the balance’. Haven’t found it yet? Create your own. What works for you might not work for others, and that’s okay.
Find Your Own Passion Projects
We all need our own ‘why’. Shared goals are great, but your individual dreams and hobbies are still just as important when you’re coupled up. Finding your own outlets can foster creativity, burn energy or just bring some excitement back into the day. Plus, your passion projects will keep you occupied when your partner is away or busy working on making their own aspirations.
There can be a bit of a lull for many of us when we stop the hobbies we enjoyed as kids because the stresses of adulting take up too much time. Find something just for you again, whether it be cooking, candle making, short story writing or training to run 5km.
If you need extra cash, turn what you’re good at into a side hustle. Or, browse the thousands of online free courses available to learn something new.
If you need to work late to meet a deadline or do the night shift three times in a row, just say so.
Set an expectation beforehand of when you’re going to be busiest so your partner won’t be surprised or disappointed when they don’t see or hear from you as often as usual. Discuss when you think it’ll quieten down and plan ahead to schedule in time for just the two of you.
Even if you’re in a 9-5 job that might sound repetitive, every day brings its own set of unique priorities that can cause headaches or anxiety. Communicate them with your partner and ask for help if you’re struggling to fit everything in. Problems never seem so big once shared and the two of you will be stronger for tackling them together.