Are relationships a distraction from achieving your dreams?

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The other day one of my guy friends used the “I’m too busy going after my goals in life to be in a relationship, and so are you” excuse on a girl. To him, starting a serious relationship, and having to put in the work that may come with it, could throw him off-track from his goals, and he just couldn’t afford that.

Now, to me, that was just his nice way of saying, “I like you, but not enough to want to be with you, so I’m giving you a rationale that won’t hurt your feelings”.

Still, it got me thinking. Surely he doesn’t believe that focusing on whatever track he’s on, whether it’s school, a business, or a new career, can’t be done effectively while in a relationship?

Do you wait until you’ve achieved your goals to pursue a relationship? Did he really think that relationships are a distraction from achieving your dreams? Can’t two, driven individuals thrive in each other’s space, and achieve together? I think the answers are obvious.

I’m one of those women who look at power couples like the Obamas and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, and hope that I can emulate that sort of unity. My goals may not include fame and fortune (ok, yes to fortune), but I’d like to think that whoever ends up being my significant other would support and encourage me to go after the things that are important to me. In a relationship, I want a partner. Not just a lover.

I’ll share Will’s and Jada’s strategy for being a dynamic duo. In an interview earlier this year, Will said they had developed a marriage business plan for the purpose and vision of their relationship. They also meet with their children to ensure that each person has a clear definition of themselves and what they want to achieve. “If you don’t have a goal, if you don’t have a purpose for your relationship, you can get lost in the murk of the journey,” he said.


“Many people fall into long-term relationships with no clear idea as to why they’re together.”


Many people fall into long-term relationships with no clear idea as to why they’re together. Yes, you may have been attracted to the person, and they’re fun. However, if you’re a powerful person – and I’m not talking about money here, I’m talking about being driven, talented, and having a serious focus on what you want to achieve – then you want to be equally yoked in that respect.

A relationship, a serious relationship, is much more than romantic love. There’s friendship, genuine affection, loyalty, and respect. It’s not just a question of good looks, or can he or she cook. It’s about a dedication to not just the relationship, but also the betterment of each person. It takes focus and dedication from both parties to achieve their life goals, and they feel good having someone else cheering them on, making sure they get to class on time, or giving them the time they need to focus on their work. This, of course, depends on the level of maturity.

I always remember first-year UWI. I was in KFC cramming for a Maths exam for “summer school”, with some other students, so yuh done know we had failed the exam the previous semester and were seeking redemption. With only a few hours to go until the exam, the girlfriend of one of the guys came trying to snuggle with him, and cracking jokes. He was visibly irritated, but too nice to tell her to haul her arse. Seriously? Was that the time or place for her to come seeking attention? This is a clear case where a relationship can be a distraction. Blame it on selfishness or the folly of youth.

Most of us don’t have what the Obamas and the Smiths have, but that doesn’t mean we can’t achieve that same level of vision in our own lives and relationships. In May earlier this year, I interviewed Danielle Campbell-Smith, Managing Director of Advertising Impact Limited, and I left her office inspired.

Married with two infants, she often has her children with her. Her husband is also an entrepreneur and runs another company. Coincidentally, these Trini Smiths are my local version of Will and Jada. Not only do they help each other to cope with their hectic schedules and hands-on approach with their children, they also have a yearly retreat where they outline their vision and goals for themselves as individuals, as a couple, and as a family, so they know what track they’re heading on, and regularly refer to their plan to make sure they’re on track.


“You’ve got to be able to grow together.”


This is a whole other level of achieving together. More than anything else, you’ve got to be able to grow together, as you move through different life stages. The trick, though, is to find the right partner. Not just someone who sees the physical you, and the fun you, but someone who gets who you are, what you stand for, and who you understand yourself to be. Someone who recognises the power that is inside of you, and has no problems forming a partnership with you where you both realise your latent potential. You’re not just a couple; you’re a team.

With all the other dynamics that factor into relationships, this sort of dedication to self and one’s partner isn’t as simple as one, two, three. That’s why it’s important to choose the right partner, who understands your drive, whose way of thinking complements yours, and who isn’t threatened by you. Assuming you have someone you can pull this off with, a relationship can actually be a solid rock of support.

At the same time, you can’t be so supportive that you forget to push yourself. Sometimes in a relationship you become consumed by the next person. You forget who you are, and what you want because your world starts to revolve around someone else. Remember Angela Bassett in “Waiting to Exhale”, and how she felt when her marriage ended, and she had nothing because she had invested in him, without investing in herself at all, having put her dreams on the backburner? If you do that, you might want to burn some clothes too.

I can never understand it when I see a couple, and know that both of them are capable of so much more, but still it’s as if they both allow each other to be stagnant. In couplehood, both people have to have the ability to be self-actualized and supportive, so each person takes the blame if they haven’t achieved for themselves.

Power couple vision demands a high level of dedication, and discipline. It’s not just a commitment to not cheat or to love and cherish. It’s a commitment to the team, and staying true to yourself and your dreams, while rooting for your significant other. When you’ve found the right riding partner, a relationship can actually add that extra boost for you to succeed.


Image credit: iStockphoto. ©Hundreddays.


Karel Mc Intosh

Karel Mc Intosh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Outlish Magazine. She's also the Lead Communications Trainer at Livewired Group, where she conducts workshops in business writing, social media, and other communications areas. A real online junkie, when she isn't surfing the Internet, she's thinking about surfing the Internet. Find out more about her here or tweet her @outlishmagazine.


  1. Shanna

    September 27, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Thank you for writing this Karel! This is exactly what I want in a relationship, but often men seem to think that you want a partner in order to replace your career when you are trying to supplement it. My ex, after I had finished my masters and left him still doing his degree to begin my job at my dream employer in New York, actually told me that after three years he was still afraid to discuss marriage because he thought I would only want to “sit on the couch and eat bonbons” once I was a wife! Apparently, he had no idea who I am.

    As a person, I want it all. I have one life and I want all the experiences it has to offer. I am not content to pursue only a career, or only a relationship, to live in one country or work for one company. I understand that achieving that takes balance and planning, and I’m up for the challenge. I feel sorry for people who think that they have to choose one little bit of life to enjoy and close themselves off to other experiences.

    With all his focus on his career, I make more money than my ex, I’m happier in my job and living in the city I want to be in (and that he wanted to move to, but couldn’t). I hope he achieves everything he wants to and I think he will eventually, but hyper-focusing and refusing to take his relationship seriously didn’t get him there.

  2. Nicha Cockburn

    July 12, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Yes they can be!!

  3. Gina

    October 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks for writing this! It’s exactly what I needed to read right now!

  4. Jeremy Francis

    June 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    My personal experience is that, I would not have achieved most of my goals if I were not for the encouragement, support and advice of my significant other.

  5. Damon Selman-Carrington

    June 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    For some reason, this seems to be an excuse to women while for many men it’s logical…

  6. Jenni Jones

    June 18, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    My son said he had to finish with his girlfriend to achieve his goals.. he left her one month before exams..

  7. 3is

    August 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    for me relationships are entirely too distracting. something will always suffer. too much attention in the relationship and my work suffers. too much in work and your woman says you care too much about work. ultimately I find success to be more rewarding than relationships. you can always find another woman or if you’re a woman you can always find another man.

  8. ART

    July 29, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Very interesting article. I am kind of in a similar predicament at the moment. I am a 28 year old male, I really do want to settle down soon with a wife, start a family, etc… yuh know, all of the “normal” things one is supposed to do. But at the same time, I feel there are things I still want to achieve in life. I still want to travel and see the world, perhaps further my education. It can be a tough dilemma sometimes.

    • Sakhile

      April 16, 2016 at 5:17 am

      Do what you need to do, you don’t want to get into a relationship and marriage and yet you still feel like you have things to do, you feel robbed somehow. No rush, complete yourself first. For all we know, marriage is probably not even worth it.

  9. Ayodele

    December 27, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    this seems like a “career-relationship” fairy tale,if truly it exists,I sure do hope to find it!
    the mere thought of it alone is so invigorating that I have to be careful about getting too excited,can’t risk being let down if I allow myself to get too “high” in hoping it exists while it doesn’t.

  10. Matthew

    January 18, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    One thing you missed… The Smiths and the Obamas all had some level of success BEFORE getting hitched.

  11. Daniel

    March 12, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Worth noting that the Smiths and Obamas were successful before marriage. I know a lot of guys want to get to a certain point in their career, and then get married and continue.

    • Sakhile

      April 16, 2016 at 5:13 am

      I am a female and I think like that too.

  12. Sakhile

    April 16, 2016 at 5:12 am

    I guess I think like a guy then because I still have things to achieve before even thinking about a relationship. It would be a distraction for me.

  13. MK

    May 8, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    my exboyfi consumed alot of mytime, he makes u feel like a woman n later makes u feel like a looser and unworthless.i dnt regreat being in thx relationship, i hav realised i need to love myself first, put myself first do wat i hav to do to be the best i can be, focus on myschool, get a good job, a good life, travel do all tht i want to do. If a man wants me he will respect me as who i am and wat i hav achieved, he cant deal with it then he walks away.
    Most of all we all need to love ourselvs and be the best we can be, thrs always another man, but thrs no another u!!

  14. Dude

    December 12, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Beutiful women have a way of becoming a mans priority, replacing his hopes and dreams. Relationships can be achieved in weeks or months. It takes decades to achieve what others were unwilling to make the sacrifes for.

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