The lawyer life is notoriously stressful, which can wreak havoc on romantic relationships and connections with friends and family.
It’s no wonder, then, that lawyers tend to have a higher-than-average divorce rate, particularly if they work at big firms or are in the early stages of their careers.
But don’t worry. Your valued relationships can survive and thrive, even within the high pressure circumstances of a law career. Here are a few of ways for lawyers to maintain healthy, happy relationships and an active social life.
#1: Keep Your Calendar Up to Date
Imagine this scenario: You come home from work, already burned out and ready for sleep. Your partner is eager to chat about the trials and triumphs of the day or to go out for dinner. But having dealt with difficult clients and mountains of paperwork, all you want to do is lounge in front of the television, zone out, and then head to bed.
When you’re in a pressure-cooker environment at work, it’s important to relax at home. That might mean sometimes vegging out in front of the TV or going to bed early. But to stay connected with your significant other, it’s important to be proactive and make time for more planned activities, like date night or trips to a local museum.
At least twice a month, agree to clear your schedules for a full-on day or evening together. This will keep you from falling into a rut or losing the spark of connection.
#2: Practice Self-Care
Self-care might seem like a counter-intuitive way to improve your relationships with others, but it’s crucial. If you’re going to make strong connections with others, you’ve got to take care of yourself first.
Self-care looks different for everyone. It might be carving out four hours a week for gym time or meditation. It might mean a quiet half hour of total peace and isolation when you get home. It might mean delegating childcare occasionally or sleeping in every Sunday. Whatever self-care methods you choose, set healthy boundaries with other people in your personal life and stick to them as carefully as you would to boundaries at work.
And, of course, especially if you have a spouse or partner, make sure they have plenty of time for self-care, too. Ensuring that both of you have time to yourselves will help to keep you from drifting apart or growing resentful.
#3: Don’t Bring Your Work Home
We don’t mean drafts of documents or memos. Lawyers are trained to find the flaw in every argument and pick conflicts apart word by word, sentence by sentence—and for good reason. But that kind of commitment to airtight logic won’t help you in interpersonal troubles at home, and won’t keep the peace in your next disagreement with your spouse.
At home, try to get out of a lawyer’s mindset and instead lean in to putting an emphasis on compromise and mutuality. Better communication will help you make time for things that matter rather than wasting valuable hours on conflicts or misunderstanding.
#4: Set Boundaries
It can be difficult to set healthy boundaries while still looking to advance in the legal field. If you want to have solid, steady relationships, though, you’ll have to draw the line somewhere.
Maintaining a clear schedule and keeping your calendar updated is key to setting boundaries that won’t cross any lines at work. Asking for time off or letting your boss know about a day when you’ll need to go home early will go much more smoothly if you do so in advance.
#5: Focus on Quality Time, not Quantity
Sometimes, the problem isn’t just that you don’t have enough time, but that you’re not spending the time you have wisely. Even if your family is busy with competing schedules and high-pressure obligations, two sit-down dinners a week will make a huge difference. And a single meal spent really listening to each other is worth more than a string of distracted dinners.
If you’re trying to date or seek out new relationships, you can focus on quality time by setting up dates that will help you really get to know someone on a deeper level. While bars can be fun, hanging out in them too often could keep you from developing more meaningful connections.
#6: Take Advantage of Spontaneity
Client appointment cancelled? Upcoming court dates changed? Meeting rescheduled? Instead of wasting that unexpected pocket of time, try to be spontaneous if at all possible. Take advantage of your surprise extra time to do something fun with your significant other or anyone else you’ve been unable to spend quality time with.
#7: Use Technology to Connect, Not Disconnect
Attorneys are often accused of being wedded to technology, leaving them disconnected from the current moment. While there might be some truth to this, technology also has the capacity to connect us to one another in small ways throughout the day.
Even if you’re in the thick of an important case or deal and can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel, make sure to keep in touch with friends and family via social media, emails, and phone calls. You can also send your partner a loving text or two to remind them that you care even when you’re busy.
Take an honest look at the status of your current romantic relationship, or lack thereof. Think of and take one concrete action to improve, or move toward creating, this personal connection.