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The Professional Impact of Troubled Relationships

Perhaps the greatest benefit of a healthy, supportive personal relationship, marriage, or partnership is that it provides a sturdy foundation from which both individuals can launch into more ambitious and meaningful personal pursuits. This foundation serves as a safe place to contemplate, refresh, and even heal from the mental and emotional burdens that some professional occupations heap on the shoulders of even their most conscientious leaders and contributors.

The most rewarding careers are often the most demanding. Therefore, the perception of a personal relationship as a harbor from which to escape the rigors and challenges that come with these demands should not be dismissed as psychobabble. In fact, the supportive, loving relationships from which we embark each morning and to which we return at the end of each day can dramatically increase our overall professional capacity.

Troubled unions, however, often have a devastating effect on one’s capacity to be professionally effective.

This means that the individuals we choose as our life partners or close confidants will likely determine how successful we can be and establish the boundaries, more or less, of our professional potential.

Why? Because contentment and security at home require no unnecessary depletion of mental and emotional reserves.

In my experience, individuals in strained personal marriages, relationships, or partnerships are significantly impeded in their professional activities but often don’t realize it until it’s brought to their attention.

The phenomenon is similar to what we observe when watching a hockey game. Each player skates in a shift that only lasts about 30 to 60 seconds. When a player’s shift comes to an end, he or she will quickly return to the bench, and another player assigned to the same position will jump onto the ice to begin a new shift.

Hockey is very fast and strenuous. And yes, a well-conditioned player could probably skate at full capacity for two minutes or more. But doing so would have too deleterious an effect on performance through the remainder of the game to justify it. And it’s unlikely the player would be fully aware of any declining performance even as it was happening.

Confining players to shifts and ensuring they are able to rest after periods of exertion ensures maximum contributions toward what will hopefully be a winning effort.

In so many wonderful ways, a healthy marriage or partnership is the place we return to rest. This, of course, is not to say that relationships don’t require care and nurturing. They certainly do. But if the relationship is chronically draining or tends to deplete precious energy, professional performance must, as a matter of due consequence, suffer greatly, regardless of whether one knows it or not.

We must acknowledge that our personal choices about who we spend our lives with are among the most impactful professional decisions we make in our careers. Taking time to evaluate these relationships and looking for opportunities to improve them are not only smart personally but also necessary professionally.

John M. Collins is an Authoritative Leadership and Expertise Coach at Critical Victories in Southfield, Michigan. He specializes in supporting clients in authoritative, high-stakes occupations requiring high levels of expertise to earn and retain the trust of the public or other consequential stakeholders. John shares some of his unique philosophies and insights on high-stakes leadership in his 2022 book, THE NEW SUPERIOR – A BETTER WAY TO BE THE ONE IN CHARGE (, available in hardcover and audio. 

John works with people, teams, and organizations across the United States and oversees. If you are serious about expanding your leadership effectiveness, click below to request a free client strategy call:

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