How to cope with a sharp decrease in amount of time spent together?
January 21, 2007 2:27 PM   Subscribe

How to maintain a relationship where we've had lots of time together when I start as an associate at a law firm in NYC, and will have very little time?

Based on this question, I'd like advice from the "workaholic"'s side.

I'm a woman who has been dating a great man for about seven months. We spend a lot of time together, and are both in school full time this semester. I was abroad for a month shortly after we met, and then lived in a city 4 hours away for four months, where we communicated via Skype every day for at least an hour, often all evening weeknights, and saw each other almost every weekend. Now we're in school in New York and for the next few months I will be able to see him even more - basically he'll be staying at my place or me at his four days out of every week. We both have four days school-free each week and plan to spend that time together. Over the summer I will travel for a couple of months while he works. He has to work and I've planned my trip for a couple of years now, so we are both OK with that particular period of absence.

The problem is, I am worried about what happens when I get back from my trip and start working as an associate at a big NYC law firm. My position will mean unpredictable hours, long hours, and a very demanding job while I'm in the office (so I'll probably be tired at home). A friend of mine just went a month straight of work, with only one day off.

Please share with me tips on how to cope with work and keep my man. I love him and highly value our time together. At the same time, he hasn't worked a career job before and is in school, so I don't know how well he'll understand that sometimes work will have to come first even when I want to spend time together. He will be in school for at least a year after I start my job, maybe two years. After that he'll probably start as an accountant at one of the Big Four, and we'll both have similar work requirements, though his will still involve less time and more predictable hours. He is not as work-oriented as I am, but I value him being laid back and he values my ability to work my ass off when need be. He knows that I want to save up money and become financially independent quickly, so just taking a job paying half as much to save me the time isn't on my radar. I would rather work a grueling job for a while to cut my teeth, and if need be make a decision to cut back on work later.

We are both good communicators. That said, tips on communication are welcome. I'd also love ideas on how to save time on errands, or how to maximize the time he and I have together. Example: in all likelihood I'll start by making sure we both have access to the same gym, so gym time can be spent together. Also, I have an idea in my head that since he'll have more free time and will be staying at my place most weekends when I start work, that I can ask him to help with errands so we'll have more time together. Is this a good or a bad idea? Also, if you're aware of useful websites related to saving time out of work, or NYC-oriented time savers (a la food home delivery like fresh direct) info on those would be most welcome. Thank you!
posted by lorrer to Human Relations (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A few tips:

Even if you're working amazingly long hours, make sure to do some fun things outside your office or home with your man and/or your other friends. The great thing about NYC is that there is usually something to do or somewhere to go no matter how late you have worked. When I was working super-long hours in NYC, I would sometimes meet a friend for dinner (or to hang out) at 1 a.m. or whenever, after work. I found that I was less exhausted and in a better frame of mind at work if I had done something in my week other than work and sleep (even if this meant a little less sleep in total).

Once you have settled in to your job, if his schedule permits and he can be a bit flexible, meet him for a quick lunch in a park or atrium near your office every now and then.

When appropriate and possible, take a bit of work home with you rather than staying even later. Have some "couple time" together when you first get home, before getting back to the work.

Text messages can be great.

As you probably already know, you can order almost anything online for delivery in NYC. This makes a huge difference (especially if you have a doorman to accept all of your deliveries). I got Amazon Prime and ordered almost everything from Amazon.

For things you don't want to order online, know the late-night and 24-hour places that you can visit quickly after work on a weeknight. There are lots of grocery stores and drug stores in this category, but there's also the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue and the Virgin Megastore and Sephora in Times Square. Over the years, I did some very last minute gift shopping at Virgin after work, around midnight.

Send your laundry out. This is a huge time saver, especially because everything comes back nicely folded.
posted by sueinnyc at 3:12 PM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

The above advice is good, and I heartily recommend. I just want to add my two cents, because this is something I have had a lot of experience with. Ultimately, I think it will come down to how things play out: How long and hard you have to work, how you handle the stress and pressures of having nasty partners scream at you, and just how tolerant your boyfriend is of your hours and resultant mood.

I started off my law career with a big NYC lawfirm. My then girlfriend was off in graduate school halfway across the country, so my long hours had little effect on our relationship (just a large effect on me -- don't underestimate the additional problem that with long work hours and spending time with boyfriend you will be sorely lacking for alone time). When she graduated and moved back to New York we got married, but the time at the office was a great strain. It wasn't even that we fought or that she had trouble dealing with it. It was that I was always tired, always grumpy, she was a real trooper, and I felt insanely guilty. It was just too much, and after only one year of marriage we decided to leave NYC. There were many other quality of life issues involved, but work-life balance was a major factor.

I've now been 6 months at large-ish firm (300 attorneys instead of 600) on the west coast (Portland) and its been such a difference. Sure there's still late nights and trials (literal and figurative), but its much better (even with studying for yet another bar exam!).

I don't tell you this to be a downer or anything...and I know this isn't exactly the kind of advice you were asking for. I just know that I felt deceived and resentful when i realized just how tough it would be and nobody had really warned me. It sounds like you're being very realistic about that and trying to anticipate issues (and you also sound like you're probably more work-oriented than I am in general) -- i admire that. I'd just say see how things work out and be as flexible as possible. And remember -- if things get bad there are always other work options, but you may never find someone as unique and wonderful as your current S.O.
posted by saladpants at 6:26 PM on January 21, 2007

I am an associate at a smaller firm. You are going to need to learn how to bill a lot efficiently. The better you are at that, the more time you are going to have for yourself. I recommend the Burger King plan. I call it that because when I was in college I worked at BK for a year while I was waiting to get instate tuition. I got a 15 minute break in the morning, a 30 minute lunch and a 15 minute break in the afternoon.

Structure your work day like that and you will do great in terms of hitting your targets. I look at MeFi during my day and also play video games during my time off. Then I never look at the internet again.

With the boy, just let him know that you'll be working all of the time. He's either going to be OK with it or not. If not, you will have to make a choice.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:47 PM on January 22, 2007

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