PDA-Proof Your Relationships

PDA-Proof Your Relationships

Is your job following you into the bedroom or wreaking havoc on your friendships?

By Erin Hicks

If your work is putting a strain on your relationships (thanks to the constant connectedness technology allows today), it may be time to step away from the PDA – at least long enough to work on the “life” part of Life/Work balance.

Do you have a friend who seems to have it all? The perfect relationship, the perfect job, the perfect daughter with perfect little dimples and ringlets – and the Sex and the City-esque group of best girlfriends? Do you watch this megawoman balance the tasks – and people – in her life with attention and care, and wonder how she does it all? It takes more than dumb luck and a supportive partner to really find balance. It takes conscientious effort, careful planning, meticulous scheduling and proper BlackBerry etiquette to handle a day of back-to-back meetings and (in many cases) a night of back rubs from a loving partner.

Here are a few tactics from some power-balancers:

Keep a schedule – and actually follow it.
Pepper Schwartz, a professor at The University of Washington, author and nationally recognized relationship and sex expert, recommends reserving relationship time that’s sacrosanct, meaning, “even if a delicious opportunity comes along, the reserved time is preserved.” That doesn’t mean scheduling two-hour marathon time slots for each of your friends, or promising to never work on the weekends so you can spend the entire two days with your significant other. Rather, if you’re thinking of someone, trade telepathy for a text message. Or e-mail. Or instant message during downtime at work.

But know when enough is enough.
The plethora of communication options may offer more opportunities to connect, but it can be like an all-you-can-eat buffet – too much of a good thing. Colleen Cameron, regional sales manager for Pilkington Glass in Seattle, has actually taken her BlackBerry into bed. (See “10 BlackBerry Commandments”). And although she also texts her husband silly messages (often when they’re in different rooms in the same house), her habitual business-related texting and e-mailing has put strain in the relationship. “I’ve learned that whenever you are in the presence of others – whether in a meeting or just spending time – you need to put [the PDA] away,” she says. “Same is true in theaters and fine dining establishments,” she adds. Sometimes to make a relationship (professional or personal, romantic or platonic) work, all it takes is good old-fashioned eye contact.

Ban the BlackBerry from the bedroom.
Meghan Wilker, managing director of Clockwork Interactive Media Systems, and her husband, a documentary filmmaker and freelance Digital Media Consultant, may rely on technology for their livelihoods, but their bedroom is an electronic-free zone. “Even though I have a laptop, it doesn’t come into the bedroom. No TV either. Bedroom is for sleeping, talking to each other and getting down,” she says.

“BlackBerrys are like masturbation,” Schwartz says. “They’re totally wonderful, but to be practiced in private. If they must be used, permission should be requested. Otherwise, they are just rude.”

Set boundaries.
Paula Gould, owner of boutique PR agency PEG PR, works in an industry that doesn’t follow the typical 9 to 5 workday, so she must constantly negotiate time with friends and family. In order to have a life outside work, she learned to establish boundaries. “It’s up to you to prioritize your life. But if you keep choosing work over all the people in your life, it may be time to really step back and take a hard look at what your priorities really are,” she says. “I once had a client leave a message on my voice mail saying, ‘I know you’re on your way to a funeral, but can you please make this one phone call.’ I couldn’t believe it. And I made the call later, when it was appropriate to do so.”

As a working wife and mother, Diane Gottsman says the key to her success has been realizing she has to build up her emotional résumé as much as her vocational one. Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in corporate etiquette training, says that’s meant following through when she promises herself a much-needed break. “Missing prime opportunities with friends, family and yourself takes away value from what you have to offer as a woman, a mother and an executive,” she says. “We need life experiences that do not involve technical skills and knowledge.”

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