1. A lot of people think the two things are mutually exclusive. You either have to be a doe-eyed romantic stumbling around desperately looking for love, or you have to be a strong, aggressive, ambitious career woman who doesn’t need a man. A lot of people try to tell you, through their actions or their words, that you’re not allowed to be both.
2. There aren’t a ton of women similar to you represented on the big screen. Sure, there are some. But not enough. Most of the women in the film are portrayed as one-dimensional love interests for men, or cold-hearted, career robots that learn to change and “soften up” when they fall in love. A lot of films make us feel like we can’t have both.
3. If you manage to have both a stable career and a healthy relationship, people often like to ask you how you do it, as though one of the two things must be suffering because there’s no way to possibly have both.
4. You feel bad for enjoying a guilty pleasure novel or TV show or movie every once in a while. If it’s a story primarily about love and not a self-improvement book like Lean In, you feel like you are wasting your time and should be doing something more productive. Sometimes you just want to relax and enjoy silly love stories, but you often have to deal with the annoying guilt you make yourself feel afterwards.
5. The bar scene can be exhausting. You want to meet a sweet, interesting, and intelligent person – and you want to be yourself – but sometimes you feel pressure to dumb the conversation down just so you’re not scaring them away. You know you shouldn’t hold yourself back, but sometimes you can’t help yourself.
6. You feel stuck in a Catch-22 situation. If you get dolled up and wear a pretty dress and enjoy feeling bright and vibrant, you’re told no one will take you seriously and that guys will just try and sleep with you. But if you try to tone down your appearance and focus more on the conversations you’re having, it feels like guys hardly give you a second look. You’re made to feel like you’re too conservative or too boring or too serious or too something that’s not the right thing.
7. You want to be in love, but you don’t want to have to dumb yourself down to get there. You don’t want to have to worry about your girlfriend or boyfriend or fiancé or husband feeling inadequate if you have a lot of success in your life. You don’t want to feel guilty for that, and you absolutely shouldn’t, but sometimes you do.
8. Some people make you feel like if you put love first, that you’re anti-feminist or you’re too dependent on your man or you don’t care about your career. And it works the other way too. If you put your career in front of your love life, you’re a cold-hearted ice queen who’s going to end up alone. It often feels like guys are respected and admired if they have both a great work life and love life, but if a woman has the same thing, people assume she must be half-assing one of the things because it’s impossible for her to have both.
9. If you want a career and a big family, people give you looks as if you’re crazy. They smirk or smile at you sympathetically, as if to say, that’s cute, sweetheart. Eventually you’ll choose one or the other, though. According to a lot of people, you’re not allowed to have both. You can work for a little while, and after a few years, when things are financially stable, you really should settle down and focus solely on your family.
10. People make you feel weird or selfish or bossy or demanding for having high standards. Standards like expecting a guy to make an effort to get to know you. Standards like expecting your companion to treat you like your career and your success are just as important and impressive as his. Standards like wanting to have a stable and independent life outside of your relationship.
11. You don’t want to be referred to as the Head Bitch in Charge or the Ditzy Love-Obsessed Hopeful or the Needy Girlfriend. You’re tired of being stereotyped. It’s possible to be a successful, powerful woman who has standards in love. You’re capable of being strong and soft at the same time. And you’re tired of people trying to squeeze you into unflattering and unfair one-dimensional boxes.
12. You run the show, but you still want hearts and flowers. And you don’t think you should have to explain yourself. Just because you work hard and have a well-rounded life and are independent doesn’t mean you should have to apologize for wanting to experience romance with your companion. And yet if you give off the vibe of being a talented, successful woman, guys often make the mistake of thinking you want nothing to do with date nights and sweet surprises and cute text messages.
13. You sometimes feel like you have to keep these two different parts of yourself separate. At work and in your independent life you have to be one way, and in your romantic life you can be another way. But you feel the need to keep your love life quiet at work for fear of not being taken seriously, and you sometimes feel like there’s no room to talk about your work life in your relationship without boring or intimidating your partner.
14. You want your partner to treat you both as a strong, impressive, intelligent woman, but you also want them to be gentle and loving and complimentary and smitten with you. But a lot of the times, they only seem capable of treating you one way or the other.
15. You’re afraid of looking weak or vulnerable. But at the same time, the point of having a relationship is having someone you can be weak and vulnerable with. You’ve spent your whole life relying on yourself and working hard to get where you are. You’ve always depended on yourself, and even though you know you want to share your life with someone else, the idea of giving someone else the chance to hurt you and affect you so deeply is extremely scary.
16. When either one of these sides of you is going through something tough, you turn to chocolate. And, for some reason, chocolate is still not fat free, nor is it zero calories. And that is probably the biggest struggle of all.