Relationships and Your Acting Career

Scott SeditaCareer

Many romantic relationships can become a distraction to your acting career!

Starting, building and maintaining a romantic relationship is always at least a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re an actor whose first priority is their career.

There are many successful actors that are involved in long-term, healthy, stable, giving relationships. A relationship with the right person can bring a lot of joy, excitement, growth and most of all comfort to your life. There is nothing better than sharing your journey with someone who loves you as much as you love them.

The nature of a career in Hollywood, however, offers many challenges to a relationship, especially when it comes to such vital necessities as time, energy and dedication.

An acting career can put a strain on any kind of relationship, especially if your partner isn’t an actor and doesn’t understand the work involved. Having an acting career means constant hard work, inconsistent pay and unrelenting devotion. Pursuing an acting career requires a tremendous amount of patience from your partner.

When you don’t have that in a relationship, it can become a distraction to your career.

An Unhealthy Relationship

All relationships do require some work. Some believe that if you love each other enough, a relationship shouldn’t be work. I define working at your relationship as a mutual exploration to understand and help fulfill each other’s needs and desires. That type of work can lead you to a healthy relationship.

In an unhealthy relationship, that work can sometimes lead us to give in, give up or sacrifice our own individual needs and desires. We relent to the pressures of the relationship and the expectations of our partners, distracting us from what we really want to do.

I have seen many actors struggle with girlfriend issues or boyfriend issues, and even spousal issues. Sure, every relationship has its problems, but when these problems outweigh the good times, they become a “distraction.” Because these significant others are so important, these problems are tough to shake or simply ignore. They fester in your mind and heart and they distract you from the work at hand. You love that person and you want to fix the problem within the relationship, so that’s where you put all your focus.

Relationships are similar to family in that way. Your partner will have a tremendous influence over anything and everything that you do. They will impact you and your decisions on a daily basis. They may put certain pressures or restraints on you (consciously or unconsciously) if they feel your career is becoming more of a priority than the relationship.

It can become more problematic when your partner isn’t involved in an artistic field. Just like your family, they might not understand why you chose this unpredictable profession. If they have a steady job, they won’t understand when money is tight or why you have to work at night or how you might have to leave to work an acting job. They don’t understand your true desire and need to pursue this career. Or they do understand it, but don’t really accept it. At heart, they don’t support your decision to be an actor. They might say that they support you, but their actions say otherwise.

This unhealthy relationship will affect you, going beyond just the discussions and arguments over your career and your priorities. When you don’t have someone who understands or supports your dreams, your Confidence level sinks, making you question yourself.

It keeps you from putting your energy toward your craft and career. You love and respect this person so much and to have them not support you is depressing. It trickles down into everything that you do.

It can be more difficult when you’re married or if your boyfriend or girlfriend has moved out to Los Angeles with you. Suddenly there is that extra pressure on you to produce. If you’re married, you may need to provide for your spouse (and children). That can be tough with an acting career, especially when you’re just starting out. If you’ve had a loved one move out with you, there will be a feeling of responsibility toward them. You’ll feel like you need to show them why it was the right move to make. All that does is add to the stress.

They Just Don’t Understand

The most common distraction I’ve seen in relationships is the metaphorical tug of war with the actor and his or her career. In many relationships, the partner expects the relationship to be the first priority. If an acting career is important to you, though, then that acting career must be the first priority.

Your significant other will want your time and energy. That doesn’t mean they’re bad partners — it’s only natural. If they don’t understand why you can’t always give them that time and energy, problems can arise.

I’ve seen actors come to class moody, distant and agitated, sometimes with tears in their eyes because they just had a fight with their girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s almost always about their acting career taking priority over the relationship. The most common thing I hear is, “They just don’t understand.”

Many actors get distracted with the pressure to be the good boyfriend or girlfriend. They do whatever they can to appease their partner, including forfeiting everything they came out to Los Angeles to accomplish. They play the role of the obedient girlfriend or boyfriend, slowly but surely losing themselves in the relationship.

Or they become the point person in the relationship — the responsible, practical, organized one who has to take care of all their partner’s needs. Once again, all their efforts go into the relationship and there is nothing left to put toward a career.

Sometimes this relationship Distraction is a little tougher to see. You can get so wrapped up in keeping your partner happy that you are blind to how much you’re sacrificing in your career. Then suddenly, months and even years have gone by and you have nothing in your own life or career to show for it.

It’s easier to spot when the person blatantly tells you they’re not supportive. Unfortunately, I’ve seen just as much of a distraction from actors who say they have partners who “totally understand and support them.” When push comes to shove…they don’t.

Distractions don’t always smack you in the face. They’re not always noticeable right away; but if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, they will at some point rear their ugly head.

Relationships Are Familiar

As easy as it would be to put the blame on your significant other for distracting you from your career, you can’t. Just like with family, it comes down to you and your personal choice.

Whether it’s blatant or more subtle, your relationship can only be a distraction if you choose to let it be. After all, you have the power to work on your relationship; you have the power to change the relationship. You have the power to set boundaries, find balance and have a healthy relationship.

However, many actors choose to let an unhealthy relationship become a distraction to their career…and the main reason why, as always, is Fear.

Working toward a relationship, even an unhealthy, unstable one, is often more familiar and more comfortable than entering into the unknown territory of an acting career.

Many of us play a similar role in our relationships as we do in our family. If you’re the point person in your family, chances are you’re the point person in your relationship. If you’re more dependent on your family, you probably expect the same from your partner. If you felt abandoned by your family or if you were left on your own, you might either be very independent or very insecure in your relationship. We can identify with these particular roles and responsibilities and we seek solace in their predictability.

When we take on these roles in relationships, they can become very comforting and familiar. Having a relationship can provide a wonderful escape from your acting career. Whether it’s going out to dinner, cuddling on the couch, making love, talking and yes, even working on your relationship, it’s a welcome reprieve from your career. It feels better for the moment and it’s easy to get wrapped up in that feeling.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but you can’t do it all the time. If acting is important to you, then your acting career must be your first priority. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a relationship as well. You simply need to find a balance.

Finding Balance

Okay, after reading all of this, many of you are probably terrified of having a relationship while you pursue an acting career. Don’t be; it can be done. Here are a few simple tips to help you maintain balance in your relationship and to ensure that your relationship doesn’t become a distraction to your career.

  • Be upfront about what you want – This way you’re not presenting any false impressions of yourself to prospective partners. Know what your priorities are and share them with your partner. Tell them how focused, determined and passionate you are about being an actor. Then you also need to acknowledge, respect and embrace your partner’s goals, dreams and ambitions as well.
  • Talk about your life as an actor – Much like you did with your family, communicate to your partner about the time, commitment and sacrifices that an acting career requires so they know what to expect. Also, learn to be a good listener. To be a good actor, you need to be a good listener. The same is true in a healthy relationship.
  • Be with someone who is supportive – It’s important that you have a relationship with someone compatible who “gets” you and what you’re doing. Make sure you’re with someone who is loving, compassionate, understanding and for God’s sake, not someone who is needy! Your acting career is needy enough. Remember though, that support is a two-way street. If you want your partner to encourage you in your pursuit, then you must encourage them in their pursuit.
  • Set boundaries – As I said, it’s easy for you to get lost in the comfort of your relationship. Be aware of it. Make sure that while you make time for your partner, you also make time for your career work. Sit down with your partner and discuss each other’s career needs.

You need to let them know that you will need time and space — physical and emotional — to put toward your career. You have to also respect that they will need time and space for their own career as well. Make rules and try to stick by them.

As with most things, relationships come down to communication and commitment. I truly believe that when two people love each other, they want to help fulfill each other’s destiny. Find the person that brings out the best in you, not the worst in you. Find someone who loves you for who you really are. Always be open and honest in your relationship and help each other grow as individuals, free of distractions.