How to Love an Ambitious Woman

Jessica Wildfire

Photo by Kyryk Ivan

It's hard to love someone you don't believe in.

It's even harder to love someone who doesn't believe in you.

I've tried both.

I've learned you can't share a life with someone who thinks your ambitions sound silly. If you meet an ambitious woman (or man), and you can't fall behind their plans, get out while you can. You won't help them by standing back and watching their setbacks and failures, waiting for them to give up. Everyone has to wrestle with their own dreams.

It's not your job to convince someone to quit, or tamp them down. All you owe them is a little honesty.

You can't be the love of someone's life and their mentor.

It just doesn't work.

Don't pretend they're naive.

My first fiance believed he knew more than me about everything, including the books I read. Sometimes he tried to explain philosophers to me, when he'd only read one essay by them.

It didn't help that he was a valedictorian who graduated from an elite private college before we met. We'd known each other on and off since high school, and he'd always treated me with a kind of polite condescension. All of my hopes and dreams looked "cute" to him.

That's the word he used.


Sure, our dreams evolve as we age. Some people's stay big. It doesn't make them foolish or immature.

It makes them resilient.

Someone who loves you won't treat you like a child just because you try to achieve goals everyone else has given up on.

If you love someone, don't trash their dreams, even if they sound unrealistic to you. Support them, or leave.

Don't punish someone for having dreams.

Over time, it became clear I was slowly achieving all the dreams my fiance had set out for himself at one point, before caving into his parents' expectations. Instead of chasing the life he wanted, he became a lawyer. He hated it, and secretly resented me.

Instead of dealing with his own issues, he decided to sabotage my dreams in the exact same way his parents had. It took me a long time to understand. Now that I do, I almost want to forgive him.


If someone loves you, they'll let you pursue your dreams , even if they have doubts and hesitations.

If you love someone, don't hold their dreams against them.

Don't trivialize their personal wins.

News came that I was a finalist in a short story contest. When I told my fiance, he patted me on the head.

"Let me know when you actually win," he said.

I won.

He laughed when I told him it was $250.

It's dangerous to share your life with someone who secretly sees you as some form of surrogate competition. Instead of supporting you, they'll devote themselves to tearing you down.

They'll do it one little remark at a time.

They'll trivialize every little victory, and inflate every little defeat. They'll always be looking for a reason you should give up.

Don't try to be their source of reason.

Someone who resents your dreams will always try to talk you out of them. You don't see what's happening until years later, when you hear their voice in your head every time you try to take a chance on yourself. If they're not around to call you naive, you do it for them.

Don't ever do this to someone you love. Don't try to break their spirit, thinking you're doing them a favor.

You're not.

Give them a chance.

Don't make fun of them.

I would've stayed with my fiance forever if he hadn't dumped me. He was smart and attractive, and great in bed. For a long time, I thought he was perfect. I considered myself lucky. That's why it hurt so much when he sent an email saying he didn't want to see me anymore.

Later, I saw it as a surprise gift.

Overtime, memories surfaced of all the moments he made jokes about my career. For years I thought it was just affectionate teasing, until it became one of the reasons he ended the relationship. Freedom from his judgement gave me the bandwidth to pursue the goals I'd grown scared to share with anyone, including myself.

You can accomplish a lot when there's nobody around to give you unsolicited advice on "how the world works." You take more risks when there's not someone in the background, making fun of you. If you love someone, don't turn their dreams into jokes.

Give them space to work.

Eventually, I got better at noticing when someone didn't take me seriously. Once, I tried to end a date a little early when the guy wanted sex, and I'd been planning to get some work done. He smirked and said, "Like you've got a book deal with Doubleday?"

The implication was clear. I didn't have anything better to do, so I might as well sleep with him.

We didn't go on any more dates.

If someone loves you, they'll let you work on projects when you need to, without giving you ultimatums.

If you love someone, show them some understanding. Don't make everything a choice between their future and your feelings. If you think they're working too much or too hard, just tell them.

They'll either see it your way, or they won't. 

Don't evaluate their performance.

One time I made the mistake of telling someone I was dating about a rejection letter that bothered me. There was nothing special about the letter. It was just one of those days. I was tired.

He wanted to know why.

His response startled me: "Well, you're not exactly Joyce Carol Oates. Just get over it. That's what professionals do."


We broke up a few days later. (His idea.)

The lesson was brutal but clear. If someone loves you, they won't go out of their way to belittle your craft. You should do them the favor of sparing them updates on every single little setback.

If you love someone, don't try to be their performance coach. Don't evaluate the quality of their work. They shouldn't be asking you to. As much as we like to pretend, it's almost impossible to stay objective.

You'll just hurt them.

Ambitious partners don't need cheerleaders.

It's normal for someone you love to express some hesitation about your big plans. Anyone who's been married for a while knows that weird look from their spouse when they dream too big out loud. That's your cue to get to work, instead of standing around talking.

You don't have to convince your partner or anyone else that you're capable of achieving your goals, or why they matter.

You just have to do it.

You can't expect someone you love to be the captain of your cheerleader squad, or your biggest super fan. You can't expect them to be your angel investor or personal piggy bank. They're just supposed to be there, especially when you're down. They're supposed to listen and support you. If they can't do that, then they're not the right one.

Don't compensate for lack of faith.

Nothing else about a relationship can make up for someone's lack of faith in your talent or abilities. They might be the one to suggest you try something else, but never the one to make you feel like a failure. If someone you love does that, it's time to let them go.

It hurts, but not forever.

If you love someone with big plans for the future, decide whether you're in or out. You're either going to support them all the way, or you're going to get in their way and drag them down.

It's hard to watch someone you love struggle and fail. It's hard not to let them learn from their own mistakes.

If you love them, that's exactly what you'll do.

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