Ambition can be an important factor in a relationship. It has the power to propel a couple forward or drive them apart. Characteristics of an ambitious person are being goal-driven, solution-oriented and possessing a vision for themselves and their future.

“This person knows that they want more than what they are currently experiencing,” said Fila Antwine, who’s an emotional wellness coach. “They are willing to do the work to get there.”

There are different levels of ambition in a relationship. Although partners don’t share all the same goals, a degree of understanding present helps prevent partners from clashing. Another factor at play is if ambition causes a disconnection between both partners. Antwine pointed out that relationship issues can arise when a person doesn’t balance their ambition with connecting with their partner.

“It can create an unsteady foundation when the ambition is one-sided or hyper-focused on their professional career goals, but don’t intend to be ambitious in their relationship,” Antwine told 21Ninety. 

The private coach said she advises her clients to listen to their partners. This helps pick up on cues about how they view the relationship. Listening for words, such as “we,” “us,” and “together” are indicators of inclusion. The terms “me,” “myself,” and “I” raise a red flag of isolation and a partner entering a state of emotional unavailability. Distance and the experience of “living together, but separately” can be outcomes of the strain ambition places on a relationship growing apart.

“Body language is important as well,” Antwine told 21Ninety. “Open arms and relaxed shoulders means a partner is receptive to you. There will be full eye contact during conversations. They’ll also be still and listening while you’re talking.”

Crossed arms, folded hands and avoiding eye contact are signs of an emotional wall that prevents a deeper connection. While ambitious people thrive on achievements, Antwine urged to not let goal-setting consume a relationship.

“A relationship is not a task you are achieving or another accomplishment under your belt,” she said. “This is how you build a life and about the emotional experience of being connected with someone.”

Establishing boundaries and relationship requirements to feel seen, safe and comfortable enough to express ambitious pursuits around your partner helps soften that hard exterior. To ensure that both people are happy in the relationship, it is essential to check in frequently. Antwine described this process in three steps, which she calls “The Three C’s:” communication, clarity and connection.

A communication issue looks like no longer sharing information or failing to express how others feel. Clarity involves not understanding the other person’s point of view despite communicating. Losing that connective tissue to each other’s goals or future vision for the relationship blocks further growth.

“There needs to be some time to revisit those areas,” she said. “If those things cannot be worked out, there needs to be more consideration for getting professional help or potentially taking a break.”