The Scoop: What happens when the ambitious and career-oriented woman falls in love? It’s not as simple as the romcoms would have you think. Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT, helps high-achieving women who are struggling in relationships find their romance stride. Dalila talked to us about the struggles many of her clients face, including over-functioning and anxious attachment styles, and how women can overcome these barriers and find connections that fulfill them. Dalila teaches her clients to nurture their connection with themselves and bring this security into their other relationships.

There is the trope, specifically in movies, of the career-oriented, successful, and independent person who just can’t seem to get it right in love. And more often than not, this person is a woman. The trope is so present in media that the recurring character has gained a title: The Career Woman.

Career Women are usually defined by their focus on work and a high level of professional competency and respect in the workplace. They don’t have the time for what they see as the games of love and would rather focus on taking the next step in their career.

In romcoms, the Career Woman is swept off her feet by a gorgeous man and then learns how wonderful and worth it love can be. She usually undergoes a swift change at some point in the movie that makes her open to connection, love, and partnership despite being wholly against it at the start of the movie. 

If only reality were so simple.

Dalila Jusic-LaBerge is a counselor and relationship coach who works with high-achieving women who are struggling in love. Her practice, Be Here and Now, offers in-person and virtual therapy and counseling. Similar to the Career Woman trope, Dalila’s clients know a thing or two about navigating the professional world but struggle to form lasting partnerships and fulfill them.

Dalila discussed how she helps her clients identify and correct negative relationship patterns and learn to replace them with more secure ones. 

“The term high-achieving woman sounds great, but there is definitely a psychological makeup that we see often come with it,” Dalila said. “These women are used to always trying to prove themselves worthy, which doesn’t always translate well in relationships.”

Why High-Achieving Women May Struggle in Love

Dalila is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in helping women who struggle with romantic relationships but excel in other areas. She helps her clients address and heal past hurts so they can navigate their future relationships with more security and less anxiety.

Dalila’s approach uses therapeutic techniques focused on improving the mind-body connection. She helps her clients feel connected and in touch with themselves first, and then she helps them take this connection with them into their future relationships.

High-achieving women tend to have no problem attracting partners, but the problems start once the relationship has been established. “They wind up attracting somebody very easily, but then moving into commitment becomes very difficult,” Dalila explained. “As soon as they’re attached, as soon as they’re really falling in love, they start over-functioning.”

dalila jusic laberge
Dalila specializes in helping successful and ambitious women find fulfilling relationships.

Dalila said her clients often move into over-functioning because this behavior has been rewarded in professional settings. “Many of the women I work with have elements of anxious attachment. They wind up in situationships or relationships that totally take over their life, and suddenly all they can think about is this guy, and the chase.”

Dalila also works with clients who have histories of troublesome, toxic, or abusive relationships. “On the other side, we have women who went through difficult relationships, they may have a history of abusive relationships, and they may struggle to feel like they can find somebody to love them in the way they need to be loved.”

Regardless of what her clients come with, Dalila focuses on them first. “The first part of healing is recognizing there is some missing part that’s telling us we’re not worthy of love. We’re intelligent women, but part of us is stuck there, telling us this,” she said.

Addressing & Correcting Relationship Over-Functioning

Over-functioning can manifest in various ways at the beginning of a relationship. Dalila said over-functioning and anxious attachment styles are often connected, and women who often over-function in romantic relationships also form anxious attachments.

“When things are getting more serious, and they’re forming more serious feelings for this person, and the person maybe doesn’t respond just like they did in the beginning, this over-functioning can begin,” Dalila said. “Instead of expressing worry or emotions, they’re caught in their head, thinking about how they should act, what they should say, and what they should do to keep interest.”

Over-functioning is done in an effort to preserve the relationship but often serves the opposite. “This kind of goes back to wiring, and being attuned to what people are thinking and feeling,” Dalila said. “But that’s often working against us in romantic relationships. It’s not that we shouldn’t be in tune with our partner, but that’s often not the only drive.”

dalila helps women struggling with over functioning
Overcoming over-functioning begins with attunement and self-love.

Dalila continued, “Your needs aren’t being met, and instead of communicating that, you’re trying to overthink and see what the other person is feeling or thinking, so you can become what you think they will like. This never works out well for you because deep down, you really want to be loved for who you are. 

This problem stems from our shame about our needs. Somehow we accepted the notion that our needs are somehow too much or that we are not quite worthy of the kind of love we want. 

Once you embrace that it’s OK to want someone to love you to pieces, communicating your needs becomes natural. This comes across as very confident and highly attractive to men because they love to make you happy if they are your man. 

Over-functioning can feel unproblematic and even second nature to people who have been doing it throughout their lives. “The first step is being attuned to ourselves,” Dalila said. “You need to be able to see your emotions and be in touch with them, even when they’re scary.”

Step Into Connections That Fulfill You

Tackling over-functioning begins with self-work and, eventually, radical self-love. Dalila said over-functioning occurs due to an insecurity or deeply held belief that fulfilling love won’t just come but has to be forced.

While taking some time to focus on yourself may sound great, inner work can be emotionally draining and challenging to work through. “When we look at what happens inside our emotions and heads in response to relationships, we see harmful beliefs, like something is wrong with me, or I’m horrible, or I’ll never find love,” Dalila said. 

These beliefs go deep, and addressing them often means going back to childhood and discovering where these harmful beliefs originated from. Dalila helps her clients get curious about their emotions instead of being judgmental, and teaches them to approach themselves with a desire for attunement and understanding.

dalila jusic laberge
Dalila encouraged women to be open to the experience of dating.

“Once you’ve attuned yourself, and given yourself love and compassion, then you can have a far more level-headed approach to relationships,” Dalila said. Once clients are secure in themselves, the uncertainty that can come with the early stages of a relationship doesn’t feel so overwhelmingly awful.

With the foundation of self-understanding, women can build the self-awareness and communication skills they need to form great relationships. They can even check out Dalila’s communication scripts to have some material templates as a jumping off point. But none of those skills are possible without the inner transformation first.

“When we start dating, we often go into it with a performance-based mindset,” Dalila said. “Instead, just go out there with the goal of meeting another person. You can’t be yourself when you’re anxious about your performance.”