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‘Challengers’ is where tennis meets love.
But what happens in real life if you date someone in your field?

Elizabeth Glowacki, a Northeastern professor who teaches a course on interpersonal communications, said there’s pros and cons to dating someone who shares your passion.

A headshot of actress Zendaya starring in ‘Challengers’ (2024).
“Challengers” explores a love triangle between three tennis pros. Screenshot via YouTube

The Internet has fallen in love with the movie “Challengers”: its music, its stars, and its love triangle.

The film follows three tennis players — Art, Tashi and Patrick — over the course of their careers. Tashi goes from a player herself to coaching her husband, Art, after a failed relationship with Patrick who chafes at her attempts to guide him in the sport.

Beneath all the tennis shots and tangled dynamics, “Challengers” shows the challenges that come with sharing a passion or a career with someone you love

Lots of notable couples shared a career path, from musicians like Beyonce and Jay-Z, to Hollywood couples, to literary pairings like Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. It makes sense given the idea of task attraction, which is when you’re drawn to someone because of their competencies in a certain area, said Elizabeth Glowacki, an assistant teaching professor at Northeastern University who runs a course on interpersonal communications.

“Task attraction can be a really key role for some couples,” Glowacki said. 

Shared activities can not only bring couples together, but keep them together for the long haul. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be your spouse’s coach as Tashi is to Art in “Challengers.” Glowacki said couples with shared hobbies and networks benefit from a closer connection over time. While physical and romantic attraction might fade over time, this connection can help keep couples happy together through the years.

Headshot of Elizabeth Glowacki.
Northeastern assistant teaching professor Elizabeth Glowacki said having a partner who shares your passion can bring you closer together, but boundaries are important to maintaining your individual identities. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

“There’s research to show that shared activities are really important for both moving couples to a more bonded stage of their relationship,” Glowacki said. “They’re important for keeping that relationship lasting and enduring.”

A shared activity can also indicate other common values with a partner. For example, Glowacki said meeting someone through sports can indicate you both value athleticism.

“Similarities are really important for both coming together and maintaining a relationship,” Glowacki added. “(Shared activities) can lead to people unearthing other similarities.”

However, there are a few downsides to sharing a career with a spouse. For starters, Glowacki said, there’s a financial risk if your common industry undergoes a crisis

There is also the threat of things turning competitive between a couple who share talents or careers. In turn, Glowacki said, this can spark jealousy.

“The competitive drive might override the feelings of love and support,” Glowacki said. “You don’t want the support that you have for your partner to corrode because you’re both competing in the workplace.” 

“Challengers” also portrays the struggle when it comes to mentoring a partner who shares a passion with you. Tashi and Patrick’s relationship becomes strained when she gives him unsolicited tennis advice and he tells her he doesn’t see her as a coach. 

The balance between romance and mentorship when you share a field with your partner is tricky to maintain, Glowacki said, and can shift the dynamics and power balance of a relationship.

“If the balance becomes askew, that’s when a lot of relationships start to deteriorate,” she said. “If it’s a change in roles where it becomes more of a mentor-mentee relationship, that could skew the power dynamics in a way that might lead a person without as much power to do some not-so-healthy behaviors to regain power.” 

But couples in the same field can thrive, Glowacki said. But in order to do so, they must maintain boundaries.

“If you can find someone who has similar passions and perhaps even is in the same field as you, that can be beneficial and can really create a good foundation,” Glowacki said. “If boundaries aren’t established and your identities start to blend together too much, that’s when it can become problematic. … You never want to lose yourself entirely in a relationship and part of that has to do with maintaining your own identity. … You need to reserve some time, some kind of skill set for yourself.”