I am not Dr. Phil. I am not a psychologist or marriage counselor. I am merely a married entrepreneur who has seen the ups and downs that can result from this lifestyle. Business and marriage don't always play nicely together.
I know how easy it can be to lose sight of what is most important. I know because I have let this happen and I am fighting each day to avoid letting it happen again.
Entrepreneurship takes marriage, which is already incredibly complicated, and intensifies its complexity.
Entrepreneurs are by nature very passionate people. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have the drive to push through all of the difficulties that come with building their businesses. This passion may be what made your spouse fall in love with you in the first place. It is part of who you are.
Unfortunately, this same passion for what we do can lead to some negative externalities in other aspects of our lives. If we aren’t careful, our most important relationships can be neglected as we obsess over our businesses.
If you love your spouse, you can appreciate the gravity of this.
Ask yourself this:
If my business succeeds at the expense of my relationship with my wife (and family), will I be happy?
Consider if you would feel like you had accomplished something great if this was the result, or would you just feel that you traded one love for another, leaving you no better off for it.
If you are a cold, stoic entrepreneur who wants a reason to read on, here is something to think about. Divorce will decimate your assets to fractions of what they were to start with. Think about about all of the costs involved. If there are children in the picture, they increase exponentially. I hope you don’t need that reminder to read on. I don’t think many of this type of person would have read this far into the article though.
Seeing as I have only been married to one woman and I only know what she and I need from each other, this article shouldn’t be digested as a tutorial for marriage, but rather points of insight for you to consider.
1. Be on the same page
Your spouse should know what it is that you’re doing in your business so they can set reasonable expectations for you. If you have a client who is paying you 5x your normal price to work on a project through the weekend, your spouse should know why you are doing that and why it is important to you.
If you are stressed about something, let them know. When people know how you feel, your interactions will be much smoother. If someone seems irritated for no reason, it is easy to resent them for it.
If you know someone is upset because, for example, they just got burnt on a deal, you can sympathize with them. Instead of feeling anger toward you, your spouse can now be of comfort to you
2. Be upfront about your finances
Don’t pretend that you are making more or less than you actually are. When your spouse understands your finances, they will know what to expect from you as far as time speant working. If you are looking pretty ugly on your monthly bills, you have to work more. That is unfortunately, the nature of entrepreneurship.
It can work the other way as well. If you are really making it rain, take some time off to spend with your wife, friends, and family.
3. Dedicate and schedule time to spend with each other
If you don’t plan it, it will not happen like it should. Set firm times for when you will spend time with each other and totally check out of work for that time. Make dates with your spouse and keep them.
If you don't plan it, it likely won't ever happen.
4. Automate some things
Is my entrepreneur showing? Perhaps, but this is something that can go a long way.
Is there shame in making sure that your love is conveyed to your spouse by somewhat “computerizing it”? No. I have to remind myself of a lot of things each day. I do this because the things are important to me. Marriage is no different.
Entrepreneurs tend to focus so much on one thing that they need reminded of others.
- Set alarms to remind you to text something nice to your spouse and remind them how much you love them.
- Plan deliveries of flowers or surprise gifts ahead of time.
Does she need to know why you did something nice? Does it matter if you’re doing it like a “to-do” list? That is your call, the point is that you want her to feel important and loved and you are aware that you may not remember to do this like you ought to, and you understand the best way to make sure it happens is to plan it more. It might not be as romantic, but that’s love in my book.
5. Sacrifice some sleep if you have to
You can wake up earlier or stay up later to get some work done when your wife and family are asleep. Be sure to still get at least 6 hours of sleep though. If you don’t you won’t be doing anyone any favors.
Here is an article that I wrote regarding getting through a day with little or no sleep.
6. Focus on quality over quantity
I got into the habit of going to bed when my wife did at 10 o’clock. While this was painfully early for me, I felt that it was a good way for us to spend time together. The problem wasn’t that we were together, but we weren’t spending quality time together. We were both reading or watching a show or something that wasn’t letting us talk and really spend quality time together.
Going to bed at the same time was/is fine, but it isn’t a substitute for the real quality time that your spouse needs and deserves.
7. Turn off your phone
This is brutal, I know. As Tim Ferriss would say, emergencies don’t seem to happen like you expect when you decide not to stay active on your email 24/7. But you don’t want to be distracted by work when you have committed to spending time with your spouse. It’s so easy to just “take a second to glance at your messages” that turns into an hour of work!
How about you? How has being an entrepreneur affected your relationships?