Author: Malini Bhatia, Co-founder & CEO of Marriage.com
Stability can be the cornerstone of a successful marriage. While some couples do thrive on the thrill of the unexpected, most want want stability in their relationship, a foundation to build their life forward. But if one person in the marriage is an entrepreneur, things can fluctuate between stability, spontaneity, and unpredictability on all fronts: time, support, energy, money, and commitments.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or married to one, marriage is a negotiation that deserves all of your focus. Let’s take a look at four critical areas of discussion for this unique circumstance:
An entrepreneur’s schedule can shift wildly from week to week, even day to day. Meetings with investors, start-up woes due to lack of resources, or troubleshooting that requires rapid-response; all of these and more are commonplace for entrepreneurs. Holidays and weekends may have little meaning, while evenings may no longer be reserved for date nights. In short — it’s a bit unpredictable.
If you are an entrepreneur: Understand that these challenges come from your schedule, not your spouses. Any growing resentment you may detect is not the fault of your spouse; it’s a natural human response to the lack of stability. Sit down and help set expectations, particularly during volatile periods, and keep a calendar with as far out as possible. When things stabilize a little, create blocks of time dedicated to your spouse.
If your spouse is an entrepreneur: Your spouse may forget things or need to adjust on the fly. Know that this is going to be the norm for some periods and be flexible. At the same time, your needs matter, and you should communicate how you’re feeling in a way that is both supportive of your spouse’s business endeavors and your own personal well-being.
Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster ride. It’s celebrating when a beta test succeeds. It’s panicking when things go wrong before launch. It’s scrambling when time and resources are low. At times like this, the spouse of an entrepreneur may be the most valuable person on the team: a calming, supportive voice that helps ground things.
If you are an entrepreneur: Talk with your spouse about their level of involvement. Some people can be as effective as a consultant, and others want no part of it. Most people are somewhere in between. Gauge your spouse and stick to it — you never want your spouse to feel overwhelmed or ignored — and have other support lined up to supplement (friends, family, colleagues).
If your spouse is an entrepreneur: Know that in times of crisis, the business may be all you hear about during meals, t-ball games, and coffee. Express what your personal limits are while being supportive — you did, after all, marry an entrepreneur. At the same time, your needs matter, so line up your own support system to vent or simply ignore the business side of things.
Being an entrepreneur is mentally and physically exhausting. After an overwhelming week, date night may be the last thing on your mind. However, shifting your focus is an essential survival tool. That doesn’t necessarily mean a high-energy outing, but it’s important to recognize that sometimes it’s time off can be revitalizing.
If you are an entrepreneur: Plan your leisure time smartly based on your upcoming schedule, even if it’s date night with takeout and Netflix. However, maybe going out will be refreshing, even if it’s a hump to get out the door. Regardless, remember your family commitments. Don’t overtax yourself and plan ahead to balance everything.
If your spouse is an entrepreneur: It’s a battle between schedule and energy, so be flexible but don’t be a pushover — if there’s a family commitment that’s important, make your voice heard. It’s also important that you take care of yourself, whether that’s a long hike, a massage, yoga, or whatever else you need to recharge.
Entrepreneurship is an investment. Rather than making a steady salary, it’s a gamble that may pay off big later on. However, cash flow is going to be hit-and-miss for a while, and long-term planning, along with a previously saved nest egg, will be necessary to navigate this.
If you are an entrepreneur: Be honest with your spouse about the financial situation, and always plan for the worst for a safety net in case things don’t go smoothly. And if you run into bonus cash from an investor or early sales, it doesn’t hurt to reward your spouse for patience and support.
If your spouse is an entrepreneur: Create daily, monthly, and long-term financial requirements. Marrying an entrepreneur may mean sacrificing things like a vacation or new car, though the rewards can be far greater than a 9-to-5 position.
Communication is the key to any healthy and successful marriage — and it’s a common theme through all of these points. Even under a hectic schedule with financial duress, many couples survive and thrive because of strong communication. Start with that, and use the above guidelines to build your relationship further. It may be difficult at times, but your marriage, like any good startup, is worth the investment.
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