Relationships are never easy, but being an entrepreneur presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to balancing the demands of work with the needs of a romantic partner. After entrepreneurial drive nearly broke up their seven-year marriage, Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor overcame the challenges and wrote a book about their experience. Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur (Wiley, 2013) explores the difficulties entrepreneurs and their spouses face when balancing the demands of work and romance.
"The passion, excitement, and commitment that the entrepreneur has to work are the same qualities that [they] will bring to the relationship, which seems like an advantage; but enthusiasm unbounded leads to exhaustion in both a work and relationship context," says Feld. Take these steps to improve both your business and relationship success.
Related: How to Avoid Burnout
1. Schedule together time.
Feld says setting priorities and making small schedule changes to accommodate the needs of your relationship can help strengthen your bond. Feld, a managing director at Foundry Group, never schedules high priority activities or deadlines on a Friday, as doing so is likely to create a scenario where work drifts into Friday night and even the weekend.
Feld and Batchelor are also strong proponents of monthly "life dinners" where they get out of the house and talk about the past month while setting goals for the next month. "Having a scheduled time together on the calendar can give you both something to look forward to," says Feld.
2. Stop reactive behavior.
Relationship expert Debra Macleod (www.marriagesos.com) trains executives how to manage the demands of work without losing their relationship and says in order for a partnership to be successful, entrepreneurs need to avoid reacting to every emergency. "There's a huge mental shift that needs to happen so that we learn the difference between responding to a demand for our time and reacting," says Macleod.
The next time you receive an "emergency" email during family time, ask how your reaction will impact your relationship. “Many of us assume that the relationship is a constant, that it isn’t going anywhere, but that's not true," she says.
3. Make romance a business decision.
"Productive workers have lower stress levels," says Macleod. Think of romance as just as important to managing stress as your exercise routine or diet. "Romance is good for business because you're happy, you're clear headed [and] you have that kind of balance [that makes you more productive]," says Macleod.
4. Keep business out of your bedroom.
Transform your bedroom into a sensual escape. "Make it a place where you can go and have a retreat, and a technology-free zone," says Macleod. Put overhead lights on a dimming switch, add soft linens and extra throw pillows for increased comfort and keep the space clear of work papers and technology.
Taking a half hour before bedtime to talk, without the laptop or blackberry, is a great way to ensure you stay connected to your partner after a busy day. Be careful of your conversation topics, though. Feld and Batchelor warn the bedroom is not the place to bring up charged topics. "Your bedroom should be a sanctuary and a safe haven from the demands of the world," they say.