Ever since she met her husband, Junab Ali, Denise Ali has known that she would always be, in a sense, "the other woman." "We've known each other since we were 15," says Denise, "and he's always talked about having his own business. When it finally happened, it wasn't a big surprise." Except for the timing: Their baby was 6 months old in 2000, when Junab, now 32, quit his lucrative day job to start San Antonio-based Mobius Partners, offering computer infrastructure solutions to small businesses. Whenever Denise couldn't calm their crying baby, she knew the noise might be disturbing Junab, especially if he was on the phone--he was just down the hall in the spare bedroom/office.
Do entrepreneurs make good husbands or wives? It depends whom you talk to, of course, but clearly, marriage to an entrepreneur can be difficult.
Even now that Mobius Partners generates $12 million and employs nine, Denise, 31, admits that being married to an entrepreneur is challenging. "My husband is a type-A personality," she says. "He's a micromanager, and when there's stress at work, it's stressful at home. We're married to the business."
Startup entrepreneurs tend to make the worst spouses, observes Pam Brill, a psychologist, business consultant and author of The Winner's Way. "During startup, the major resource for achieving success is your own time. You don't have a lot of extra time or energy to share with a partner or a family."
But Brill believes that as the entrepreneur's business improves, so does the marriage. "Entrepreneurs who can keep their businesses and personal lives balanced make some of the best spouses, for the reasons they're successful in business. They're often spontaneous risk-takers, and can see outside the box. It's only when they get caught up in that frenzy that they seem obsessed with the business." Indeed, Denise says Junab is almost always home during the evenings and weekends--one reason they're looking forward to their eighth anniversary in June.
Doug Fyffe, 48, usually finds it easy to incorporate his personal life with Babe Ease LLC, the million-dollar, baby-friendly product business his wife, Missy Cohen-Fyffe, 43, runs out of their Pelham, New Hampshire, home. "My day starts with running our oldest son to school, and I leave before the first employee arrives," Doug explains. "I usually get home by 6 p.m., and [the three employees] are cleared out. But when I come home early, our driveway's full, and it's kind of odd."
Rachel Poses also finds she can't avoid living and breathing her spouse's business. Eric Poses, 31, started All Things Equal Inc., a board game company in Santa Monica, California, in 1997--in 2004, he earned $1 million in revenue.
The company's driving force is the board game Loaded Questions, which forces players to answer complicated questions . . . like how your spouse's business affects your marriage. "When we want to go on a vacation, it's wonderful because we can do that," says Rachel, 31, who has been married more than three years. But she knows that even on vacation, she doesn't have Eric's undivided attention. "It's a worry to leave the business because it's not like somebody else is running it."
But being married to an entrepreneur can be rewarding, too. "Without Missy having done this, I never would have seen this side of her," says Doug.
And Rachel notes that while she and Eric frequently spend their free time talking about board games, she isn't bored: "At least we're not talking about insurance all the time."
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.