Ask the Relationship Expert: My Partner Resents the Time I Spend on My Business
A relationship expert responds to a founder who has a hard time being mentally present.
What happens when running a business gets in the way of your romantic relationship, or vice versa? In this new weekly column, relationship expert Marla N. Mattenson responds to entrepreneurs with love dilemmas -- because the hidden power of successful businesses are the stable, loving relationships behind the scenes.
I just launched my business this year and it's doing great, but it's eating up all of my time and my relationship is really suffering. My girlfriend tries to be accommodating and understanding, but she still gets resentful about my lack of presence. And, honestly, she's right. I'm attached to my phone 24 hours a day. How can I loosen my grip on my phone to be present with my girlfriend without losing the momentum that's happening in my business?
No Time for Love
Dear No Time,
First, congratulations on the awareness that you aren't as present with your girlfriend as you'd like to be! Many of us entrepreneurs feel time pressure particularly during the early years of a business or times of massive growth. Too often we have the best intentions to connect with our partners, but even when we're physically present, our mental focus is elsewhere. This can leave our partners feeling empty and alone.
Carving out time in your calendar is step one, but that is not enough. Of course, putting her in your calendar shows her you care. The real winning move here is to make sure you are fully present with your girlfriend during your quality time together. She wants to feel your full attention. This begs the question, how do you stay present when your mind keeps jumping from thought to thought?
The infancy stage of a new business requires a lot of time and attention, so it's natural to feel some anxiety when shifting your focus away from it, even for a moment. It might feel as though the whole thing will fall apart if your eyes aren't on it at all times. Thus is born the unhealthy pattern of being attached to your phone 24 hours a day!
One very doable solution is to invite your partner on a "digital detox date" a few times a week. These dates are just what they sound like -- electronics free. The date can be as short as a 20-minute walk around the block, or sitting on the couch, or just chatting while cooking dinner together. If you want to take it up a notch, on your next date leave your phone in the car and give your girlfriend your undivided attention for the entire meal.
Your effort to show her with action that she is more important than the phone will make her feel loved and cherished. When you are nourishing the relationship consistently the pressure to over deliver on special occasions like Valentine's Day and other holidays lessens significantly. Your girlfriend will feel more fulfilled on a daily basis and any extra effort becomes icing on the cake.
On a daily basis, notice where your focus is, and every time your mind jumps to your business, call your attention back into the moment by noticing something physical in front of you -- her eyes, her smile, the way she looks at you. Remember your hard work is doing more than just building an empire; it's creating a rich life with the ones you love. And practicing this with your sweetheart will also impact the way you show up in your business. Your capacity to stay present in stressful situations will increase without any extra effort.