Are Entrepreneurs Doomed When it Comes to Finding Love?
Considering that tomorrow is Valentine's Day, chances are that a gnawing question is eating at you and at many of your fellow overachievers. That question: Can entrepreneurs find love? Or, will our gravestones read “Founder of …” instead of “beloved husband/wife”?
Witnessing yet another entrepreneur couple, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, take a nosedive, it’s normal to ask ourselves, “What hope do I/we have if the biggest players and their relationships are falling apart?”
My own response is, “Don’t give up!” There’s still hope for your own power-couple love story to blossom. You just need a road map on how to thrive in business and your relationship as an entrepreneur. Read on!
If you, or the person you’re dating is in the early stages of launching a business, then get ready for a wild ride. A study from the Harp Family Institute (HFI), a research outfit studying the effects of entrepreneurship on relationships, found that 80 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed had experienced cash- flow problems in their new ventures. More important, a direct correlation was found between increases in financial problems and a decrease of physical romance in their relationships.
Still, even with these challenges, there is hope. As a relationship coach who specializes in entrpreneur couples specifically, and as a business owner myself for the past two decades, let me ease your worry by sharing ... a story. It may bear similarities to your own. I’ve changed the names of the principals to protect their privacy, but the story itself is told here exactly the way it happened.
In this together
"Sherry" and "Brad" initially started dating when Sherry’s business was just six months old and Brad was still working full-time for a company, diligently planning his escape into the entrepreneurial realm. Since their relationship at the time was new, there was a lot of chemistry to mitigate the typical challenges these two encountered. "Typical challenges" of course describes the way in which increased stress and anxiety tend to lower physical drive and desire.
But Sherry and Brad were fine, or thought they were. Yes, they both worked long hours: Sherry, to get her business off the ground and Brad, to develop his business plan and secure funding. Neither of them minded the hours because they had the shared attitude, “We’re in this together!”
But then things started to come apart; and three years into the relationship, they came to me for help. Sherry’s business was thriving while Brad’s business was less than a year old. Sherry was resentful that Brad seemed stressed all the time, spending every waking moment working on his venture. On the other side of the aisle, Brad was angry that Sherry couldn’t just understand the priorities he'd set and support him as he had done with her when she was a budding business owner.
What I quickly discovered was that Brad was handling his stress levels on his own without turning to Sherry for love and comfort. Adding to the strain was the enormous pressure he felt to prove himself after leaving the corporate world.
A daily dose of love and support
“Turn toward each other in times of celebration as well as in times of stress,” I counseled them. “Have a 20-minute meeting daily where you share your ‘to-do’ lists with each other [10 minutes each]. Be sure to include: a) what you’re excited about; b) what challenges you’re facing; c) what’s getting in the way of solving those challenges; and d) any support you’d like to receive.”
The couple agreed to embark on just such a daily meeting, and this one exercise alone began to shift Sherry’s feelings from resentment to compassion. This one-on-one re-invoked the couple's “We’re in this together” attitude that had been so successful in their early days of dating.
Here are some other magic love potions that will help break through any relationship blocks:
Keep in mind that the skill set that got you to where you are in business is not the same as the skills you need to nurture a successful relationship. Ambition in business translates into control, into a strategy of bulldozing (when necessary) and into decision-making for the betterment of your company without any personal feelings involved. In a relationship, it is the exact opposite: Aany major decision made should include your partner, particularly when the decision impacts your life together.
Reserve a digital detox date (D3) for Valentine’s Day. What your partner desires most from you, the entrepreneur, is an electronics-free, pre-planned date that makes him or her feel you’ve been thinking about ways to increase your amount of quality time together. So put all electronics on snooze, airplane mode or silence notification. Or be bold and turn those devices off completely (for at least two hours). This will send a clear message to your partner that you care and want to devote your full attention to your special evening.
Choose to save pockets of energy throughout the day so that by the end of the workday you have some reserve-energy left in the tank for self-care and being present with your partner. This could mean making a conscious decision to sign off from work an hour earlier than you’d like, or delegating work to your team.
Pre-plan how you intend to respond in the next conflict. By doing this, you’ll show up as your best self instead of saying something you might regret. Plan in advance that before speaking, you’ll pause long enough to share this one sentence, “I’m having a reaction.” This statement is both easy to say and easy for your partner to hear. It is also the closest thing to taking 100 percent responsibility for the conflict.
But what if you don't yet have a partner?
At this point, if you’re single, you may be asking, “What about those of us who aren’t dating anyone yet, or are in the early stages of dating someone?” Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you!
If you’re in the early dating phase, allow yourself to be discerning. Your mission should be to find someone who loves your quirky entrepreneur qualities rather than judges them. That is, find someone who is comfortable with boundaries, clarity and truth sharing - three things a lot of people avoid when they're first dating.
Be "you" at all costs at the beginning of dating someone new. Free time is sacred to us entrepreneurs because we always want more of it! This, then, will make it all the more important for you to show up as your 100 percent true authentic self in the early months of a new relationship. It will enable you to find out faster whether the person you're with truly loves the real you, and avoid having to drop that “This is who I really am” bomb months into your time as a couple.
Remember that your goal is not perfection. It's not the complete avoidance of conflict. It’s about how quickly you pivot toward each other, drop all defenses and remember the truth: You love each other! On Valentine's Day tomorrow, you can work anything out.