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Great Entrepreneur, Lousy Lover? Best-selling author and therapist Esther Perel says too many entrepreneurs sacrifice their personal relationships at the altar of their business.

By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


To be an entrepreneur, you have to do things differently, think outside the box, take the path less traveled. You have to dream big, think big and tackle the impossible.

In doing so, your ego can pretty easily become inflated. And an elevated sense of self-importance, combined with some legitimately long work days, can leave your personal relationships tortured -- or nonexistent.

Too often, entrepreneurs invest all of their excitement, drive and hunger for newness in their work, says best-selling author and relationship consultant Esther Perel. As a result, friends and family often get the leftovers -- the flat, uninspired, exhausted side of a person. And that's not healthy for anyone.

Related: Reality Check: You Need to Care About More Than Your Business

Sure, your loved ones might forgive you for the first few "I have to cancel" texts or for showing up late and drained. But entrepreneurial ambition can only be a placeholder for personal affection for so long. As time goes by, "you actually leave a lot of people resentful and hungry in your trail," says Perel, following a speech at The Feast social entrepreneurship conference in Brooklyn, N.Y., last month.

It's a scenario she's seen over and over in entrepreneurs' romantic lives. At the beginning of a relationship, even the most ambitious types can somehow make time for the person they're pursuing ("We are never less busy and less stressed and less tired than when we are dating and falling in love"). For the other person, ambition is even part of what makes the entrepreneur an attractive partner. But once an entrepreneur begins to feel as though he or she has "won" the person, the energy devoted to impressing that person gets diverted back to the business.

In her therapy practice, Perel has observed that people who have left their entrepreneurial partners often end up with a more available partner the next time around. The excitement gets replaced by stability.

"No matter how compelling and fascinating and not boring and engaging and exciting" the entrepreneur is, if he or she doesn't ever stop working and pay attention to the friend or lover, then the relationship will burn out, says Perel.

Related: Stress, Anxiety, Loneliness: How This Entrepreneur Lost Himself and Bounced Back Stronger

So, how to avoid sabotaging your personal relationships? It comes down to "showing up," physically and emotionally. Perel says entrepreneurs should actively refocus some of their "erotic intelligence" -- or passionate drive for adventure and excitement -- to their home life.

And it's to their benefit to do so. In addition to adrenaline-fueled excitement, human beings need the connection and security that comes from human relationships, she says. That security is especially important for entrepreneurs, especially given the high failure rate for startups.

To deepen your personal relationships, ask yourself what you can do to make your friends and family to feel special. That doesn't mean you have to shower them with physical gifts -- it can be as simple as thanking your partner for taking care of the house.

And don't dally. Relationships need to be attended to carefully and responsively."You do it with your clients. You make every client feel special, that they matter. What you want in your relationships is to make people feel that they matter," she says.

Related: The Founder of Dinner Lab On How to Manage the Unsexy Side of Rapid Expansion

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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