If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…your environment has a huge impact on your success. Your spouse is a major part of your environment. It’s not easy being married to an entrepreneur. Your better half has to put up with the late nights, crazy ideas, and the constant checking of email.
As if marriage wasn’t hard enough, throw an entrepreneur into the mix and you’ve got some extra chaos to deal with. There’s no questioning how important it is for your spouse to support you. Without a doubt the person who’s had the biggest influence on my own success is my wife Brooke.
So who better to talk to you about the important role a spouse plays in an entrepreneurs life than my very own wife?
She’s been married to an OCD, ADD-driven entrepreneur such as myself for over a decade. She’s also quite the entrepreneur herself having run a successful photography business as well as being a writer.
Your spouse wants you to succeed. They want your vision to become a reality. They want to help you…they just may not know how…
Without further ado, my wife Brooke with 8 tips on being married to an entrepreneur:
Patience: He will not succeed overnight. He will work nights and some weekends. He will most likely spend more time with screens than he does with you. It takes a great deal of patience to be married to an entrepreneur. My advice? Fall in love with his dreams and make them your own. This makes spending time together beneficial to both of you and for multiple reasons. Long Sunday drives can be spent holding hands and dreaming, somewhere in the middle of nowhere he will believe he’s working, but you’ll know you’re loving and living. If his dream is in fertilizer and cow manure just doesn’t do it for you then get a hobby, or two, and grab a shovel every now and then just to understand how he spends his days. You may not be interested in his business, but you are interested in him. Stay committed to him and remain patient.
Cheerleader: He will need your unwavering support. No matter how many praise him for his knowledge or strong work ethic it’s always your support that means the most. Even when you’d rather shake some sense into him rather than support him, he needs a cheerleader by his side. He especially needs to be able to count on your support when it looks as though he’s loosing the biggest game of his life. Now is when he needs to hear you loudest of all.
Ask him how you can help him or how you can specifically pray for him. Maybe all he needs is for you to sit and brainstorm with him for a while. It won’t be easy to always cheer him on. You may tend to take good times for granted and just give him a little pat on the back when the good keeps rolling in. And in bad times you might feel the need to hide in a hole until the storm passes. Good or bad, keep cheering. Keep supporting. Keep reminding him why he’s on this journey. As you’re supporting him you’ll also notice yourself taking in those gentle reminders of why you’re both on this journey.
Listen: Being an entrepreneur is extremely lonely. In most situations they spend their days isolated from the beat of the world. Either physically isolated because they work alone in a home office or mentally isolated because there are few people in their friendship circle who “get it”.
Understand that he is forever brainstorming new ideas, possibly without even realizing. Maybe it’s a new blog post idea or it’s a whole new scary level he’d like to raise his business to in the coming year. His mind is always turned on. My husband has notepads planted in every room of the house as well as the cars and in my purse. He has learned to write down any idea or inspiration as soon as it hits. His brain never stops. I’ve accepted it and in time I have even come to love him for it.
Due to the isolation so many solo entrepreneurs face he most likely has few people he can turn to as his sounding board. You don’t have to understand all the in’s and out’s of his business to fill this incredibly important role. Just listen. He’s going to have his share of doubts and fears about his own ideas, just let him talk it through. Give him honest yet caring feedback if he asks for it.
Life: Entrepreneurs are usually extreme workaholics. They love what they do so much they have no idea why it’s not ok to live at their laptop. Some (my husband) forget about the life they aren’t living in favor of checking another “to do” off the list. Help him discover and fall in love with LIFE! Set “office hours” that work for your family and make an agreement to stick to those hours whenever possible. This might take some effort for both of you. My husband typically needs a 15 minute warning that it’s almost 5pm and at 5pm on the button I walk in and point to my wrist. That’s our signal that it’s now family time and he needs to wrap it up. (Yeah, I’m that wife.) I fully respect his work hours and unless we’ve discussed that his work will run late I always expect the same respect for family time. We saw a problem with his work hours once our first child was born. We talked about what needed to happen to please us both and we made the commitment to see it through. It really can be that simple if you’re both committed to respecting each others needs.
Another little tip on this subject, if your entre-spouse is like mine then he could literally talk about nothing other than work for the rest of his life because to him it’s not work, it’s fun. But I just can’t do it, I have to talk about mindless TV shows and current events and gripe about my failed Pinterest attempts. To manage this so we both get plenty of what we need we set coffee dates. Usually once per week but definitely twice per month we go to a coffee shop to have work talk. It’s so cute to see how these chats re-energize him and fire him up. I know the way to his heart is a notepad and an open mind.
Forgive & Forget: He will fail. He will possibly fail more times than he succeeds. You cannot hold his failures over his head. Give him grace. Give him encouragement. Entrepreneurs usually bounce back faster than the average person, but they’re still human. The reality is for an entrepreneur to succeed they have to first fail because they’re always trying and testing new things. It’s a scary cycle for us normal people, but it’s all part of the thrill for them.
Remember, a person hasn’t truly failed at something until they give up and stop trying. He needs you to let him move on, move forward. I know right now you’re thinking back to a time when an idea went wrong and because of that you had to blow through your savings to make ends meet or maybe right this very moment you’re living the scary sacrifice of a fail. Believe me I understand, we’ve seen a lot of unknown darkness career-wise in our marriage span. I’ve questioned God, I’ve questioned our motives and our goals. I’ve cried, I’ve laid in bed awake and worried until my body exhausted itself and I’ve come close to giving up a few times and thought about convincing my husband to just go do something normal and “safe”. But what I’ve never done is hold a grudge. I’ve never held over his head a missed vacation that we couldn’t afford or a once sky high credit card bill that built up just out of sheer survival. I forgive and forget and always look forward. I truly believe this is what keeps him going. It’s a small thing I can do to make sure he never fails by giving up on his dreams.
Respect & Appreciation: Respect is a key ingredient in any relationship or partnership. In marriage, it’s vital. When you happened to be married to an entrepreneur, it’s crucial. Most entrepreneurs have a high regard for themselves and their ideas. This may look like ego but I believe it’s a very important trait for survival for our beloved entrepreneurs.
They must believe in themselves and in their ideas. They must know the value they bring to our world and feel appreciated. It’s equally important that you wholeheartedly believe in them. Trust them. Respect them. And show it. After all, it’s well deserved respect and appreciation when our world was literally built on their backs. Words of affirmation is my husbands strongest love language (from the book “The 5 Love Languages”, get it!) and I would guess that’s a common thread among many other entrepreneurs. In the book, Psychologist William James is quoted as saying “possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated.” How true is that?! It feels good to know you’re appreciated. It feels good to have your hard work recognized. Give him the respect he is so deserving of. In turn you’ll be rewarded by him, I promise.
Communication (but let’s call it what it really is… Handling a disagreement): First and foremost you’re husband and wife. You’re building and sharing a life together. At some point you will question your entre-spouses sanity, or at least their latest idea. In our marriage my husband tends to be the dreamer and I am the realist. Sound familiar? I truly think my husband is brilliant, but yeah, he’s had some really bad ideas! Some of them he’ll even admit to. So how do you handle a situation you fear could somehow do damage to the life you’ve both worked to build together?
Listen. Think before you speak. Keep a calm and soft voice. First focus on all aspects where you agree. Carefully explain your fears. Maintain mutual respect. Never criticize. Work together to solve the real issue, (the real issue is usually hidden under what I call issue debris… which are smaller issues that build up as a result of the real issue blowing up inside). Move forward on the areas where you agree and schedule to revisit the other areas at a later date. Move on. Sounds simple. It is. Through many, um, “learning opportunities” this is the formula that sees us past the bitter blow-ups that help no one to actual loving and heartfelt conversations that move our family in the direction of our goals. Remember the outcome you’re looking for is not a winner and a loser. You want a win/win marriage.
Roll the credits: I’ll admit I really struggled for a while with the fact that although John and I were a team, partners in life and in business, he was in the spotlight and I was totally left in the dark. Behind the curtain. Hidden in a corner. You get the idea. I have never craved the spotlight, I actually do prefer living a behind the scenes life, but some of these great ideas, inspiring words, whatever were mine! He was sucking up all my praise.
The breaking point came one weekend when his mom called to chat. He had just walked in the door and I greeted him out of breath and a sweaty mess. I had spent the entire day cleaning and taking care of our toddler. Those don’t mix well. I asked him to take out a bag of trash that I had already taken out of the trashcan, tied up and set next to the backdoor. As soon as he return his mom called and from the kitchen I heard it, “oh not much, we just spent the day cleaning the house”. We? We?? Those “handling a disagreement” tips I just gave? Yeah I hadn’t learned those just yet. I lost it.
For years I’d felt like all my hard work and invested time had gone unknown, like I didn’t exist. And now I wasn’t even getting credit for cleaning all day?! Somewhere in the middle of that argument it hit me how immature I sounded. He was apologizing but I was digging up issue debris from every direction to throw at him. I was hurt and I wanted him to hurt too. And while it wasn’t really fair of him to take all the credit, or any credit, for cleaning the house that day it did hit me that the recognition issue I thought I had with him was a heart issue I had with myself.
My deep need for credit or recognition came from somewhere inside that hurt and felt insecure. This damage occurred in my life long before he entered, but it was easy to point the blame in his direction. Maybe living life behind the scenes isn’t your internal struggle today, but I’ll bet you have one. I told you this story to make you aware that sometimes we’re all guilty of putting our own heart issues off on our loved ones. It provides relief to put the fault all on them and take it out on them. Make it theirs to deal with so that we don’t have to. But that won’t work. It always comes back to you.
If you take nothing else from this please take this last bit of advice to heart as it has been the key to moving us forward. Schedule a date night right now and use that alone time to create or re-evaluate your vision. What do you want your lives to look like in the next 5, 10, 20+ years?
Will he still be traveling for his business or will travel only be for pleasure by then? Will he still be running his business or will he have sold it? In what neighborhood is your dream home waiting for you? How would you like to spend your days? Be as specific as possible and stay focused on your overall vision. Break down goals vs. vision. Goals are the details, your vision is the ultimate dream. Always keep dreaming together.
I sincerely hope something I’ve shared can be molded to fit your relationship. Keeping our marriage healthy is something we are constantly working on. Healthy things grow. Neglected things die. Keep working to make your marriage even healthier.
Photo by Lindsey Johnson