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The pandemic has hit the global economy hard and forced us to switch gears, changing the way we operate. While many businesses have suffered, the spirit of entrepreneurship seems to have been rekindled with renewed vigor.
Entrepreneurs are people with a unique blend of risk-taking ability, out-of-the-box thinking and unflagging optimism. They tend to see challenges as opportunities. Perhaps that explains the sprouting of more than 804,000 new businesses in the U.S. alone during the pandemic year of 2020.
While entrepreneurs thrive on adventure, research says that most entrepreneurs are likely to bore through the impending uncertainty — and they do much better when they have the predictability and stability of marriage backing them. In fact, studies point to a direct correlation between growth in business and a thriving love life.
This is not to say that it will be easy. Maintaining a healthy relationship will take a lot of work from both the partner and the entrepreneur, but as many entrepreneurial couples will attest, it is possible. Being in a relationship with an entrepreneur takes patience, perseverence and tact in communicating your needs as a partner.
So how do we make the most of the unique set of gifts that entrepreneurial couples have? Lana Elco, a relationship and intimacy coach, and Dr. Christy Wise, a motivational leader, consultant and founder of Life Sauce, weigh in on some key challenges that entrepreneurial couples encounter — and some strategies to navigate them.
Risk-tolerance needs trust
Entrepreneurs have a high risk-tolerance. Often that means that the partner has to shoulder the responsibility of paying the bills and bringing a steady income to run the family, sometimes translating into extra work hours. To be able to do this consistently, month after month and paycheck by paycheck, requires that the partner trust the vision of the business just as much as their entrepreneur — and stomach some of the risk themselves.
Elco explains her own journey as an entrepreneur with her partner. “I was an immigrant from Ukraine, I never applied for a job, just started a business,” Elco says. “It was inspiring for [my partner] to watch me grow and go through different challenges. He supported me but was also sometimes scared to hear about my decisions and my investments. I trusted the process — that the clients would show up and the business would grow. That I only needed to show up 100%. That he trusted me helped me keep the trust in myself too.”
Dr. Wise expands further, saying, “If one loves predictability and the other person loves risk, it can cause a lot of anxiety and stress to your partner. “Knowing how to communicate so your partner can hear what you’re sharing is paramount. Being generous with each other, knowing each other’s triggers and speaking in a way that they can hear are important.”
Personal growth is a must for a healthy balance
Entrepreneurs have often willingly waved away the common, predictable lifestyle — which means that every day needs a certain spontaneity and willingness to see joy in simple things. In this life, there are no clear boundaries. Business hours are hardly demarcated from personal hours, and there are no off hours. In such a situation, it’s not uncommon for one partner to shoulder all the responsibilities of a family. It could mean stepping up for an absent parent or doubling up on home chores. The strain is palpable in just a few weeks.
“[It] takes a lot of personal development work and a certain level of psychospiritual work to be able to shift the consciousness and not stress out about business when it’s time to spend time with family,” says Elco. “It requires a lot of inner work.”
Dr. Wise urges couples to actively seek this balance by engaging in childlike play, explaining that “it puts you in this childlike mentality where there’s possibility and celebration over the simplest things. I literally have my couples playing four square and going to the elementary school to play wall ball for 20 minutes. Incredibly wealthy, successful couples get kicked out of a high school playground because the kids are playing soccer. Ultimately, I want to say that celebration is important, but not necessarily celebrating like an adult. Something that takes you out of your normal role together creates this effect on the relationship.”
In a relationship, it isn’t just about hard work but about finding a way to thrive. This requires an “off” switch and agreements about how the rhythms of daily life are organized. Both parties have to be on the same page for this to work without resentment or strain.
Mixing love and business
Now that many of us work from home, we are literally “taking work home” all the time. In an entrepreneurial couple’s life, an important factor for the success of the business and the relationship is the involvement of the partner in the business.
Elco urges couples to consider the following questions to chalk out each person’s role in the business:
How much privacy do you want?
How much connection do you want?
How much sharing is acceptable and welcome?
How much do you want to participate?
How much do you understand and support?
Since entrepreneurs make decisions differently than people in traditional lines of work, deciding whether or not to involve your partner in the business is a crucial decision. Having an open discussion on the above questions sets in clarity about the role of each partner within, and outside of, the business.
Building a sustainable communication rhythm
Entrepreneurs deal with a lot of conflicts, both inside and outside of their heads, on a daily basis. Sometimes, things are moving too fast or too slow, and it seems easy to retreat from potential conflicts unrelated to work. The upshot is that the partner feels ignored and alone, left to carry all the burden that seems trivial to the entrepreneur partner but can be weighty issues for others at home. The tendency to retreat from conflict is a deal-breaker. Building a smooth and healthy communication channel right from the get-go can save the day.
If it feels like you are on different wavelengths, Dr. Wise recommends that you work actively to find a communication sweet spot.
She frames it this way:
Picture a scale of one to 11.
One = you’re asleep.
11 = you’re screaming and slamming doors.
You want to have meaningful conversations with your partner when you’re between a four and a six.
Then, identify what happens when communication gets to higher numbers. Does your partner raise their voice, interrupt, shift away or just leave?
Find that sweet spot on your communication range.
Find a spot where you can have an uninterrupted conversation on important issues.
Unless you have mechanisms for regular, healthy communication, minor issues can snowball into major issues. It can affect both your dreams and life.
Entrepreneurs are driven. They understand benchmarks and goals and live to see progress, and the same energy and dedication can be applied to core relationships. Use these strategies to pay attention, define expectations and communicate better.
What works for business works for relationships too.