by Jennie Ormson | Featured Contributor
Are you one of those entrepreneurs whose partner has been 110% supportive right from the word ‘go’? Happy to invest whatever it takes in your business to see it thrive? Picking up the slack at home or with the family to dedicate even MORE time to your entrepreneurial goal? If that’s you, there’s no need to read on. Kiss your partner, say ‘thank you’, and go make a coffee or pour a glass of wine to enjoy.
This is for the other women. The women whose partner has struggled to understand the blood sweat and tears that goes into creating a business. Beyond that, they are baffled as to why you would want to dedicate so much blood, sweat, and tears to such a pursuit.
This is a rather embarrassing confession coming from a Couples Therapist, someone who specializes in communication, but it highlights the struggle of the entrepreneurial divide. A few years back my partner, Peter (an architect) pulled yet another all nighter of designing a stunning residence for a client. I casually enquired as to when he thought he would start his own firm. He paused, looked at me with confusion, and said, “Never”. I paused, looked at him with confusion, and said, “huh?!”. He patiently, but firmly explained his reasons: he’s happier designing than selling, he doesn’t want to stress about having to make payroll for employees, he’s risk aversive, he likes the work he’s doing, & his boss is fabulous. Then came the light bulb moment, the statement that woke me up… “Jennie, not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur”.
I’m still a little shocked, but now I see he’s right. In fact, I would hazard to say that most people have no interest in becoming an entrepreneur. Where we see excitement, challenge, and opportunities, non-entrepreneurs see stress, headaches, and risks. I’ve since gone on to work with many couples that cross the entrepreneurial divide: one is and one isn’t. It can cause confusion and misunderstanding, hurt feelings and resentment. But with a little work and some fine-tuning, your relationship can still thrive.
Clean Up The Judgement
All successful businesses run more effectively when they’re streamlined and free of clutter. The same goes for your relationship. One of the things you’ll both want to clean up and get rid of is judgement – there’s simply no room for it. In your not-so-great moments it may be tempting to slip into judging your non-entrepreneurial partner as lazy, unmotivated, and lacking drive. Maybe they are – but it has nothing to do with owning their own business. As entrepreneurs we don’t have a monopoly on hard work, slowly climb down from your high horse. Similarly, it would be unfair for your partner to judge you as a workaholic, megalomaniac, or greedy just because you’re driven to have your own business. Check the judgement at the door, there’s no room for it in successful relationships.
When speaking with a colleague, affiliate, or potential client you choose your words carefully and respectfully. There’s a cost if you don’t – business will suffer. Yet often times in our personal relationships we get sloppy and careless with our words. This doesn’t mean you need to labour over every sentence and phrase or walk on eggshells. It does mean you will be thoughtful and considerate of your partner’s views and feelings. Surely you’re familiar with the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder”? In relationships, we don’t necessarily need to communicate more, just more effectively. Which leads us to our next tip…
Mind Reading Doesn’t Work
Sure, you may have been with your partner for years (or decades). Maybe sometimes you can tell what one another are thinking. But when it comes to expectations, being direct and making clear requests will hit the target. Being an entrepreneur requires long hours sometimes, like when you’re getting the business off the ground or launching a new program. As a result, you’ll need your partner to pick up some slack at home or with the family. Sure it might not be very sexy or romantic to sit down and discuss the division of labour or childcare, but it can save you weeks of resentment and hurt feelings down the road. Be crystal clear in what you’re asking your partner to do, and be open to hearing what they need from you.
It’s absolutely normal for entrepreneurs’ personal relationships to have more career related bumps – and that’s completely all right. With skill and savvy you can make it work. Read that sentence again – SKILL AND SAVVY – not love. This is not about loving each other sufficiency. It’s about thoughtfully developing the skills you need to work through the trials of being an entrepreneur. I know you’re up for the task – after all, we entrepreneurs love a challenge!
Jennie Ormson knows the power of a strong relationship, and the impact of a crummy partnership. As a Relationship Expert, her mission is to empower people with the skills they need to communicate effectively, fight fair, and revive the sparkle. Jennie’s core belief is that there is immense power in being heard and feeling understood. Her gift is helping couples understand what’s going on in their emotional landscape, and how to navigate the peaks and valleys. She’s relatable and practical, helping people to balance speaking up and knowing when to shut up.
For over 20 years as a therapist, Jennie has provided insight, compassion, and the ability to thrive. Her work in Canada, America, Ireland, and the UK has impacted thousands of lives. With three young kids, a booming private practice, an exciting online venture, and a partner of 25 years, Jennie understands the need to juggle it all with grace and humour.