14 Feb 2013
By Aaron Broverman
Any sensible entrepreneur knows the demands of his or her business are 24/7, especially when just starting out. With so many obligations to juggle, significant others often get caught in the crossfire.
“In the end you might be very successful, but you’ll be lonely,” says Vidica Simpson, a Martha Beck certified life coach from Oakville, Ontario, Canada. “What we do know is that human beings are not creatures who are good at being alone. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t spend time alone to reflect, but we’re not meant to be alone long-term.”
Simpson has worked with many successful people who saw their relationships disappear because of their dedication to their businesses, so we asked Simpson how entrepreneurs can strike that elusive work-life balance and keep their relationships intact.
“I think if you have that type of honesty where you can say to your partner, ‘I’m building a business, this is how you can help me and I know I’m not going to be there for a lot of things, but trust that I’m doing this for us,’ that would make a lot of partners feel very good about supporting the absent one.”
At the same time, she advises that entrepreneurs should listen to their partners when they recommend a break. As our January 23 article on the ‘Myths of the Overworked Creative’ revealed, rest is just as crucial as work. Plus, as an entrepreneur herself, Simpson knows that one’s greatest ideas and inspirations often come while recharging his or her batteries, so rest helps the business too.
But choosing a partner who’s secure enough to know that when you spend the majority of your time at work you haven’t abandoned him or her, starts from within you.
“Whatever issues I’ve got within myself, I’m going to attract someone with the same issues,” says Simpson. “The better I am, the better person I’m going to attract.”
When these struggles arise, she recommends looking within and asking yourself questions like, “What am I contributing to this relationship that’s not working? Why am I unhappy? Why am I blaming my partner?”
“If stuff is going on with your partner, whether you’re the entrepreneur or not, look to yourself first because that’s where the answers are. You can’t control the other person, but you can control your reaction to whatever happens to you,” she says.
For example, your partner may say you’re spending too much time in the office and accuse you of not loving him or her anymore. The question your partner should instead be pondering is, “What is lacking within me that I need someone to give me this time?” Similarly, as the entrepreneur, you should be taking your own inventory and asking if this is a reasonable request and if you are spending too much time on your business.
Compromise and Compassion
If your significant other complains you’re spending too much time in the office, it’s clear his or her needs aren’t being met and as the loving partner it behoves you to do your best to try and meet those needs.
“You have to ask, ‘How can I meet your needs, while at the same time, meet my needs?’ The bottom line is, if both partners can do this for each other, they will both benefit. The entrepreneur’s partner will be happy, the entrepreneur will be happy and they will both have money to pay the bills,” says Simpson.
As the entrepreneur, it’s important not to take the allegations of abandonment from your partner personally because such things put us on the defensive and turn the issue into a matter of being right, rather than happy.
“We suffer when we defend something that we know is true,” says Simpson. “It’s when we try to fight or deny the truth that we get deeper into the mess.”
It’s also important to acknowledge your partner’s feelings when confronting the issue. Simpson says doing so will do wonders to deescalate the situation, so you can both begin solving the problem together and working toward a compromise.
“It comes down to just talking and being honest with one another. Not defending, not jumping to conclusions and taking it personally where, because they think you’re not spending enough time with them, you turn around and think, ‘I’m not good enough or you’re not appreciating my efforts.’”
Let Your Partner In
Before you start a business of any kind, you need to get very clear on where you want that business to go and how much time it’s going to take to get there. Simpson recommends that this crucial planning stage should include your partner.
“If I’m in a relationship, hopefully I will be discussing some of these things with my partner and saying, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking,’ so they become a part of the planning and I give them opportunities to be acknowledged, so they are being heard,” says Simpson.
“If you’re going to do something that’s going to affect their life, well, of course they have every right to have an opinion on it or help you set it up, so that it can serve both of you. After all, if you do become successful and you make all this money, but you lose the person you love in the process, what does it all really mean?”