When we first got married, James’ career path looked a lot like everyone else’s—move up the ladder at a corporate job while savoring a few weeks off a year. I admit, it was a safe feeling, marrying someone who would almost certainly receive a paycheck every week. It was what my dad had done. It was what college prepared us for. It was a life with limited risk and also more muted rewards.
Now, after struggling through a few years of being married to an entrepreneur, I think I’ve learned a few ways to make it work.
1. Accept uncertainty. When we cross the railroad tracks, we aren’t intrinsically scared that a train will hit us. Instead, we look both ways, trust the crossing gates, and go. It’s the same with living with an entrepreneur. You can’t focus on whether bad or good news is coming, you just have to know that you’ll be prepared when it does. There are much higher highs and much lower lows. A black-and-white outlook on life doesn’t work in these situations. Something I’ve had to learn is that an entrepreneur sees most everything in shades of gray, and this is how they avoid paralysis in near-constant decision-making.
2. Understand ambition. It’s one thing to quote famous people when discussing determination and bravery. It’s a whole other thing to see the entrepreneur in action, showing these qualities in their most basic form. I said the other day to a friend, “This is what you get for marrying someone with big dreams.” My husband thinks the world is his oyster, and the words, “I can’t” are not in his vocabulary. This can be admirable at times, but also a bit annoying to a spouse who perceives limitations in this world. It helps to understand that an entrepreneur has goals and plans that many of us can’t fathom. It doesn’t mean that they are not interested in exceling in other aspects of their lives. Passion and drive burns from the inside, and keeps an entrepreneur going when a practical person might give up.
3. Moderate stress. Your own and your spouse’s. The least helpful thing to entrepreneurs is to heap more stress on them when they are struggling. There will always be tense times, and these will seem worse to you because you lack control of the situation. If your entrepreneur is solely responsible for paying the bills, it’s easy to question business decisions or even career choice. James started pursuing self-employment when I was pregnant, so we knew that moving close to family would be helpful during my daughter’s infant years. When he was working all day and all night, we even put her in daycare a few hours a week so I could have a break. Sometimes the only justification you need for the extra expense is your sanity!
4. Encourage exercise and a social life. Since many entrepreneurs work long hours from home, it can be hard to find a work-life balance. Some days the only interaction he has is with our 3-year-old and me, and there are nights he needs to get out of the house to surf or to hang out with friends. Both exercise and socializing go a long way toward elevating mood and clearing the head. We try to find active things we can do as a family, and he tries to surf with friends to make good use of his time away from his desk.
5. Join in! This is the one my husband suggested. I guess the truest way to show you believe in someone is to join in on his/her entrepreneurial ventures. Personally, I’ve been writing press releases and proofreading documents for his company. Whether it’s just offering ideas or actually assisting, you can support the entrepreneur best by showing your faith in those big dreams. That’s what we promise as spouses anyway—to join paths together and help each other make the most out of life.
Do you have any tips on how to be married to an entrepreneur? There are so many awesome things about it too, like freedom to travel and a husband who is home a lot. 🙂