Marriage is an adventure all by itself, but add the challenge of being married to an entrepreneur and marriage can feel like a job. Entre-spouses are simultaneously: full time cheerleader, dream catcher, coupon clipper & penny pincher, single parent and self-sufficient and often lonely. (full disclosure I am an entrepreneur as well, so my hubbie could say similar things, but this is my post about being an entre-spouse)
After 31 years of being married to an entrepreneur, I have learned a few things. The entrepreneurial world is a unique, challenging and thrilling place to live! It is also scary, uncertain and requires a special set of skills and mindset, which I didn’t learn growing up.
We had a traditional home and while my dad was a successful doctor, researcher and professor, he was home every night for dinner, and had the weekends off, apart from the constant pile of reading materials. Life ran on a schedule, it was predictable and consistent. I had no idea what I was walking into when I married into a family of entrepreneurs- generations of serial and successful ones!
Marriage to an entrepreneur doesn’t include predicable or consistent schedules.
Early in our marriage, I often had dinner on the table, waiting for hubbie to arrive at the “scheduled time,” anticipating a quiet evening of movie watching, snuggling and catching up… only for the phone to ring with hubbie calling to say he was delayed…again.
I would like to say I handled this news with grace and understanding. But more often than not, especially in those early years, I would be angry, cry, snap at him or respond with the classic words: “fine…that’s fine.” Everyone who has ever spoken or heard these words in moments like this knows they are absolutely false!
Marriage to an entrepreneur is a crash course in learning to juggle schedules and expectations while being intentional about tending to and growing a healthy marriage. This requires commitment, communication and grace!
One thing we did early on in our marriage was to set time aside to talk about our schedules and how we could carve out time together. This was helpful because on the nights when hubbie worked late, or got caught up in a project, I could look forward to those specific times we had set aside to be off the clock and just us. Sometimes it was a date night out, others; a time to just hang out or do something together that had nothing to do with work.
Did it always work-no. Did this simple skill of scheduling time together help us grow in our connection, intimacy and deepen our relationship- yes!
Hubbie was pretty good about honoring this time, and I tried to be understanding and flexible when this time needed to change. Ok… sometimes I pouted and fussed at him, but I tried to be flexible and understanding.
Two key words for every spouse of an entrepreneur: flexible and understanding. This does not mean be a doormat, or have no expectations. It means be aware and open to the reality there are things beyond your entrepreneur’s control when it comes to start up, business emergencies and massive action times.
Be willing to shift your expectations and adjust your schedule. (And sometimes, you just have to throw it out the window and hang on for the ride!) Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt by believing that your entrepreneur wants to be with you, and just can’t be two places at once. The urgent business needs can supersede the personal ones. Occasional shifts of scheduled time together are understandable. Chronic missing of scheduled us time, should be addressed.
Grace is a terrific tool to smooth the way and open the discussion about missed time together. It is okay to say, “I understand and I am disappointed. What can we do to make sure our time together happens this week?” Believe me, your entrepreneur wants to have a great relationship with you, a strong marriage, but far too often doesn’t know how to juggle all that is on their plate.
Help them, give them grace and the benefit of the doubt, PLUS expectations that they stop working, get off the clock and focus on your relationship. Write it down, get it on the calendar and make the commitment to have “us time” no matter what else is going on in the business or at home!
What ways have you found to deal with the challenges of being an entre-spouse? Share your tips here to encourage and help others. One tip at a time, we can grow strong and enjoyable marriages, even to our entrepreneurs.