Many believe that the rate of divorce is higher in entrepreneur marriages, though statistics are hard to find. If there is something to learn from those who have experienced divorce, let us learn from their lessons.
Startups affect the whole family
I sat down with Luke (identity changed for privacy), an entrepreneur whom I met through my husband. Luke had left his employment to start his own firm about 7 years into marriage. In his own words, he didn’t know anything about business, but was sure he could do better than the company he left. Entrepreneurs are known for their
cockiness, I mean confidence.
According to Luke, he and his wife became ever more distant. As his stress over growing his business mounted, she focused more on the children. He said she didn’t want to know about the business—just wanted to know money was there for family expenses and activities for the kids. Not an unreasonable concern, but he struggled, feeling he carried the burden alone. He became more impatient, not responding to his children, or his wife, in ways that were life giving.
How successful entrepreneur marriages differ
Granted, this overly simplifies the dynamic, and is only his side of the story. In contrast, he noted, the successful entrepreneurs he knew have spouses that are supportive and involved in the business. He felt incredible pressure to make the business profitable, without the support of his wife. Not all spouses are going to be involved in the business, but understanding the dynamics facing the entrepreneur gives opportunity to be a much needed support. The chasm widened, and though they did try to seek marital help, they ended up divorcing.
He also emphasized that most business owners have at least one trusted advisor, someone to give honest feedback. Fresh eyes can illuminate problems or patterns that owners are sometimes too thick in the weeds to see. Likewise, he said, couples should have a trusted advisor, and schedule regular check-ins, even when things seem to be going well. He regretted that he and his wife didn’t start sooner, and learn to be a team.
Regular marriage reviews
If you own or run a business, you already practice annual reviews. Can you apply that to your marriage?
Here are some thoughts on getting started.
- Find a therapist who has training and experience in MARRIAGE counseling. Working with couple dynamics is very different than individual therapy. Some feel there can be more damage than good when someone doesn’t have a model that focuses on the couple. Though it can be a little daunting to start looking, following a few steps will increase the likelihood of finding someone that you can meet with over time.
- Do a little research– ask friends, a pastor, or other religious leader for names if you don’t know any. Check AAMFT for clinicians in your area. Look at their training and make sure they have experience in working with couples.
- Once you have a name or 2, ask if they will have a brief phone conversation or meeting with you both. If you meet with the therapist, and one of you isn’t comfortable, move on to another. It’s important to meet with someone that you feel hears you both. I cannot emphasize that enough.
- Be prepared to pay for this as you would business consulting, unless there is a diagnosis that one of you would file under medical insurance. View it as investing in your marriage, not waiting until the damage is done.
An Entrepreneur Mentor Couple
Another option is finding an entrepreneur couple that will agree to meet with you. If you are part of a faith community, or a peer board for business/entrepreneurs, these may be good resources for finding such a couple.
Coaching is yet another option. There are many business or relationship coaches, but similar to the therapist search, don’t assume that they are equipped to coach you as a couple. They should be able to help you proactively set goals, discuss expectations, or manage conflict that arises.
What is the difference between coaching and therapy/counseling, you ask?
Great question. I would say that coaches focus more on externals—goals, resources, time management, structure. They may work with personality models, such as the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs or DISC, that help people understand some of the ways they are wired. They tend to start from the present and facilitate ways to create a desired future.
Therapists are trained to dive inward, exploring motivations, trauma, or pathology that is causing psychological distress or dysfunction. They may refer for medication or even hospitalization for certain conditions. Most states require licensure to practice as a therapist.
For more on this, Tony Robbins has a helpful article.
The ball is in your court…will you find a trusted advisor for your marriage?