Married to Your Business

Even though your spouse or partner may have recognized your entrepreneurial traits when you met or you were already up to your eyelashes in your first (or fifth venture)  they might not ever truly understand or accept it. We truly are a different breed. If you happen to be smart, self-aware or just plain lucky enough to find someone who finds your intensity, passion, risk taking, distractibility, creativity, perfectionism and chronic tardiness endearing, you are beyond fortunate. Two of the most important decisions we make in life are our career direction and our life partner. Many of us change careers multiple times in our lives simply because it's in our nature (I'm on my 4th), so perhaps partner selection is the most important of all.  If you want to get and stay married, that individual needs to be highly resilient and very tolerant of instability and uncertainty.  Just sayin’.

Lots of entrepreneurial women choose entrepreneurial partners, sometimes without even knowing it, because one or both in the relationship had not yet started their first business when the relationship began. Others of us choose our opposite, the type author Gretchen Rubin in her book The Four Tendencies calls "The Upholder." Upholders are extremely disciplined, usually successful in their chosen field, and meticulous almost to the point of OCD. Because they are linear in their thinking and always get everything on their To-Do list done, the entrepreneurial woman is totally fascinated, at least in the beginning. As for her non-entrepreneurial partner? Sure, they are fascinated too, at first. After all, we are a whirlwind of excitement, activity, and energy, so who wouldn't be?

Perhaps some part of her unconscious believes that being around this person will help her develop better skills in the areas of focus and consistency, as if by osmosis. It's a charming, but naive notion. What is far more likely to occur as the years unfold and responsibilities of adult life pile up is that their relationship will become overshadowed by dynamics resembling a stern parent and a disobedient child. I'm pretty sure you can guess who is who in this scenario.

Once a woman gets attached to someone, no matter how mismatched they might be, she will almost always hang in there and try to make the best of it. Women tend to accept far too much responsibility for the failure of a relationship, yet oddly they don't take enough credit when things turn out well. The entrepreneurial woman who struggles with self-worth (the majority) will make worse choices, stay too long and tolerate too much. This is a direct result of feeling insecure about our ability to be both successful in business and in our relationship. If this describes you, please know it's not your fault. We are different and different in this culture is perceived as defective. Once we have internalized this message, we are in trouble and many of us never get out of it. There is a lot of ambition shaming that women experience and centuries of patriarchy can make even the most ardent feminist doubt herself.

If you are an entrepreneurial woman and are not partnered, but looking, I'm glad you're reading this. You will want to take your time choosing a partner, which I understand is easier said that done. You are a quick thinker and risk taker, and may tend to do things impulsively and leave the thinking it through to later or not at all. If you have had a few disastrous relationships and are finally ready for something more sustainable, it's totally worth it to slow your roll. Watch out for signs of critical or controlling behavior. Know that we are particularly attracted to and are attracted by narcissistic partners, because they seem exciting, at least at first. Do whatever you have to do to avoid them.

You might want to date a few “boring” partners, the ones that you like better as you get to know them, instead of the other way around. I can hardly believe I am suggesting this, but I have learned a few things the hard way, including this. The most important trait we need in a partner is acceptance.  The kind of acceptance that can laugh with you, not at you. The kind of acceptance that eliminates dirty looks, eye rolling, and put-downs at your expense in front of friends and family. Entrepreneurial women can be far more insecure than they appear and their partner needs to be their biggest fan, champion and defender.  And in return, I know you will reward the person who brings out the best in you by making it safe to be completely yourself with love, laughter, and life as one continuous adventure in return.

You don't have to wait to be accepted by a romantic partner to begin accepting yourself. In fact, I highly recommend it, whether you have an accepting partner, a not-so-accepting partner or no partner at all. You don't need an accepting partner to be a successful entrepreneur,  but you do need to accept yourself no matter what kind of partner you have, and especially if you don't have one at all. The hard truth is that no one will treat you better than you believe you deserve to be treated. If you believe you are a difficult person to be married to because you are an entrepreneur, this will influence your expectations about how you deserve to be treated and what you are willing to tolerate from a partner.  It may not be easy to be partnered with an entrepreneurial woman, but if you choose the right partner, they may feel they’ve won the lottery and couldn’t imagine life with anyone else.

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