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Archive for the “Divorce” Category

A couple of months ago I wrote about my recent personal experience of divorce from the perspective of a small business owner.  (“Divorce and Entrepreneurship“, May 13)  It got the most (and most impassioned) comments Making Rain has ever received.  Inc. Magazine (June) just came out with a more encyclopedic riff on the same subject that is beautifully researched and written by journalist Jess Bruder.  It has already been shared widely on social media, but, since there was such an ardent response to my previous post, I thought the community might enjoy Ms. Bruder’s thoughtful piece.  Enjoy. (Click on the picture below)

Inc. Pic

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Tims PicWell, I’ve tried.  Tried being a passionate entrepreneur and a committed family man.  I have failed.  For me my now failed marriage was about living with two lovers:  my company Corporate Rain and my wife of 16 years.  Yesterday I signed my divorce agreement ending my marriage.

Thus ended my attempt to have it all—to be normal and yet still nutty enough to perform the entrepreneurial miracle:  the creation of something out of nothing.  For me, that juxtaposition has just not been possible.  For me my domestic life had become increasingly a disciplined duty rather than an ambient joy, while my life in my company remained a daily roundelay of aliveness and impassioned commitment—even in those weeks when we almost didn’t make payroll or unexpectedly lost a major client threatening a vertiginous descent into the abyss.   How can marriage compete with the piquancy and fulgent frisson that constitutes the full monty of entrepreneurial commitment?

I think it is really hard for a committed, focused entrepreneur to be anything but a shitty spouse.  Almost by necessity.  (Or is this an apologia and excuse for my own failure at domesticity, my own conjugal catastrophe, when I am really just a solipsistic dreamer only interested in his own addictive private fever dream?  Those are the sorts of thoughts and self-doubts that assault me as I restart and re-imagine myself as an unattached commercial striver, resuming my life journey and my business journey.)

meg hirshbergMeg Cadoux Hirshberg wrote a marvelous column for Inc. Magazine (recently ended) called Balancing Acts.  Here’s how she sums up the entrepreneurial marital conundrum.

“Common causes of divorce include financial strain, neglect, lack of communication, and divergent goals.  Postmortems on the remains of entrepreneurs’ marriages can turn up all four in abundance.  Other professions keep people away from home and preoccupy their thoughts, but they don’t produce the toxic cocktail of resentment and anxiety created by putting the family’s security constantly at risk….More fundamentally, people start companies to do their own things, while marriage is about doing things together.”   (Inc. Magazine online, Nov. 1, 2010)

That said, I know a number of successful business creators who seem to navigate the marital shoals, if not with ease, at least with longevity and balance.

Whatever the emotional conundrums of entrepreneurial marriage, the hardest practicality of ending my own marriage has been protecting my company.  The divorcing entrepreneur is most vulnerable here.  I didn’t want my company damaged by my divorce.  I had to solve this essentially by buying my way back to ownership and control of my own company.  Entrepreneurial divorce is certainly a wealth diminishing event.  I think it was Burt Reynolds who said, after his break-up with Loni Anderson, something like, “I think the next time I consider marrying, I’ll just find a woman I really hate and buy her a house.”  I don’t hate my ex-wife at all, but I understand the sentiment.

Burt_Reynolds_1991_portrait_cropGoing back to the wisdom of Meg Hirschberg again, she warns, “Prospective spouses of divorced entrepreneurs:  Tread carefully.  Entrepreneurs are teachable but not wholly reformable.  Underneath the grace note of good intentions, I hear a common bass lick:  The business will still come first.”  As Mae West put it, “Don’t marry a man to reform him.  That’s what reform schools are for.”

Let me end this somewhat melancholy, pensive post anectdotally.  My 12 year old daughter Truitte frequently said to me at dinner, “Take off your business face, Daddy!  I’m talking to you!”  I guess I was never fully able to do that.

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I think there is a unique strain that goes on in entrepreneurial marriages.  It certainly goes on in mine.  Of course, entrepreneurs aren’t the only people dealing with marital dissonance, but there is a specificity to entrepreneurial marriage issues that is notable.

The risks entrepreneurs take are not just financial but also very personal and particular  Though there are no specific statistics I can find on the subject, I can share anecdotally that achievement in self-generated business can come at the price of marital satisfaction.  And I’m not really sure there is any clear answer to this conundrum for the entrepreneur and his/her family.

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg has written about this as an entrepreneurial spouse in her Inc. Magazine column Balancing Acts.  She says, “Other professions keep people away from home and preoccupy their thoughts, but they don’t produce the toxic cocktail of resentment and anxiety created by putting the family’s security constantly at risk….More fundamentally, people start companies to do their own things while marriage is about doing things together.”  (Inc. Magazine, November, 2010, “Why More Entrepreneurs Are Getting Divorced”)

I experience entrepreneurship as a lonely enterprise.  Entrepreneurs are passionate, focused, independent and courageous people.  But they have to be comfortable perched on the edge of a high-risk cliff of possible business mortality at all times.  Your wife may not be comfortable perched on that abyss with you.  For me, my firm, Corporate Rain International, can be a compulsion at times, a sort of chosen maelstrom of highly wrought fervor, fear, and hope.  I can be almost like an obsessed addict, who sees all things in terms of his fix.  It is not easy to share my inner  entrepreneurial demons with my wife because it would cause her needless anxiety about issues she is helpless to solve for me.

My daughter Truitte frequently notes my emotional absence at home.  She will yell at me, “Daddy, take off your business face!  I’m talking to you.”  Sorry, Sweetie.

Here are just a few entrepreneurial irritants to my wife that can elicit serious anger.

  1. I am reluctant to take vacations.  When I do take vacations it is hard for me to let go of the Blackberry.  (Meg Cadoux Hirschberg calls her husband’s Blackberry his “Bond girl.”  She is not wrong.  There is unquestionably an almost sexual component to my own passion for nurturing my company.  It is parallel to my marriage and an equally powerful and personal relationship.)
  2. I make many decisions instinctively and privately.  My wife, understandably, gets very angry about not being consulted on decisions that potentially affect her and my daughter’s future.
  3. I’m sometimes impatient with the non-rationality that surrounds personal family issues.  It is not like my business and doesn’t lend itself to “logical” solutions of business.  As my daughter frequently reminds me at home, “You’re not the boss.”
  4. I’m not home enough.

The list is legion and can go on and on.  So far my marriage is intact, despite my entrepreneurship and other character flaws.  But balancing my two lovers–my spouse and my company–ain’t always easy or comfortable.

Nevertheless, as Homer says in The Odyssey, “There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”

Thank you, Homer.

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