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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.