In a bar, on a wooden bench covered in doodles and graffiti, I met my sweetie. He said something snarky, bought me a drink, ordered a plain taco and somehow managed to get my number… Less than a year after that meeting, we decided we would merge our lives and I would make the move to Miami.
Shortly after the move, I began a very demanding job that consumed a lot of time and energy. And he set out to start his law firm. I was a busy woman figuring out career moves, and he was a busy man, starting a business. BUT, no matter how busy my job kept me, he was always busier. Many days I had to stay late, work weekends, travel and bring work home—but my busy and his busy were just completely different. For him, the business, the clients, the ideas—they received so much care and special attention…which is not to say that I didn’t also, but I wanted the attention when I wanted it…not when he had moments to carve out time for me. I didn’t understand it; I didn’t like it. Somedays it felt like our lives were moving in different directions.
Fast forward to present day, I’ve started a business, my mind is rarely quiet, my reading materials are almost all about business, my productivity is in high gear…and my relationship is…well…amazing. My honey and I are in totally different industries, but we find commonalities in the most wonderful ways. A few months ago, he looked over at me as we sat on the sofa with our laptops and he smiled and said “I’m so happy you’re doing this now.” He meant he’s happy I’m working like a crazy woman to build MY OWN thing, he also meant he’s happy that I “get it.” I now understand his level of busy, I FEEL why he hustles the way he hustles, because I’m doing the same.
If you’re dating an entrepreneur and you’re not one, I completely empathize. The level at which a person’s business consumes their thoughts, energy, time, and attention is easily obnoxious. And the truth is, your entrepreneurial lover SHOULD think of you and give you energy, time and attention.
So what do you do when they just won’t bend their schedule to make more time for you? What do you do when they look at you like you’ve grown an extra eyeball when you ask why a client gets more attention than you? How do you handle it when they are exasperated that you just don’t understand?
For my love and I, we communicated through our lack of understanding each other’s positions. There were many compromises and several tough conversations. Your partner has to be more mindful of being present and emotionally available to you. You have to understand the difference between what you want from your partner and what you need. You can bend on some of your wants—don’t bend on your needs. If you need your partner to have daily meaningful conversation in order to feel connected—communicate this and don’t back down. If you want your partner to go with you to your best friend’s birthday dinner—ask, and if s/he is unavailable, be OK with this.
Find ways to integrate yourself into their business: help them come up with ideas, proofread their copy, map out strategic projects—in whatever way you can, use your talents to help them with their business. This will allow you to get an insider’s view into their world, and even if you never completely understand it, you are more aware of what their day looks like and why they may be sitting next to you on the sofa, but be far away. In the way you may share gossip about coworkers, your lover may not have any coworkers to talk about, but may need your help solving a problem. Allow your partner to give you advice, and ask that s/he opens her/himself up to your advice as well.
Chances are, if you’re dating a person creative and brave enough to set up their own business, you are in love with the things that contribute to their entrepreneurial spirit. Focus on the things you love about that person, and decide your needs over your wants. This is not to say they should never bend to your wants; sometimes we all have to bend to the wants of our partners—just to see them smile.
It’s redundant, but an old adage becomes an old adage because it’s just the truth—COMMUNICATION IS KEY. Respect that you may never fully understand your partner’s experience as an entrepreneur, and be OK with that. If an entrepreneur does not have friends who are doing the same thing, and a lover who refuses to compromise, the act of starting a business can get extremely lonely. Keep this in mind, and force your entrepreneurial lover to make time for self-care, as well as relationship care. If a business owner is not making time for her/himself, don’t ask her/him to make time for you. Love your partner enough to make sure they love themselves first, and then communicate your needs and sprinkle in a few wants.
The act of creating an entire business from an idea, a dream, a spark—is a beautiful adventure. Allow this to inspire your relationship, not tear it apart. Be open to learning and leaning into each other for support and understanding.