How to Maintain a Healthy Marriage While Running a Business
Before I even finished high school, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was one of the easiest decisions I ever made. What I didn’t realize was the impact that would have on my personal life and relationships.
I started my first business in 1998. I was in eighth grade. At the time, the web was still a relatively unexplored terrain for small businesses. And as I was teaching myself how to code and build websites, I found myself being approached by family friends and my father’s clients (he ran a CPA firm) to create websites. It was something I truly enjoyed, and, at 14 years old, it was pretty great to have a hobby that generated income.
I started my second business in 2002, and I would start more over the next two decades – some successful, others are no longer around. But throughout my high school and college years, one thing became super clear. I loved building businesses. Whether it was my own brands or a client that I was helping, I found myself happily challenged by the work.
However, what I did not find myself happily challenged by was finding and maintaining healthy personal relationships – specifically with a romantic partner. I soon came to realize that the things that made me tick were not things that my partners found engaging or desirable. Nor did they have understanding or grace for my work-life balance.
The Work-Life Balance
Let me start off with this disclaimer. I have terrible work-life balance. The reality is that running one business is all-consuming. But when you have 3 brands, and one of which is helping your clients build their businesses – it feels like you have countless jobs. Work feels (and sometimes is) 24/7, and if you’re not careful, it will consume every waking (and sleeping) moment.
I’ve had moments where I’ve been in line for a ride at Disney World, on my phone making a graphic in Canva for a client emergency. I’ve stayed up to 3am on vacation doing client reports, because my vacation fell on the date that I send reports to clients. I’ve turned around on roadtrips to go back and fix a client’s site after the client accidentally deleted it (yes, they deleted their entire website – thankfully, we keep backups).
Reading that, you’re probably thinking that I am terrible with boundary setting. And you’re not wrong. I am. And I’m working on it. But when you run a brand that is helping other people run their brands, you kinda sign up for that in a way.
Emergencies happen. Accidents happen. You can plan for things all day. But sometimes, your business might need you at times that aren’t convenient. And your partner needs to be understanding of that. They don’t have to like it. In fact, you both should talk about it and vent about it to each other – communicate that it sucks. But at the end of the day, your partner shouldn’t hold it against you.
5 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Marriage as an Entrepreneur
Running a business is a challenging and time-consuming endeavor, which can sometimes put a strain on your marriage or relationship. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is make sure you choose the right partner. (There’s a lot that goes into picking the right partner, that’s a whole different post.)
The stress and time demand that comes with being an entrepreneur will always be there. Sometimes it may be worse. Sometimes it may be better. But at some level, it will always be present. If your partner isn’t understanding of that before you tie the knot, they’re not going to magically become okay with it after you get hitched.
That being said, there are 5 tips I can offer that make all the difference (for me and my husband) with maintaining a healthy marriage (and relationships in general).
1. Be Your Own People
The first and most important thing you can do is to be your own people. So many people like to look at marriage as a unit of one. However, the healthy reality is that a marriage (or relationship) is made up of two separate individuals. And you both have a different set of needs to be happy.
While you should have a core set of values and interests that you both share, you don’t have to do everything together. And you don’t have to feel the same way about everything that your partner does.
Your partner probably likes to do things that you don’t. And that’s okay. You like to do things they don’t. Make time and space to still be you. Don’t blend your identity into someone else and forget to do the things that make you tick.
2. Be Equals
While you’re still two separate individuals, it’s important that you’re both equals in your relationship. There shouldn’t be a “head” of your household. You both should share the load. You both should respect each other, and treat each other with respect.
Gender roles are antiquated. If your partner expects you to do something just because of your gender – that should be a red flag for you.
Finances & Chores
Just because one partner is typically seen as the partner that should pay for things, doesn’t mean they should (unless you both are okay with it and make that decision together). Split things equally. Or, if you make more or less than your partner, split things by the same percentage of what you both make financially).
Before my husband, I dated multiple guys that expected me to cook for them. First of all, at the time, I didn’t cook nor did I have any interest in it. Secondly, I didn’t have the time for it.
Now, my husband and I share the cooking experience. I handle all the food prep, he handles the actual cooking, and we both handle clean up. It’s a shared responsibility, and honestly one we enjoy doing together.
Another example, neither one of us had the time or interest in taking care of our yard. Our solution? We hired a lawn care company, and split the cost equally.
While finances may not allow everyone to solve problems in the same way. The important thing to remember is just to share responsibility. This approach makes a world of difference with having mutual respect and understanding.
3. Make Time For Each Other
Think of your relationship as a plant. If you don’t give it sunlight and water, it will die. If you don’t give it fertilizer, it won’t grow. If it gets spider mites, and you don’t spray that sucker down with neem oil, your plant will die.
Relationships are exactly the same. If you don’t give it what it needs, it will die. You have to make time for your partner. And if you’re an entrepreneur, this may be one of the harder things to do.
It’s easy to get caught up in work and neglect your personal life. It’s easy to start putting your partner on the back burner because you’re so focused on what’s happening in your business. But if you don’t make time for your partner, your relationship will suffer.
The key is to make quality time, not just quantity time. You can spend all day with your partner, but if you’re both working the entire time, it doesn’t count. Make time to talk to each other. Make time to just be with each other.
For my husband and I, we do date nights every Friday. We’re both foodies and love a good cocktail, so every Friday night, we go out (usually to a restaurant we haven’t been to before). We talk about our week over a tasty meal and talk about upcoming things we’re excited about.
We also do one big trip a year. Usually international, though COVID put a damper on that for a couple years. We both love exploring new things and having adventures. We both geek out over good design, geek culture, and cool history. And we both have a deep love for traveling – being able to share and experience all these passions together enriches us both as individuals and as a couple.
This is the one piece of relationship advice you hear over and over. You need to communicate with your partner.
As cliche as this advice is, it’s 100% true. If you’re not communicating with your partner – whether it’s about big things or small things – your relationship will suffer.
The key to good communication is being open, honest, and vulnerable with each other. You should feel comfortable doing this, and you should know that you can trust your partner.
Here’s a few helpful guidelines to follow:
- No secrets. If something is bothering you, you need to tell your partner.
- No assumptions. If you’re not sure about something, ask.
- No mind reading. Just because you think you know what your partner is thinking or feeling, doesn’t mean you do.
- No “I told you so’s”. Telling your partner “I told you so” just creates an atmosphere of blame and defensiveness. It’s not a competition. You and your partner should be on the same team.
It’s important to remember that communication has two parts. And they’re equally important. You need to verbalize things to your partner, and you need to listen to your partner. Listening is just as important as talking.
5. Show Your Appreciation
This one is a big one for me. We’ve all experienced relationships where we felt like we were being taken advantage of. Over time, that builds resentment and becomes super toxic.
This is a two-way street, you need to make sure your partner feels appreciated and valued, and they need to do the same for you.
This doesn’t require grand gestures. It can be small things, like making them breakfast in bed, buying them flowers, or taking the dog for a walk so they can have some free time.
My husband is pretty stellar at this. He’ll order me random things he knows I’ll like or things to solve problems that I complain about. For example, he ordered me a desktop heater because my hands get so cold when I work. Not only was it a sweet gesture, but it also shows he listens to me.
For me, I show my appreciation with affection as well as verbally. The fact that we both take time and make the effort to do this for each other – it makes us both feel seen, loved, and valued.
When this post goes live, I’ll be in Scotland with my husband celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary. While I’ve done everything I can to work ahead and not bring work with me on the trip, it’s inevitable that I’ll have some work I have to do.
I’m incredibly thankful that Doug, my husband, understands that. It would be easy (and understandable) if he didn’t. But he knows that I’m building something that ultimately benefits both our futures. And he supports my passions.
There’s a thousand reasons why I knew Doug was the right partner for me. But the fact that we both respect and support each other is at the core of that. That’s our foundation. And with a relationship built on that foundation, it’s easy to maintain a happy and healthy marriage and run my businesses at the same time.
At the end of the day, every person and every relationship is different. But this is what works for me and my husband. Today, May 4th, 2022, marks our 3rd wedding anniversary and roughly 5.5 years together overall. And my husband and I have never been happier.
Emily Sprinkle, also known as Emma Loggins, is a designer, marketer, blogger, and speaker. She is the Editor-In-Chief for Women's Business Daily where she pulls from her experience as the CEO and Director of Strategy for Excite Creative Studios, where she specializes in web development, UI/UX design, social media marketing, and overall strategy for her clients.
Emily has also written for CNN, Autotrader, The Guardian, and is also the Editor-In-Chief for the geek lifestyle site FanBolt.com