You’ve probably heard about the common causes of divorce – adultery, money problems, addiction, or simply growing apart – all things that can happen in spades with founders, even the most successful ones.
According to Psychology Today, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” While we may have a tendency to assume that financial success will make our marriages divorce-proof, that’s hardly the case. Just ask any successful entrepreneur who is divorced.
In the article, “10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce,” published by author Shellie Warren on marriage.com, spouses most frequently say “I don’t” for the following reasons: 1) infidelity, 2) money, 3) lack of communication, 4) constant arguing, 5) weight gain, 6) unrealistic expectations, 7) lack of intimacy, 8) lack of equality, 9) not being prepared for marriage, and 10) abuse. Hmm...I’d say that plenty of married entrepreneurs would be able to relate to many, if not all of these “reasons for divorce.”
Fundamentally, people leave the corporate world to achieve the American Dream, to break out on their own and “do their own thing.” Marriage on the other hand, is about doing things as a team. Married couples raise children together. They take vacations together. They cook dinner together, and they go to bed together. The entrepreneurial lifestyle on the other hand, can throw all of these “together experiences” out of whack.
Is Entrepreneurship Bad for Marriage?
The non-entrepreneur spouse can find themselves eating dinner alone, going to bed alone, and watching HBO and Netflix alone on most nights while their entrepreneur spouse works long nights at the office. If a marriage was already “on the rocks” before the business, things can get much worse. The little cracks that existed before can suddenly widen into deep canyons, driving an even deeper wedge into the relationship.
From the entrepreneur’s perspective, he or she is doing it for the family, but the non-entrepreneur spouse can feel as if their husband or wife is acting in their own interests. Tony, a software and media entrepreneur admitting to Inc. that he subjected his wife to “eight years of damn-near poverty and suffering” while he worked on producing a TV show. Unfortunately, Tony’s wife eventually couldn’t take it anymore and she left.
Sometimes, the 60-hour workweeks put in by a startup founder and the financial instability can strain a marriage. While the entrepreneur is working from sun-up to sundown or later, their constant absence eventually leads to a “lack of connection,” a lack of intimacy, and that all too familiar “growing apart” feeling on both ends. Often, this is the time when eyes begin to wander and infidelity rears its ugly head. But is this inevitable?
Paul Newman once said, “Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?” and he had a very good point. While entrepreneurs certainly face unique challenges due to the great number of hours they spend building their businesses and away from their spouses, it does not mean that their marriages will be destroyed by an extramarital affair or that they’re doomed for failure. There is hope.
Working on Your Marriage
While there’s no guarantee that a marriage will succeed, there are steps that entrepreneurs can take to improve their chances of a happy, long-lasting marriage. As a wife and mother who’s been married for 17 years, and as a ghostwriter who’s written thousands of articles for divorce attorneys and business owners throughout the United States, here’s my advice for keeping the love alive if you’re an entrepreneur:
Talk to your spouse about your business. Bounce ideas off of him or her and ask for their input.
Create time with your spouse and kids. No matter how busy you are, you have to schedule your family in. My advice is to schedule couple and family time in your calendar like you would a business meeting. A great place to start is to schedule a bi-weekly or monthly date with your spouse and set one weekend day aside for family time only – you must minimize interruptions.
If you’re extremely busy during the week, make an extra effort to text or call your spouse and let them know how much you love and appreciate them. If days or weeks go by and you barely reach out to him or her, your spouse can feel unappreciated and forgotten.
Find creative ways to spend time with your spouse. Can you work out together before heading to the office? Can they join you for lunch or dinner? Can you make cooking Sunday dinner together a regular thing?
Ditch your phone during mealtime with your spouse and family. Carve out this time (even if it’s only 30 or 60 minutes a day) to focus on the ones you love most. Make the dinner table a “no cellphone zone.”
Everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences, which shape who they are. Understand that your spouse is going to have different points of view than you at times. When you disagree with your spouse, allow them to have a different opinion and agree to disagree.
Often, the single reason why entrepreneurs’ marriages end in divorce is because they fail to give their spouse the love, time and attention they need and deserve. While it can be hard for the startup founder to carve time out for their spouse and kids, they should make their marriage and family a priority. This can be a challenge, especially in the first few years in business, but the very success of a marriage depends on it. “Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will either say, “I wish I had,” or “I’m glad I did.” ~Zig Ziglar
Elainna Ciaramella is an independent journalist, business blogger, and ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and business professionals nationwide. She has written extensively on the topics of business, entrepreneurship, law, and medicine. She is well-versed in search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media. You can follow her at www.elainnaciaramella.com , and on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.