A wise old friend once asked me, “Joe, do you know why divorce is expensive?” I probably muttered something about lawyers, settlement, alimony, child support.” He said no – no, divorces are expensive because they’re worth it.”
Undoubtedly, marriage breakups are never good for the pocketbook – I should know, I have been through three of them, and the emotional stress can be debilitating even though staying in a failed relationship can be worst. I was wondering what was wrong with me? I always thought I was a good guy, respectful of women, a good friend, and concerned for other people. In retrospect, I realized it wasn’t about me but the career path I chose to follow.
Since childhood, I have wanted to make my own way. I grew up in a family of medical professionals and university graduates. A profession didn’t interest me. I was attracted to self-made people. Later in life, I learned the mistake of not getting an advanced education. Although I did okay by most people’s standards, education would have made my career path so much easier with many more options. Out of high school, I set up to seek my fame and fortune. I had to be resourceful, live by my wits, make things happen and get results and take chances – in short, being an entrepreneur.
It has been quite a ride, but certainly not for the faint of heart. Now to my central point. As I look back, I now realize that almost all my professional friends have had long-term successful relationships, and almost without exception, my entrepreneurial friends have endured the thrills and spills of failed relationships and divorce. Although my evidence is empirical, the correlation was unmistakable.
There is no qualitative component to an entrepreneurial gene that causes self-centeredness or callousness. Most entrepreneurs I know are outgoing, are a lot of fun, and are more caring. I believe that entrepreneurs fail at relationships primarily due to the instability of the lifestyle. Partners are not wedded to the dream, the idea, or the opportunity. They, therefore, find it challenging to sustain emotional equilibrium through the ups and downs and setbacks and successes that are inevitable. It is easy for the entrepreneur to get so wrapped up in the dream or the fight to survive that there is no time or emotional energy left for anything else. The result creates a huge mismatch in a relationship. The partners might as well be on different planets.
Most people and especially women want predictability and security in life. This desire is the reason most people do not want to go into business for themselves. They either are forced into making it on their own due to job loss or some other calamity, or they are a free spirit, and the thought of working nine to five would be a fate worse than death. Either way, there is no regular paycheck or pension, or unemployment insurance. With no safety net, the life of an entrepreneur can be stressful, emotionally draining, demanding long hours. In addition, relationships will fail if the other partner, like most people, needs security and predictability.
Being under undue stress can also lead to substance abuse, emotional distancing, and aggressive behavior. It takes an extraordinary person to be in a long-term relationship with an entrepreneur. That person must be in a relationship with both the person and the business. The partner of an entrepreneur must be the type of person who can provide stability and security in the relationship that the lifestyle does not. Behind every successful entrepreneur, there is a spouse or partner that is a heroine or hero. It is they who build the foundation for success.
If you are thinking about striking out on your own or have done so already, it is best to avoid trying to get into a long-term relationship. Failing relationships only adds to the chaos and uncertainty of building a business or following a dream and zaps creativity and mental energy. However, if you can find a love interest who is genuinely up for the game, the union can result in much more than 1+1=2.