You may feel you have your business or startup all figured out, but what about your love life? Do you feel as confident about being a good partner as you do about being a good entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs don't usually make the easiest romantic partners (this includes me). Yet I've learned that you can have a happy relationship if you understand how your choices and lifestyle affect a partner who may think differently from you. You must compensate for the impact of your unique work-life balance (or lack thereof), and ensure that your partner feels he or she is as important to you as your business is.
This list includes a number of ways you can support a healthy relationship while still honoring your entrepreneurial ambitions.
1. Make your partner feel important
Your better half is battling your business, investors, board and customers for your attention. That's a lot of people, which means it's extra important that you stress to your partner how much he or she matters to you.
In my experience, the best way to do this is to know your partner's love language. If you know what he or she values most, focus in on that one area. It will maximize the amount of love your partner feels per unit of effort on your part.
2. Make quality time
There's a huge difference between spending time with your partner and making quality time for him or her. Quality time requires that you are fully present. No phones. No distractions. Such time can be hard to come by, so you need to make it a priority.
3. Encourage your partner's independence
Just because you're sacrificing your work-life balance in order to push your company forward doesn't mean your partner wants to do the same. Be supportive when your partner wants to invest time in hobbies, travel or friendships without you.
4. Clearly define your boundaries
State your rules of engagement and stick to them. Clarify when you need to work and when you don't, when you have to take calls and when you can let them go. There are always exceptions, but this framework will help your partner know what to expect from you.
5. Constantly communicate
A happy relationship is nearly impossible if either partner feels resentment toward the other, which can quickly happen when your lifestyle is full of sacrifices, interruptions and inconveniences. Constant communication with your partner will create a safe space in which both of you can express your feelings and needs.
I can't stress this one enough. Open communication is the best way to avoid the resentment that kills relationships. Both you and your partner need to feel heard.
6. Understand your partner's needs (and meet them)
You'll enjoy a healthier relationship and a happier partner if you invest your time and energy into giving to the relationship, instead of focusing on what you can get out of it. Give your partner the opportunity to articulate what he or she wants, then work together to meet those needs and desires. The more you serve your partner, the more the relationship will serve you.
7. Be patient
While the demands of startup life seem natural to you, they may seem daunting, even insane, to others. Remember this whenever you partner becomes frustrated, and be patient when he or she feels shortchanged. It's vital to remember that the entrepreneurial lifestyle isn't as easy as you think it is.
8. Surprise your partner
Planning a surprise, even a small one, shows your partner that you care. It also adds a much-welcomed feeling of spontaneity, which often goes missing when you have a high-stress lifestyle that demands routine and optimization.
9. Date night
Get back to the fun of dating by scheduling a regular date night. Turn off your phone and enjoy time with your partner. Date night can be spent doing anything that you both find enjoyable, and is important no matter how long you've been together.
10. Work while you travel
Completely going off the grid for more than a few days isn't always feasible for an entrepreneur. Still, it's likely that both you and your partner would like to get away for more than a three-day weekend.
One compromise is to plan a longer trip with the caveat that you'll work 25-33% of the time that you're gone. My girlfriend and I tried this in 2016, and we were able to enjoy a 17-day trip to Thailand without sacrificing our productivity.
The keys to a great relationship are communication and awareness. With all of the stress, chaos, excitement and uncertainty that comes with the startup lifestyle, it's vital that you are aware of the expectations and emotions that are present between you and your partner. Active communication will increase understanding, prevent resentfulness and lead to a stronger relationship.