But that's not necessarily what spouses of entrepreneurs experience. Their emotional world tends to be full of resentment at the stress and chaos that their partners bring into the family. Spouses often feel alone in managing the household, advocating for the welfare of the family, and ensuring some measure of stability.
Significant others of entrepreneurs may feel like they have forfeited their own desires in order to support that of their spouse. Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, former Inc. columnist and wife of Gary Hirshberg, the first CEO of Stonyfield Yogurt, has called it being "hitched to someone else's dream."
This imbalance in life purpose is a perfect recipe for an unhappy spouse and an unhealthy marriage.
Years of research have shown that having a sense of purpose in life makes a big difference. It can contribute to brain health and protect against cognitive decline in later years. Setting goals and working toward them can even extend your lifespan, no matter what age you currently are.
If you have been fortunate enough to find this through your venture, wouldn't you want this for your spouse as well? The challenge for entrepreneurs, who often succeed because of their single-minded focus and vision, is to pause from their own work long enough to help nurture a sense of purpose for their significant other.
Here are some ways to support your partner in pursuing his or her dreams:
1. Treat your spouse as a critical member of your company's team.
Psychologists agree that a shared sense of purpose contributes significantly to a strong relationship. If your significant other works with you in the business, you hopefully already have that. But even if you don't work together, you can make sure your partner knows that he or she is an invaluable member of the team. Thank them for all they do to allow you to be so dedicated to your work; keep them posted on key developments and accomplishments of the business; assure them that this venture is as much theirs as yours.
2. Help create space for them to explore and try new things.
Most entrepreneurs' significant others are overwhelmed with the lion's share of family and life responsibilities. Together, come up with a game plan to make space for your partner to dream and explore, whether that means going back to school, volunteering, networking, or applying for new jobs. The plan may include things like making childcare arrangements, using meal services, or cutting back on scheduled activities.
3. Offer input, advice, and contacts.
You've no doubt learned a number of tough lessons while pursuing your business. As long as your spouse is open to your input, pass these lessons and other best practices along so he or she won't make the same mistakes. If you have relevant contacts or connections, offer to help open doors for your partner. And if your significant other doesn't want your help, respect them enough to step back and simply be a cheerleader.
4. Figure out if the weight of family support needs to shift to your spouse's career and, if so, how to make this happen.
Depending on what you and your partner want to pursue, your family may only be able support one of your dreams at a time. Constraints around finances, time, health, and child-rearing may make it difficult for you both to be all-in simultaneously.
If this is the case, have an honest conversation with your spouse about when and how you can pull back and let them have a turn at having the family's support behind them. Get as specific as you can with milestones and timelines for making this happen.
A little extra effort and sacrifice so that you and your spouse can each have a sense of purpose that gives you meaning, makes you happier, and even extends your life is absolutely worth it. The two of you would be that much closer to creating the life and marriage you want.