As an entrepreneur, Karen Jashinsky is passionate about her business. As a 36-year old single woman who would like a family, she’s ready to be passionate about a guy as well.
But dating has proved complicated for Karen, founder of O2 Max Fitness, a personalized fitness company, based in Santa Monica, California. Over the years she has gone out with both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. Neither seems compatible with the life she has chosen.
Let’s start with entrepreneurs, whom Karen divides into two categories. Those in the early stages of company building act as though “their business is their key relationship,” she told me. “It’s hard for them to be truly emotionally available to someone else.” Karen finds these men tend to date younger women who are not entrepreneurs and not as ambitious or goal-oriented as she is.
Karen has had better luck with more established entrepreneurs. "We understand each other’s pressures and obligations,” she said. “They aren’t dependent or needy.” But even these men often succumb to traditional ideals. “Their criteria seems to be: slim, cute, athletic, smart, flexible, can-travel-with-me,” said Karen. (While Karen matches these physical and intellectual attributes, her time isn’t very flexible.) “These men seem to know what they want in an employee but don’t have a firm understanding of what they need in a mate.”
The non-entrepreneurs Karen dates are admiring and supportive in the relationship’s early stages. But soon the qualities that initially impressed them become intimidating. Karen said they grow leery when she exhibits grit, tenacity, strength, and leadership-;traits considered unqualified advantages in men. They are put off by a woman who calls the shots and suspect she may have trouble compromising or settling into domestic bliss. Such a woman, Karen said, can be perceived as “bitchy or abrasive, where the man is considered polished and a desirable match.”
Karen has also experienced a kind of professional envy from non-entrepreneurs. Many don’t love their jobs and lack activities that they are passionate about outside of work. She said they “look in the mirror every day and see the things that they are afraid to do”-;things Karen herself is actually doing. Instead of articulating their discomfort, men will ask her, “When do you think your schedule is going to change?” or “Have you always worked this hard?” When she makes it clear that this is her life, “the guy just slithers away,” she says.
The kind of man Karen is seeking does exist, according to Barbie Adler, founder and president of Selective Search, a Chicago-based matchmaking firm with service throughout North America and custom fees starting at $25,000. Barbie’s male clients-;many of them entrepreneurs--say they are looking for someone who is passionate about what they do. They tell Barbie that a prospective partner “needs to have her own interests-;because I’m busy.”
Barbie offers the same advice to single entrepreneurs of both genders. Soften up, slow down, follow through on commitments, and show that you care. Both male and female entrepreneurs are sensitive to whether their dates unplug: “Entrepreneurs want to know if a prospective partner is able to turn off their iPhone and plug into the present,” Barbie says. She also advises business owners not to let their companies suck up all the conversational oxygen. “And don’t talk about how busy you are,” Barbie said. “Everyone is busy!”
Barbie cautions her female entrepreneur clients that biology requires they be clear about their priorities. “If you want to get married and have three kids and start a business, that may not be achievable,” Barbie said. “People want to be their own boss. But they don’t see the sacrifices.”
Karen does think she can “have it all” though of course compromises are necessary. In any case, some serious soul-searching is warranted. What is most important to her? What is she willing to sacrifice? “Those are the important questions,” Karen said, “they don’t teach you to ask yourself in business school.”