There should be a patron saint of start-up spouses. Between the long work hours, high anxiety levels, and years of little to no income, start-up founders are not easy to live with. My own partner (and my friends' partners) take on more at home than I'd ever agree to.
And that's the key. I would never in a million years put up with what I expect my boyfriend to put up with. I wake up every day thankful that he is still there. And he has zero bitterness or resentment. He just provides unconditional support and encouragement. And even though I don't understand why he is so patient, I remind him how thankful I am every day.
Picking a co-founder is incredibly important, but people rarely talk about picking a spouse. It's true that when you are building your business, you will spend more time with your co-founders than you do your own family, so you need to like your business partners. But the time you spend away also affects your family, so how they react will either add to or alleviate your stress.
Is the answer to date someone equally driven and entrepreneurial? Not in my opinion. After years of personal experience, I've found that two entrepreneurs understand one another's drive, but don't provide great emotional support. And they never end up seeing one another much. This doesn't help you when you need a shoulder to cry on. Even if you decide to work together, who takes on the responsibilities of home?
In her book, "He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing)," Andrea Syrtash explains how she realized what kind of partner she needed:
"When I fell for Michael, for the first time in my life I challenged my own definition of success. I realized that a successful man was one who nurtured and supported the well-being of our home and contributed to our emotional savings account. He would regularly deposit love, respect and open communication. He would make his marriage and family a priority...
I thought I wanted to be with a man who made six figures, but it turns out I'm happiest with the man who is home by six."
Andrea is able to focus on her career because her husband can take up the slack at home and be there for her when she has a bad day. And even better, he enjoys offering that support so she never needs to carry guilt on top of the stress of entrepreneurship.
I know this sounds like a reversal of the 1950s housewife, but perhaps that's why that model worked so well. I have many male friends who have said they would gladly stay home with the kids while their ambitious, driven wives go to work. And I have many female friends who are happy supporting their hard-working spouses. The problem with the 50s was that men and women couldn't choose their roles.
I once wrote that you couldn't have love and greatness, but after I met my boyfriend, I realized I was wrong. I hadn't experienced this type of successful partnership before. You can pursue your dreams and have a happy relationship. It just depends on the person you choose. You'll give the majority of your time, attention, and energy to growing your business, so the love of your life needs to be incredibly selfless, supportive, and independent.
If you are a start-up founder with one of these amazing people in your life, make sure you do everything to keep them around. They are rare and a big key to your success. If you're still looking for your life partner, whatever you do, don't pick another entrepreneur.