I was talking with a friend this morning about her marriage and she started to tell me the familiar story of her husband’s anger. It was territory we covered frequently and while his anger was never really directed AT her, the general discomfort of sharing life with someone who could get SOOO mad burdened her. “How can he waste so much energy on such trivial things?” she often mused. Our conversations about this normally involved a healthy degree of strategy about how she could manage his upset. Or avoid it. Or calm it. Or change it.
But this morning when the topic came up, something was different. There wasn’t an lump in her throat. There was an…an amusement?
I listened as she set the context of why her husband was so upset this time (family dysfunction) and as she got more involved in setting the stage, she started to giggle. “…and then he went on this whole colorful rage about how dumb so-and-so was and all the ways this family member was just such an absolute disaster…” She described the combination of explicit words he concocted in his tirade and she was suddenly belly laughing through tears about the rant.
And in one clear statement she said the magic words to him:
“Honey, I don’t know anyone who does rage as well as you do. You are so skilled at that expression!”
As quickly as she said it, he relaxed- as if her recognition popped his rage balloon.
I asked her what changed in her that she was able to arrive at that place and she said, “I just realized I had an obstructed view of my marriage. I looked at him through how I thought he should be, instead of how he IS. It was just like having an obstructed view of the stage! And I realized if I just scooched over two seats to the left, instead of staring at my own judgements of him, I could actually see the full show- and it was so much better!”
Of course it was! Giving witness to your partner- in all of their strengths and weaknesses- is such a great way to experience intimacy. Into me you see. All of it. Without an agenda or a need to change it. Without conditions. Without judgement. Without foregone conclusions of how things will play out.
How would your relationship change if you both just scooched over two seats toward center? And saw each other for the full show without the obstruction of your own judgements?
What part of your partner has been obstructed? Are you willing to scooch to the left?
P.S. Next week, I think I’ll share my open letter to Alpha Females. Is there anything else you’re experiencing right now you’d like support on? Let me know and I’ll add it to the mix!
The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose. Get the FREE eBook below.
Entrepreneurship is a wild ride and it takes the right person to pull it off successfully. With over 90 percent of entrepreneurs failing once or more in business, it’s no wonder the divorce rate for entrepreneurs is so high. The journey of entrepreneurship is wrought with extreme highs and lows. Add a spouse to the mix and you either have a secret weapon—or a recipe for disaster!
For a spouse, marrying into an entrepreneurial relationship can prove to be a tremendous blessing or a blasted curse. I used to say that a spouse can make or break a business. While that’s still true, there’s a more important truth: a business can make or break a spouse.
While the growth of a business owner may serve the business well, it can also threaten a marriage. When couples are not growing together, the gap of shared goals and dreams can swallow the relationship. Because a spouse plays such a crucial support role to the business owner, it is imperative to invest in the individual growth of the spouse as well as the entrepreneur.
Where Spouses Might Struggle
Most spouses struggle to find the line between support and self-care. Discovering how to effectively manage the impact of the business on the spouse and the relationship has proven to be a game changer. The impact of a supportive spouse on a business in undeniable. The impact of a fulfilled spouse in a relationship is even greater. That’s why the spouses must be championed, acknowledged, and encouraged to grow and care for themselves.
To be healthy in all areas of personal life requires a journey of self-discovery to reconnect with one’s highest and best self. I’ve lived in the uncertain environment of the entrepreneurial households on both sides of the equation—as the entrepreneur and as the partner of one. I’ve learned from my mistakes and love lost. I’ve also coached many entrepreneurial couples through Strategic Coach, Lifebook, and my own business, The Entreprenewer, where I recognized they were all experiencing similar issues, not only in the business, but in the situation at home.
Due to the constant demands of the business and family, couples are often left feeling deflated, overwhelmed, and underserved. They’re in chronic reaction mode. The entrepreneur is hyper-focused on maximizing their potentialin the business. The spouse is caught up in the inertia of everyone else’s goals and dreams. They aren’t pursuing their own passion and growth anymore. In essence, both parties are being squeezed out of the relationship. They have forgotten the three most enjoyable parts of life and relationships: the power of play, the power of praise, and the power of purpose.
My Intention for this Book
My intention for this is a book is to empower entrepreneurial couples to grow TOGETHER through the powers of play, praise, and purpose. Harnessing these powers will reveal that it takes TWO extraordinary people to create ONE extraordinary relationship. In discussing the concepts, I will often refer to entrepreneurial relationships in a generalized way, referring to the entrepreneur as “he” and the spouse as “she”—but the challenges can be just as hard, if not harder, when the woman is the entrepreneur in the relationship. The same is true for same-sex couples of either gender. These principles are boiled down to “entrepreneurshipthe human experience,” and transcend stereotypes and gender roles.
To create a healthy, vibrant relationship, the three most crucial strategies involve infusing your relationship with prolific amounts of play, praise, and purpose. In the next section, we’ll address why entrepreneurs and their spouses need to match the quality of their free time to that of their work time. We’ll explore how they can bring greater awareness to their opportunities to affirm versus accuse, and identify the need to align their long-term visions so there’s purpose in both their lives, as well purpose for their relationship. In short, entrepreneurial households require plentiful play, potent praise, and powerful purpose.
The Storms of Entrepreneurial Relationships
Before we explore the solution, we must fully recognize the problem If we don’t understand what’s hurting us, we can’t maximize what helps us Entrepreneurship offers a unique dynamic to a love relationship Somehow, the business becomes a third party in the relationship It can become the source of our identity and the catalyst for the health (or lack thereof) of our relationship It becomes the governing body of how well we “show up” for our spouse It is crucial for us to reclaim our love relationship from the grip of our business if we are to truly step into our power as a couple
Chapter 1: Roles vs. Identity
Identity Loss: It doesn’t take a crisis
We give business owners a lot of flack for tying their identity so tightly to their business. Their self-worth becomes inextricably linked to their net worth. What has so far gone unnoticed is how strongly the spouse ties her identity to the business owner.
The business now becomes the foundation of the relationship. But we overlook the crucial piece in which we acknowledge that the love relationship is actually the bedrock of a fulfilling life and the health of the business.
Remember, in order to create one extraordinary love relationship, we need two extraordinary people—not one extraordinary business We need two people who are actively paying attention to their needs and desires. We need two people who are committed to shared growth and mutual support.
By nature, and by trade, entrepreneurs are hardwired for growth. They seek peak experiences and are always looking for an edge. Many times, the result of this quest for hyper-growth leaves thrashing chaos in its wake. The spouse is left to hold the rest of the couple’s lives together. Keeping life on the rails becomes a full-time job, and it’s in this abyss that we completely lose sight of ourselves.
One thing that always fascinates me about being a coach is seeing the constant patterns that show up with my clients. It’s like every week there’s a “challenge of the week” that all my clients seem to be having.
This week, the theme has been around Emotional Support. Here’s what I’m seeing…
One partner is a superstar producer and strong financial provider. Often, especially with high earners, it can feel like their only job is providing financially. It’s a case of “our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.”
Financial provision is an AMAZING gift. It creates opportunities, comfort, options, luxury, access, and exclusivity. ((If you are a strong provider- THANK YOU! Keep showing those around you how to charge what you’re worth!))
But, ironically, it doesn’t necessarily create security.
In the absence of personal connection, it can actually create a massive degree of insecurity.
The provider can feel that providing financially is their only place of value in the relationship- causing them to double down on work. And their partner can feel alone in a really big life.
This leaves both feeling unseen, unappreciated, and unfulfilled.
Emotional support is the salve that starts to heal those wounds. However, exploring emotions can be REALLY daunting for some people- and forcing someone to crack the emotional vault can be totally counter-productive.
Here’s the deal; at the core of emotional support is true intimacy (Intimacy= into me you see). So emotional support actually requires a bit of foreplay.
Here are some ways you can begin focusing on each other that will add a deeper personal connection AND begin to turn on the valves to Emotional Support.
Focus on other areas of yourselves that you can each bring to the relationship. Bringing new parts of yourself to the relationship helps establish a personal connection that makes it safe to begin exploring emotions together. It might be one of the following:
* Intellectual Support- what are the random thoughts you entertain? What are you learning about? What problems are you solving? Sharing personal intellectual pursuits can feel like a safer way to begin a more personal connection. What dreams of the future are keeping you motivated?
* Physical Support- Be there. Maybe you aren’t ready to crack open your heart and spill your guts about all your thoughts and feelings but showing up physically for someone is a huge deposit in their emotional bank account. Whether it’s being next to them during a hard time, celebrating one of their accomplishments, or just listening while they unravel, your physical presence is a crucial way to provide more security in the relationship.
* Spiritual Support- talking about spiritual beliefs is a massive way to reveal yourself to your partner. Maybe you want to get back into going to church together, or learning about other beliefs, or expanding your spiritual practice. Many of us have a stir that craves our Higher Power and exploring that as a couple can be a great way to increase intimacy in your relationship.
* Character Support- are you truly showing up as the partner you’d like to be? Do you need to exhibit more courage? Patience? Acceptance? Recognition? Appreciation? Choose one value or character trait that you’d like to focus on and develop habits in the relationship that begin to foster more of a connection.
In short, Emotional Support is a foundational piece to any relationship. And unfortunately, it just doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Instead of making your partner “wrong” for not having the “sensitivity chip”, focus on the other parts of them you can connect to and then work from there.
You’ll find that with a little more acceptance for all the parts of them, they’re more likely to reveal their emotional vault.
These are the common responses I hear when I’m working with spouses of entrepreneurs.
It’s how I felt in my relationship; a fragment of my full self. Sacrificed in the name of being a “supportive partner”.
Except I could support no one because I was in desperate need of someone to fill my own bucket.
Enter resentment, disappointment, and the realization that if this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.
I am a strong, ambitious, independent woman. How did I get so lost?
I know this stuff. I COACH this stuff. How could I let things get so far off the rails?
Because love. And life. And sacrificing self care in the name of support.
Self care is more than a weekly yoga class. It’s more than massages, manicures, or martinis with the girls.
Self care is a deep understanding of what we need to show up as our full, most empowered self.
You need to know what it takes for you to be at your best so that you can be of any value to others.
You want to live a life fully charged so that you’re activating those around you to show up as their best.
This is simple, but it’s not easy. In entrepreneurial couples, if purpose isn’t shared, it can divide. Let me help you find your purpose and to understand what you need to show up as your full, most empowered self.
When I tell people that I work with spouses of entrepreneurs and high performers, they always respond with: “that’s a thing? Why do they need coaches; seems like they would have a pretty nice life.”
They do! A lot of spouses enjoy a great life. But a lot of them also feel a certain degree of Purpose Envy.
Purpose Envy is a thing
Purpose Envy can set in when you share a life with someone who is incredibly driven and committed to serving a higher purpose. Waking up next to someone who leaps into their day with vigor and leaves the house every morning ready to change the world can leave the spouse feeling confronted with a void in his or her own life. It can feel deflating to not have a similar point of connection as it relates to one’s own passion.
The value of using a coach to navigate this territory is to reduce the anxiety and potential for conflict when discussing this with the purpose-driven spouse.
Often, the purpose-driven spouse will offer advise, solutions, or ideas on how to “monetize” their purpose-seeking spouse’s interests or talents. And I’m not saying that’s wrong or bad, but that can cause even more overwhelm for the seeking spouse who may need to start in his or her own personal space.
If you are the purpose-driven spouse looking for advice on how to support a purpose-seeking spouse, my best advice is to LISTEN. Effective questions that help move the conversation forward are questions like:
“What do you need from me?”
“How can I best support you?”
“What’s the difference you want to make in the world?”
“When your friends call you for advice, what are they asking you about?”
“What are you doing when you lose track of time?”
Then, as he or she starts to respond, keep asking “what else?” This is the unraveling that will help them sift and sort through their thoughts and ideas.
You are not alone.
If you are the purpose-seeking spouse looking for direction, first, know that you are not alone. It’s okay to feel a personal void- even in the middle of a really big life. It is normal to want more- even if you already have it all. It’s totally understandable to feel disconnected from yourself when you have had so much attention on your partner and their pursuits.
And, if you’re feeling like there has to be more- THAT’S the invitation. That’s the indicator that something more is waiting for you. And there IS room for your passion and the pursuit of your purpose in an already big life.
Some useful exercises for you are to dabble. Yes, it’s going to look unproductive and a little haphazard, but it’s also a great way to figure out what you’re into and what you’re not. It’s also a great way to get into ACTION! Nothing gets us to our purpose like momentum, so get into action toward something (ANYTHING) that brings you joy. That’s generally the fastest path to purpose!
So start saying “No, thanks” to the activities that don’t excite you, and “YES!” to the activities that intrigue you.