Entrepreneurship and Marriage: How it Can Make or Break your Business

The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose. Get the FREE eBook below.

entrepreneurship and marriage
The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose

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.

Part One

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.

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Are You an Entrepreneur Spouse Feeling Unfulfilled?

“I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“I feel like the life has been sucked out of me.”

“I have no idea what lights me up.”

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.

Why Spouse’s of Entrepreneurs Use Coaches

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.

Listening…

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.

The Invitation…

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.

Entrepreneur Spouses: Accepting Help

Women’s History Month: Honoring Women Who Accept Help

Accepting Help

Many times I hear entrepreneur spouses talk about the invisible workload of women. I received an email this morning that sounded so familiar.

With permission, I’m sharing her story for validation that it’s okay to accept help. More help. All the help you need to live the life you’re capable of.

***
Kelly, it was so wonderful to meet you in Laguna Beach. I truly meant it when I said, I could leave after your session and feel completed.

I have felt for a while that God was calling me to share more on our marriage and how we have made it work for almost 25 years now.

It takes a lot of hands to lead a big life, and accepting more help is the first step to truly stepping into your power:

One quick story of our marriage that changed my life and the way “I” viewed myself and our marriage.

My husband and I met through the industry (I was his sales gal) and after marriage I immediately started working in his business and we became partners on many levels.

At the time of this story, we had 3 little ones at the time – ages 7, 5, 2.

It was a Friday night and I had worked so many hours that week on a huge annual project. I picked up the two older kids at Montessori and the youngest was at home with our part time Nanny. After I relieved her, I made dinner and went to the laundry room and started sorting the huge piles of laundry. I felt overwhelmed and did not have enough hours in my day to do it all – and I was superwoman and MUST DO IT ALL.

No time to just sit around anymore!

My husband entered the laundry room as I sat there in the middle of piles of dirty clothes and he asked if I was going to come up and watch a movie with him and the kids as he missed the times of us just sitting together. I snapped and said I miss those times too…. But we got married, had kids, work countless hours at growing our business …. There is no time to just sit around anymore and this laundry is certainly not going to do itself so you head on up and relax and I will stay down here and do the laundry.

He stood there and looked at me with such sadness and said… I am so sorry you are this unhappy with our life. I snapped again and said what do you mean unhappy we have everything (healthy kids, nice home, growing business). His response was you certainly do not sound happy or look happy.

“It’s your choice…”

He proceeded to say in a stern but loving voice. I have asked you many times to get more help at the house but you refuse and want to do everything yourself. It is YOUR choice to stay down here tonight by yourself and do the laundry. I am opening up a nice bottle of wine and pouring two glasses. It is my hope that you take a moment to think about this and you will leave this laundry and come upstairs and have a glass of wine with me, cuddle with the kids and be together as a family. When today ends, we will never get it back and I hope you will remember this day as a day that ended happy and not angry in the laundry room.

He left and I felt like I had been hit right in the heart. The problem was ME and he called me out. As he walked away, I knew I had to change. Thankfully I went up and had that wine, snuggled with the kids and will always remember that day as a life changing day in realizing that it is ok to ask for help and that it was not a sign of weakness.

Marriage is not always easy

Marriage is not always easy, it is not always fun, it is not always what you thought or hoped it would be. But for us…. We WORK at it, and sometimes the work is fun and sometimes the work is hard. I think it was you that mentioned the three-legged race…. It was so ironic as years ago in a Bible Study I refereed to our marriage as a three-legged race…. Me one leg, my husband the other leg and God as the middle leg that keeps the others in sync. I give God all the glory for our marriage….

***

Ladies, you DON’T have to be, do, and have it all. The last thing we need is more exhausted, depleted, overworked women.

Accept the help!

The Entrepreneur Spouse: When You’re Stuck Between Your Marriage and Your Purpose

Serving a purpose while developing a marriage can sometimes feel like competing agendas. Both purpose and a marriage require intense devotion, support, and a long-term vision.

But when one person is purpose driven, and the marital partner isn’t- trouble can strike. The purpose-driven partner can start to feel isolated in his or her quest for changing the world. They can start to feel guilty for pouring so much time into their purpose, while the spouse or family waits at home. They can even start to feel disconnected from their spouse because they lack a connection on something that is so crucial to them, yet their spouse doesn’t necessarily relate.

It’s no picnic for the spouse either. Waking up every day, watching your partner walk out the door with a vision to change the world can shine a light on their lack of purpose. It can often feel like the business gets the best of their partner, while they get the rest of them. And, it can feel like so much of life orbits around the business/purpose, there isn’t time or space for them to add their own passion to the mix.

Enter The Entreprenewer. The Entreprenewer is a program for the women of entrepreneurial households. It is designed to level the playing field between business and marriage. Our time together will restore the crucial sense of Play, Praise, and Purpose women need to grow in business and marriage.

Contact me for details to see if this is right for you and your spouse.

She had TOO MUCH time on her hands and it landed her in Hollywood

After years of striving professionally, she left a high-powered career she excelled at to take a break and focus on being a wife. “I wanted to drop into really taking care of my husband and my marriage. We were both working so much and I was hardly ever home to enjoy this stunning home he built for us. I took a break to focus on us and figure out my next chapter.”

She focused all her creative energy on making them a fantastic home and upgrading life on every level. And for the first year or so, it was invigorating. They both reveled in the ease her singular focus created in their life together. 

It was magic…until it wasn’t. 

Eventually she had their excellence on auto-pilot and her strategic thinking wasn’t needed anymore. For most of my clients, this is where life starts to go off the rails. It shows up as various symptoms:

🛍 shopping (over-spending)

📱 social media (comparing & illusions of insufficiency)

💔 sex (infidelity)

❌ stagnation (the downward spiral of inaction, second guessing and self-doubt)

In the months and years of her “freedom” she created a prison of overthinking every life choice she had ever made. She entertained herself with indecision and concocting scenarios that would threaten her marriage. She got good at focusing on all the things her husband WASN’T and convinced herself she had become the orbit of their marriage. If she began working again it would all fall apart, she concluded. Every time she got a job offer, she backed off as a gesture not to upset the apple cart. 

When I spoke to her husband about this, he said “Kelly, look. I don’t need a wife. If she’s at yoga when I wake up in the morning, you know how long it takes me to get out the door every morning? Twenty five minutes instead of 15. Ten extra minutes. That’s it! What good is having a wife if she’s dead inside? So, no, I don’t need her here to be a wife. I need HER- lit up again.”

He had been telling her that for YEARS, but when she heard it on our call together, she truly heard it for the first time. 

And now, our girl is finally off on a six month adventure that will put her smack in the center of Hollywood on a hit series surrounded by the movers and shakers. Most importantly, she’ll be fully immersed in her talents and juicing up her brain again. 

And when she gets back, with an amplified soul and a pulsing network, her possibilities only multiply. Go get ‘em, girl! 

We’re behind you all the way!!

The Entrepreneur and Successful Vacationing…

It’s vacation season!  

Tickets are booked, shopping is done, and bags are packed! So much planning and prep has gone into this- the only thing left to do is have fun, make memories, and reconnect with loved ones. 

You finally get to your destination and everything is accounted for. Except for your partner’s head; it’s back at the office- again. 

For most entrepreneurial couples, this is a common point of contention. 

“Just once! We just wanted your undivided attention for just one week!”

Trouble in paradise. 

Below are a few helpful tips to ensure everyone maximizes the power of family vacation:

1) SHARE EXPECTATIONS 

‘Trep: Honey, I have three business calls I need to take while we’re away. They’re scheduled at these times…

Partner: Babe, there are a few times this week we’ll need your undivided attention for scheduled activities. Can you please make sure you’ve planned accordingly to have your phone off during these times?

2) DON’T ASSIGN MEANING TO UNEXPECTED CALLS

‘Trep: avoid the impulse to defend taking a call with “you never appreciate how much I have to work to make all this possible”.

Partner: avoid using this as another opportunity to prove that the business is clearly more important than family.

Let it be what it is. A call. After the call, a kind gesture from each of you will unhinge the other from the impending battle positions you may have both assumed. 

3) FILTER

‘Trep: is it really necessary that you engage in work while away? Or do you just enjoy being needed/engaged/ challenged? A total disconnect provides exponential value in your business and your personal life. Don’t underestimate the power of letting your team handle it- everyone will thank you. 

Partner: is it totally crucial that no work activity takes place? Or do you just feel a little lost when they they get caught up in work? Taking advantage of some personal time while on vacay gives you an equal opportunity for a total disconnect- and what’s that worth?!??