Image of happy wedding couple

Entrepreneurs – Choose Your Spouse Wisely

Image of happy wedding couple

I am married to the single greatest woman on this planet.

There is no way I could do what I do without her understanding, support and unconditional love. I have been an entrepreneur and a risk taker for a long time.  Most of the girls I dated were a bit frightened by the fact that I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer.  Most of their parents were scared stiff! 

The combination made me quickly realize that my soulmate would be someone who would embrace what I was instead of what I wasn’t.

Of course there are many other reasons that I married my wife – all of which are more important and personal than simply being willing to handle some ambiguity in my career path. At the risk of sounding a bit corny, I did marry my best friend.  We have too much fun together.

I could live without my work or my company.  I can’t say the same about her.  All of this has a point. If you are an unmarried entrepreneur you should take some real-time in selecting your partner!  Due diligence is an understatement here.

The following are a few characteristics you might want to look for or look out for in a potential spouse if you plan to be an entrepreneur:

  1. They aren’t scared by financial instability. Have they ever experienced it themselves? Do they always have to have the latest of everything?  In other words, if you are a boot strapping entrepreneur, can they handle it?
  2. Can they be supportive of demanding hours, particularly in the early years?  I think a successful entrepreneur is one that puts their time in and makes the necessary sacrifices, but along the way they shift the balance of their time towards their spouse and family. If you plan to be happily married, you have to successfully make this transition. Can your spouse handle this time line though?
  3. What kind of house did they grow up in? The reason I ask is sometimes a spouse had an entrepreneurial parent(s) and things didn’t go well. Those types of experiences can scar someone for awhile and make them understandably uncomfortable with you doing anything entrepreneurial.
  4. Could they handle the public “shame” of failure? Some people just can’t handle it if they have to do anything public that signifies failure. As I’ve noted before failure can lead to success – so be sure you marry someone that can make it thru that.
  5. How high is their risk tolerance/aversion? Sometimes opposites attract and a low-risk spouse can be a good counter balance to a gun-slinging entrepreneur. I think this is probably somewhat unique though.  For the most part, a spouse that is comfortable with risk will be a better fit for you.

Invest in your marriage

Most entrepreneurs don’t give their marriage the time and attention it deserves.  I am not proud to admit this, but I am absolutely guilty of it myself.

The work is who we are – it can consume us and leave room for little else.  Our marriages can suffer and end as a result.  Unfortunately, this a sad and frequent byproduct of entrepreneurship. We are hard to live with in a lot of ways.  Again, I know that I am guilty of all the above.  It is tough!

The hours we keep, the ups and downs in our financial status, and the constant workload can make for a rather unrewarding marriage if that is all we have to offer.

The key really is a cheesy old saying, “work hard and play hard!” 

As the years go by, and your energy level wanes, the balance of your time should move towards your spouse, not your company.  I think this is where a lot of entrepreneurs and their marriages take a turn for the worst.  I am right in the middle of this myself and am actually listening to my own advice.

I fully expect to work my butt off for a while – and you should too. I do not expect to be working this hard forever though.  I am not going to become a lazy or disinterested person – I simply will have figured out how to get everything done in under 40 hours a week!

On a more positive note, hopefully we can all have a marriage that will grow stronger and more fulfilling each year. We will have found professional success and have realized the fruits that go along with that. Then we get to share them, year after year, with our best friend that has patiently waded through the swamp with you!  Nothing could be more rewarding.

I work every day of my life with this image in my mind. I am consumed with what I do – but I continually plan my goals in accordance with a life centered around my spouse and family.

In other words, if I am blogging often in 10 years about the multitude of businesses I own and am working on, then I have failed.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • Awesome post Alex,
    I reason with what you said! For me, I think marrying the spouse who really understands the nature of the work you’re doing is the best, so as not to cause for dispute! I’m sure a real woman will try to understand this. Do you agree with me? Well this is my opinion, maybe because I’m not married yet 🙂 what do you think? Thanks for sharing.

  • Great post!

    I’m glad to see that your list of things to look for in a partner does not in any way disqualify my girlfriend from the future role of my wife.

    Not that I would change the way things are, but it’s comforting to see someone with experience at being an entrepreneur and being a husband list talk about relationships in such a way.

  • Really good post,

    I’ve never read one like this. As a single entrepreneur with marriage in the semi near future, this really hits home.

    The idea of an entrepreneur compatible wife has been on my mind and I really think risk aversion can play negatively into a relationship.

  • Alex Lawrence

    @Samuel – it’s important that you find your best friend who can also understand and support your career in entrepreneurship. There are a lot of great people out there that fit this description; good luck in finding yours!

  • Alex Lawrence

    @John – I’m glad it didn’t disqualify your girlfriend either 🙂

  • Alex Lawrence

    @Mike – thanks, I am glad you found it unique. Good luck with your “semi near future” marriage! 🙂 Keep us posted…

  • While I appreciate how much you care for your wife, I can’t accept that she is the single greatest woman on this planet. You see, that is because that title is already held by my wife! 😀 Keep up the good work.

    • Alex Lawrence

      @MoneyNinja (real name??) – love it. Glad you feel the same way about your wife. Thanks for reading 🙂 Come back often and share your thoughts.

  • Ben Rollins

    100% agree with you here. My wife is a saint.

  • I agree with you, marriage if both partners can understand each other and understand together, is an invaluable investment benefits, as you have done. Hopefully, more success!

  • Just came across this post by accident and though’t I’d share.

    I’ve experienced the other side of this equation (being with the wrong person) having been engaged to somebody who saw me as a “safe bet” (before I went crazy aka entrepreneurial).

    As a result I wasn’t earning the money I did before, failed a few times and guess what….she didn’t stick around.  However I’m young enough to rebuild and find somebody that is more accepting of this life and hopefully a better person and life partner.

    Bottom line is I’m happier and can focus on making things work as I no longer suffer from the psychological attacks every day.  Just need to find the right person now 😉

  • Pingback: Seven Things I’ve Learned | Alex Lawrence()

  • Jeff Jordan

    Great post, Alex! One comment I would add for those who are already married: If you’ve married a woman or man and you later discover that he or she doesn’t jive with your entrepreneurial lifestyle, be careful about prioritizing your entrepreneurial instincts above your marriage. Do what you can to build compromise and find middle ground than makes you both happy. But if you find yourself at an impasse, your relationship with your spouse and children are much more important than your desire to scratch the entrepreneurial itch. A divorce from entrepreneurship is much wiser than a divorce from your husband of wife.

    • alex_lawrence

      Jeff — thanks my man! And you make a great point. So true! Couldn’t agree with you more.

    • trixietimez

      Though I do think that you have to understand what makes you tick, and that being a true entrepreneur is not something you can just turn on and off. If you somehow managed to marry someone that did not share your vision about who you are and how you want to spend the majority of your waking hours, then it’s most likely you’ll spend the next 30 years unhappy with the other aspects of your life and it will affect the relationship. Reminds me of women that marry musicians then demand that they stop playing and “get a real job.” Happens all the time. There has to be some acceptance on both sides. No one can be that surprised by someone’s passion and workstyle after they get married, can they?

  • awesome post, sending this to my mom who keeps bugging me about getting married. Now she will understand that I’m not looking for just some typical girl 🙂

    • alex_lawrence

      Parker — thanks a lot. Glad this helped get your Mom off your case as well 🙂 PS, how is that $1,000 search thing going? Ha!

    • Merrilee Boyack

      I’m still on your case. Just because you’re adding new considerations does not change the purpose! Alex, read my book, “Strangling Your Husband is NOT an Option” – especially the part about WEEKLY date night being sacred. We give God three hours a week (well, hopefully more) and our spouses deserve that as well. Make that commitment in STONE. Parker – keep looking, faster. :))))

      • alex_lawrence

        A Mom sighting! Good advices on weekly date night — my wife and I do that every week as well.
        As for Parker, my Dad always had some good advice that applies here, Merrilee. You know when Parker should get married?
        When he falls in love.

  • I’d argue that I’m married to the single greatest woman on earth, want to leg wrestle over it? I just got lucky in my choice. I was a company guy for the first 9 years of our marriage before I discovered my inner entrepreneur. Come to find out she had an inner entrepreneur too and we have been a team every step of the way.

    We have found that we don’t need money as much as we need hope. We can work really hard and sacrifice a lot as long as we have hope for a bright future. Take away the hope and we both break down.

    So the current quest is to find the next great hopeful project and throw ourselves into it heart and soul.

    • alex_lawrence

      Josh — It’s great we both think that, because to each of us, it is true! Love the way you described. Let hope spring eternal my friend!

      • I love this:

        Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
        Man never Is, but always To be blest:
        The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
        Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

        – Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

        Thanks for reminding me that we are on an eternal journey full of hope, no matter what happens with our next earthly venture.

    • Pallavi Srivastava
    • trixietimez

      Congrats on that! I’ve found out, finally, that I really needed to be married to another entrepreneur to be truly happy in all aspects of my life.

  • C

    I had entrepreneur parents and no childhood. However, my parents are wildly successful and love each other. They taught me life in an unconventional way, and they did this very young as well. I will be married to my entrepreneur next year, and we are better for it!!

  • Alice

    I’m not sure how your wife handles it. I’ve been with my husband for 10 years, married to him for 3, and we have a 2 year old son and a second on the way (7 months). We worked as a team and went through hell (7 years) to get through an engineering program (with internships and co-ops), and he just has gotten 3 years of experience on the job – in 2 more years he’ll get another week of vacation – and not to mention all of our health expenses (including the very expensive pregnancies), were covered. I did quit my job to stay home with our children during their formative years, so, perhaps I am a hypocrite as I pursued my passion (though daycare would not have been cheap either). However, I have to say it scares the CRAP out of me when my husband indicates he would like to “someday” leave our only source of stability to do a number of engineering startups. It’s actually not a matter of time away from our marriage (as he has a bit of computer addiction anyway); as long as he keeps in good health, and reads some stories with our kids it’s fine. It’s a matter of “oh my God how are we going to put food on the table and not sink into massive debt if our entire life investments goes south on a risk?” Yesterday, because I know he was working late, I had the whole house clean, and made home made butter chicken (took 2 hours, all organic), and I was just celebrating our beautiful family dinner when he mentioned he wanted me to somehow budget 5K for a refurbished MRI to tinker with it (somehow this would lead to a business). I do all of our budget and financial work and I already know we’d be in the red without his bonus this year (we’re also building a house right now) – and I perhaps had a less than stellar response. Please note I do not spend almost anything beyond sustenance on myself – if I want to save money, it’s for our kids, and I still want to have 2 more – something he has allowed but I don’t know if he understands the full implications of it. He snapped back that “I’m tired of putting my life on hold” which broke my heart because – we have a precious, precious 2 year old, and a new baby coming, and I do my damndest to make a pleasant, stress free home environment – and, I feel it goes back to how entering our marriage I think he assumed 2 incomes at all times, and my income would be the financial boost that would make a lab, or business ideas tenable – and it frustrates me so much because I work so hard to give our children the best advantage in terms of academics – and also I take them to a myriad of activities, and some of these cost money but, I just can’t understand why he can’t enjoy our lives now. So, I pity wives of entrepreneurs. It’s something, probably, to do before kids. Way before kids.

    • do-over please

      I understand how you feel, completely. I married someone who decided to go the entrepreneur rout 15 years and 3 kids into our marriage. now, as he sacrifices to see his company grow, we cant pay the mortgage. Frankly at this point I could care less if he is working god-awful hours or not. I just want to know I wont have to sell this home I have paid out on for 16 years just to pay our debts. And we had a deal, like what you describe: he could make any job-based decision he wanted until the kids came; then he would need to ensure stability for the family. We waited 9 years to have kids, then he decides to go after risky behavior. I feel duped, and angry. Not only do I work full time to provide the benefits, but since he is around so infrequently I am the primary caregiver for the kids too. he didnt take crazy risks until i was over a barrel with a mortgage and kids, and now i cant extricate myself without hurting the kids in the process (children of divorce? anyone?). its a crappy deal, and if i had it to do over again, i wouldnt.

  • Pallavi Srivastava

    Partners/spouses of entrepreneurs go through a lot to support them. Sometimes they have to be more positive, strong and balanced than the entrepreneur themselves. Here I am talking about few major problems they face. A must read:

  • Bootstrappin Housewife

    Really good read. Thanks, I needed that. It helps me understand. I am the entrepreneur in the family. Right now I am a housewife. I have been damn good at it, but before I met my husband I was a single parent, working part time and running a very small business. At points I was also taking classes to complement it. In other words, I was quite used to doing it all. I had been paying my own bills since I was 14 and had my daughter at 21. He fell in love with me for that. Shortly after marrying we had my son. Very wonderful planned decision. I looked at my husband and said: I will work 10 hours a week and be a stay at home mom making money where I can for 4 years. Then, the roles need to even out. He agreed. I did exactly that. Now (5 years later) I am pursuing a training that lands me on a fast track to a career that usually brings in 60,000. by year 3.
    I make a small wage on side ventures in the mean time. He says he supports me, but his choices ultimately say he doesn’t. It’s a fairly low financial investment to start, but a lot of family upheaval. When the oil industry crashed- I accelerated the process. Part of me really regrets allowing myself to become dependent. I can’t do it anymore. I have supported him through a travel job where he is gone 50% of the year. He has managed 3 raises in one year. I do EVERYTHING at home, alone. We recently sold our house and are looking for another. He tells me today, in the same conversation: 1. I don’t want to buy us another house until your business is up and running. 2. I can’t wait to get home from my travel job so you can COOK FOR ME!
    (And he means every meal as he hates to cook).
    He has no idea the can of worms he just opened. Anyone else see the problem with this??

  • trixietimez

    I found this article because I wondered about what people would suggest when it comes to marrying an entrepreneur. I do find it interesting that 100% of the articles and blog posts refer to a “wife” of an entrepreneur. As a female entrepreneur who has had those tendencies since I was in jr. high, I have finally figured out the secret to a happy marriage for people like us. Trust me, in trial and error, it really works if you marry someone who is also entrepreneurial. FINALLY… I have someone I can bounce ideas off, to make plans, to create ideas, to start a business or two.

    Maybe it’s different for a female entrepreneur, but the problem I had in past relationships was that they didn’t understand my drive. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t look at things as a ‘hobby,’ but as a potential business idea. They didn’t get that some people absolutely whither working 40+a week in some stuffy office with someone else telling us what to do. They didn’t get it. Their eyes would gloss over when I’d talk about ideas or plans. I now have someone that is right there with me, with the same energy.

    I don’t need someone that is a supportive helpmate, or someone that keeps the home fires burning while I slay dragons, I want someone by my side with the same “stay up til 2am talking about websites” mindset. It’s a dream-come-true.

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