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Entrepreuers - You Can't Live With Them, You Can't Live Without them - Or Their Mistress

As a whole, entrepreneurs make terrible partners in relationships.  Not only does the entrepreneur make relationship difficult with constant scheming and dreaming, the demands of running a start up can be devastating to a marriage and family.

This quote from Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, really gets to the heart of the issue for most couples.

“Common causes of divorce include financial strain, neglect, lack of communication, and divergent goals. Postmortems on the remains of entrepreneurs' marriages can turn up all four in abundance. Other professions keep people away from home and preoccupy their thoughts, but they don't produce the toxic cocktail of resentment and anxiety created by putting the family's security constantly at risk. Then there's that green-eyed minx, Jealousy. How often have you heard an entrepreneur describe her company as her "passion"? How often have you heard one say the same thing about her spouse?” (

Jealousy is right.  In fact, many couples we have counseled and coached would call the business a mistress who often gets the better side of the relationship.

I worked with a couple some time ago that really exemplified this mistress idea.  At one point in the third session after listening to the wife desperately lay out her desire for connection and closeness, talking at length about her farmer husbands long days working the fields, I turned to him and said --

“How long have your been having an affair…with your tractor?” 

As his head cocked to the side and the mental wheels started spinning trying to wrap themselves around this concept, his wife sat back in validated triumph as if to say “Someone finally gets it!”  Her betrayal and abandonment to cows, grain, hay, and the tractor were finally heard.

After a long silence, he started to speak.  He talked about those long hours working with the cows and then the hay fields.  

He justified the 3-4 hour naps at night in the cab of the tractor for days at a time as doing what he had to provide the house and the cars that she enjoyed so much, and the security he thought that she really wanted. He pleaded with her to acknowledge that he had provided well for her. 

As the reality of the situation settled in, he understood that the successful farm, the nice home and cars were no compensation to his wife for his time and his companionship.  There were things that she needed that money would never provide.  Hill and Disraeli’s quotes about success were colliding in his mind as we watched. While successful in the farm, he was failing at home.

“Your business in life,
or at least the most
important part of it,
is to achieve success.”
Napoleon Hill
 “No success in public
life can compensate
    for failure in the home.”
Benjamin Disraeli,
1st Earl of Beaconsfield
1804 – 1881

The mistress for most of us as entrepreneurs is not a tractor.  It is not the fancy car. It is not the nice suit or the vacations. It’s not even another person, at first.

For many entrepreneurs, it is the allure of success itself.  It is the conquest of the next plateau and new start up.  It is the accolades and the social esteem heaped on us by the world.  We are seduced by the promise of freedom and independence.  Just look at the messages used to pull us into the next great marketing plan or money scheme.

For most it is the “What if…” that can lead to long nights, endless days, and tireless conversations about the potential and the problems.  

The true entrepreneur can become consumed by the business of business and the potential of ideas.  Sadly, living with us can be like living with the dogs from “Up” and someone is always yelling “Squirrel!” 

Unfortunately for many, there is a wife (or husband), and all too often kids, yelling “What about us? Don’t you remember we need you too?”.  They need attention and affection from the entrepreneur.


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