What Entrepreneurs Need to Know Before Tying the Knot

laptop_couple_bed_sleepFour days after our wedding in March of 2006, my new husband and I awoke to the sound of a hotel alarm clock blaring its taunting reminder to wake up. It was 6am in Maui on a Wednesday, the second day of our much-anticipated romantic honeymoon. There were beaches to be laid on, champagne to be enjoyed, and hikes to be taken – just the two of us. But this alarm ringing in our ears wasn’t for any of those activities. It was for a conference call with a client – one that couldn’t be rescheduled.

Throughout the honeymoon, mornings were filled with email exchanges and intermittent calls about the business. For every romantic dinner and carefree moment, there was a business issue to tend to. The company was a constant presence during our first week as a married couple, the computer and Blackberry like omnipresent chaperons keeping a watchful eye. This is a honeymoon when you’re married to an entrepreneur. This is a glimpse of the rest of your life. Are you ready take the plunge with someone whose heart and soul beat for the existence of their company – and not just you?

I have been married to Tim Young, the CEO and Founder of Socialcast, for three and a half years. We are happy, but being married to an entrepreneur is full of challenges that couples with “normal” jobs simply don’t face. It’s not easy. I’ve learned to joke about “the other women” in our relationship – the Macbook Pro or the iPhone that join us every holiday, every night in the bedroom. If you’re an entrepreneur, or you’re the significant other of an entrepreneur, marriage is not just about you. It’s about the business, and it’s a constant presence. There are tremendous rewards, but tremendous challenges involved. Before you seal the deal with an entrepreneur, you must weigh the pros and cons of this complicated relationship.

The Pros…

  • You are in control of your own destiny. Though scary at times, the feeling that every minute you put into your job enriches your family’s future, is exhilarating. Being your own boss makes the entrepreneur and spouse feel independent and empowered. Knowing that an IPO, acquisition, or financial freedom are somewhere in your future creates a rush that some cannot pass up.
  • Learning happens quickly when you’re married to an entrepreneur. When your spouse is the one running the show, it’s a trial by fire that gives both of you life experience that takes others years to find. You’ll grow up quickly when you run your own business, but this knowledge will help you make better decisions much earlier in life.
  • If you’re independent, you’ll have a lot of freedom. There’s a notion that once you get married, you’ll rarely see your friends. When you’re married to an entrepreneur, it’s the opposite situation. You will have time (and will need) to keep up with your book club, circle of friends, and sailing class. Your identity will still be uniquely yours.
  • The feeling of pride in what you’ve accomplished is indescribable. When your spouse’s company achieves something great, the pride that you both feel is tremendous. You will know that you added to the venture’s success, as will your spouse. All of the advice you’ve given, the times you’ve listened, and the hours that you pitched in over the years make success that much sweeter.

The Cons…

  • You will have to get used to waiting for things you want. Founders sometimes don’t take salaries for several years, so that house you’ve wanted may be a few years away. Looking forward to kids? Not so fast. Once your spouse’s company becomes financially secure, if ever, you can work on having a family. Until that point, be content with being thrifty (and that means no babies).
  • Email will be a constant companion. Your spouse will check it during dinner, on holidays, and yes, your honeymoon, and there is nothing you can do about it.
  • It’s emotionally draining to marry an entrepreneur. You will ride his or her constant highs and lows of emotion, success, and failure. At the end of the day, you’re the one he or she will come to with problems. Lots of them. Get used to doing a lot of listening about their day, and their business. There won’t be much of their energy left to think about your problems. You’ll want to create a network of support so that you too can feel understood and heard.
  • Being alone is part of the lifestyle. There are times when you will experience a deep, gut-wrenching, heart-aching loneliness that consumes your mind and body.  Your spouse will be traveling, at an investor event, or simply dinner with a client that cannot be missed. Or, he’ll be absent from some event that is important to you. Tim recently had to miss my MBA awards banquet due to work. When the Dean thanked the spouses for their constant support of the students, I had to hold back a tear and pretend that the seat next to me wasn’t empty. I’ve learned to rationalize these moments as necessary for our long term success – are you ready to do the same?

Tim and I have only been married for a few years, but there are other more seasoned entrepreneurs and married couples that will tell you the same thing (only with more pain and angst). Still considering getting married to an entrepreneur? Then read this post by veteran entrepreneur Steve Blank. He’s business-smart and relationship-smart, having succeeded, and failed terribly, at both.

Are you ready to live at the intersection of love and business for the next several years of your life? If you do decide to marry an entrepreneur, wait until you’re both really ready for the commitment to not only each other, but the business as well. Be willing to do what I did – join the venture so that you truly do create a shared vision and work toward the same goals. We have made things work for us, but this life is not for everybody. If you think it’s for you, be open and honest with your partner about expectations, needs and time. Both of you will be thankful that you did.

{photo by: ZDNet}

cy609This post was written by special guest expert Carrie Young

Carrie is the Director of Marketing and Client Development for Socialcast, an enterprise software development firm. Carrie’s experience includes managing corporate sponsorships at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, marketing at The Irvine Company, and press management at Nickelodeon and DIC Entertainment.