I recently dove into Jay Goltz’s New York Times post, How To Be An Entrepreneur, and Stay Married. I thought it was an insightful piece, but to me, it was missing the most important part: What entrepreneurs should do differently to stay married.
Having recently celebrated my 16th anniversary (and the 18th consecutive year in my career of not selling a company and becoming a billionaire), I thought I’d share some of my perspectives and strategies for staying married.
1) Make family the most important priority, and mean it.
Any of my entrepreneurs who has asked me what to do about family issues knows my consistent refrain: Family is always more important.
Note that this doesn’t mean that family is the #1 place where you spend your time; entrepreneurship is time-consuming, and building a company requires sacrifice. But no matter who you are or what your company does, you should never put your family’s health and happiness at risk.
I have made plenty of decisions in my career that reduced my current income, and as a result, we don’t live a lavish lifestyle. But we’ve never been in danger of ending up on the streets.
And if a health emergency arises, drop everything else. You’ll never regret that decision, and you might regret the alternative for the rest of your life.
2) Spend time with your spouse every day, no matter how mundane the activity.
I don’t care how busy you are, you can certainly set aside 30 minutes to do something with your spouse.
This doesn’t have to mean a “date night” (though that helps). Even chatting and watching television together at the end of a long day helps maintain the health of your marriage.
My wife and I often watch some of Conan O’Brian’s late night show. It’s not really that funny much of the time. But it is a ritual that helps end the day on a together note.
3) Take actual vacations.
There’s something special about vacationing somewhere new. Seeing new sights and learning new things helps renew our zest for life. This is especially true when you vacation with your kids.
We’ve taken the kids on vacations all over this country, and every time we travel together, it helps build the happy memories to sustain us through the everyday grind of the endless setbacks of entrepreneurship.
This doesn’t mean you have to go off the grid; even on vacation, I’m checking emails and taking occasional calls (activities that my wife doesn’t relish, but tolerates). But when you’re actually doing something as a family, it means really being present.
Sadly, entrepreneurship is very stressful on a marriage. But if you actually take steps to protect your relationship, my experience is that strong marriages can survive and thrive despite the stress.