Did you know that entrepreneurs and small business owners are among the most likely people to get divorced? I know; that’s a terrifying fact. I tell you this not to scare you, but rather to emphasize how important it is for small business owners to be intentional in their relationships. We have to actively connect with our spouses, bring our true selves to the table, and learn more about what it takes to have a thriving marriage with the same—if not more—passion we put into growing our businesses.
So, how can we build beautiful, long-lasting intimacy and connection with our spouses? Well, friend, Dr. Alexandra Stockwell specializes in showing couples how to do just that. She’s an intimate marriage expert, the bestselling author of Uncompromising Intimacy, and the host of The Intimate Marriage Podcast who has helped hundreds of couples work on their marriages and enjoy more connection. As a wife of 26 years and a mother to four children, Alexandra believes the key to a fulfilling marriage is being unwilling to compromise who you are. When you and your spouse feel free to be yourselves and know how to love each other well, your relationship will become more nourishing, intimate, and satisfying.
In this episode of Priority Pursuit, Alexandra explains why you shouldn’t bring the “entrepreneur mindset” to your marriage/romantic relationship; how to strengthen your relationship with your partner as a small business owner so he/she feels loved; and what you can do if you’re in a difficult season in your relationship.
Why are divorce rates higher among small business owners than almost any other group?
Running a business is stressful, from funding operations to bringing in revenue to finding time for completing projects. But, your craft can also take a toll on your partner (and your marriage) if he or she becomes resentful of how much time you’re spending on your work. Besides these financial and time-related stressors, Alexandra suggests two other reasons why entrepreneurs may reach a breaking point in their marriages (and how you can combat these issues):
1. Small business owners often have a “lone-wolf” mentality, & they quickly move on from one situation to the next.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset typically means you’re used to taking circumstances and making them work out, often without help. “You’re on your own as an entrepreneur; you’re making all the decisions, and it’s on you to hold it together,” Alexandra says. Relying on yourself (and your skillset) to solve problems will help your business succeed, but a “lone-wolf” mentality probably won’t bring you much success or happiness in your marriage. While your business depends on you, your marriage depends on you working with your spouse. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) be a lone wolf in your relationship; you have a life partner to lean on during tough times and celebrate with in the good seasons.
Along with being on your spouse’s team, it’s important to be present with him or her instead of rushing from one thing to another. This can be difficult for small business owners, since we have to be compartmentalized when it comes to meeting a work-related goal and transitioning toward achieving the next one. But while quickly moving from situation to situation serves us well in our businesses, rushing onward doesn’t work well in marriage. “Cultivating [intimacy] requires slowing down, being more present, and letting go of the certainty and drive that are essential to being an entrepreneur,” Alexandra tells us. Whether you’re talking about your day, working through an argument, or enjoying a meal together, try to stay in the moment with your spouse and give them your undivided attention. Your to-do list can wait; I promise!
2. When it comes to their businesses, small business owners may share more negatives than positives with their spouses.
As entrepreneurs, we often don’t share many business details with our loved ones, especially if our spouses don’t work in our industry. It can be difficult for them to understand the challenges we go through as business owners, and we may think they don’t want to hear about the more mundane parts of our days. And, we tend to work late when things are going well so we can focus on creating more of it, so our partners are hearing even less about our business.
While some of us don’t share much about our work, the rest of us tend to vent a lot to our loved ones when things aren’t going well—and we tend to leave out the good parts. It’s normal and healthy to talk about your challenges every once in a while, but nobody wants to listen to negativity day in and day out. To combat this, Alexandra suggests bringing positive energy into the conversation by sharing more uplifting parts of your business with your spouse. For example, if you got to work with an incredible client and received a glowing review from them, tell your partner about it! And, don’t forget to turn your attention to your loved one and ask them about their day once you’re finished sharing. After all, their work and lives are important, too!
Truthfully, my business almost ruined my marriage. To hear our story, tune into “Episode 002: How My Business Almost Cost Me My Marriage.”
How can small business owners strengthen their relationships so their marriages thrive & their partners feel loved?
While you’re used to working on your business, working on your marriage might feel strange at first. So, how should you start to strengthen your relationship with your partner and help him or her feel like a priority? Alexandra offers us three tips:
1. Clarify your priorities & share them with your spouse.
Your business and your partner both mean the world to you, but your spouse may not fully understand exactly how they fit into your priorities. For instance, working long hours doesn’t mean you don’t want to be with your partner—but they may feel as if they don’t matter as much to you as your business does when you spend more time at work than at home. So, it’s essential to get clear on your priorities and discuss them with your partner. For example, if you’d like to focus more on your relationship, maybe you can stop working at 5pm every Friday night so you can spend the evening with your spouse over dinner, drinks, or a good movie. This can help you show your partner they matter to you and you’re willing to put them first.
If you’re not sure how to start this conversation with your spouse, Alexandra suggests something like this: “I want you to know what my priorities are, I want to know what your priorities are, and I want to organize our lives to reflect what matters most to us. Are you up for having this conversation right now?” This gives your partner the opportunity to say “yes” or “I’d like time to think about this” and return to the conversation later. By discussing your priorities, you and your spouse can get on the same page about what matters most to each of you—and you can work toward those goals together.
2. Don’t wait for free time (or a crisis) to connect with your partner.
While Alexandra and her husband had a functional relationship in terms of intimacy, she didn’t feel as close to him as she believed she could. They were both in medical school when they got married and had babies, and she assumed that having more time after school and sleepless nights were over would help their marriage. The additional time didn’t strengthen their marriage, but learning about relationships and intimacy did. (Plus, it allowed Alexandra to become a coach and help others!)
Whether you’re running a business, going to school, or raising babies, free time probably feels like a pipe dream. But, you don’t have to wait for more space in your schedule to focus on connecting with your partner. In fact, people who prioritize their marriages are more likely to do well at work! As Alexandra tells us, “When your relationship is nourishing and connected, it will benefit your business, time management, creativity, nervous system, and ultimately your success.”
While simply having more free time won’t help your marriage, you also shouldn’t wait until there’s a crisis in your relationship to focus more on your partner than on your business. Alexandra reminds us that our work is always begging for our attention—whether you need to redesign your website, book new clients, or publish another project. “If you’re married to a good person, they won’t be calling to you with the same intensity until things are very troubled and challenging [in your marriage],” she says. In other words, your partner ideally understands that your job is demanding, and they will give you space to do the work that you love. But, if he or she is starting to bring up issues (“I wish you didn’t take photos on Sundays; that should be a family day” etc.), it’s worth considering their concerns and working with them to see how you can resolve the problem before it becomes less manageable.
3. Be uncompromising (AKA bring your true self to the relationship).
As we mentioned earlier, Alexandra firmly believes the key to intimacy, connection, and a passionate marriage is being “uncompromising” in who you are. Now, that’s not to say you should never meet in the middle with your spouse to reach an agreement, and you certainly shouldn’t be a bulldozer. When Alexandra says “don’t compromise,” she means to avoid holding back parts of who you are and what you desire just to make your partner comfortable. Being “uncompromising” involves learning to bring your true and full self into the relationship so your partner can receive all of who you are.
So, what does it look like to be uncompromising with who you are in your marriage? Alexandra gives us the following example: Let’s say you come home from a long day at work, and your spouse asks how you’re doing. To compromise yourself would be to say “I’m fine,” even if you’re stressed, tired, or upset. “You’re training your partner to not really know you, to misinterpret what’s happening with you,” Alexandra says. Even if you’re saying “I’m fine” to keep the peace and maintain a happy exterior, you’re unintentionally pushing your partner away by not being fully honest with them.
Being uncompromising, on the other hand, would be to tell him/her, “It was a really tough day, but I don’t want to talk about it right now. Thank you for asking, though.” This tells your spouse how your day truly went (and how you’re really feeling) while also showing them you appreciate their consideration. You shouldn’t have to hide who you are and how you’re feeling, and your partner wants to see the real you!
What should someone do if they’re in a difficult season of their marriage?
Although many people think human connection is something that should just come naturally, that’s not always the case. We have to work on our relationships, just as we work on our businesses, but this is easier said than done when we’re struggling to connect with our loved ones. If you and your spouse are in a difficult season, friend, Alexandra wants to reassure you that there’s hope—to both strengthen your marriage and to know more about relationships and intimacy. “Having a fantastic relationship is a learnable skill,” Alexandra says.
A great first step to improving your marriage is to learn about communication techniques, conflict styles, love languages, and so on. You can do this by listening to a marriage podcast, downloading an audio program about relationships, joining an educational Facebook group, and more. If you’re spouse is ready to join you in learning more and working on the marriage, that’s great! But, you can also get educated first and then bring your new knowledge into the relationship. That can give your partner a starting point and the encouragement they need to put in the work, too. Plus, Alexandra reminds us that making time to learn more and improve yourself—even before your spouse does the same—will go a long way in strengthening your relationship and helping you create your best life.
Friend, I hope this conversation with Alexandra has encouraged you to make time for your partner, because you deserve to have a joyful and fulfilling marriage! By clarifying your priorities, being present with your spouse, and bringing your true self to the relationship, you can strengthen your connection and enjoy the intimacy you’ve dreamed about.
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