Partner to Partner
Dear To-Be-Entrepreneur’s Partner,
Being in any relationship is tough if you actually put in the work, no matter how short or long you’ve been with someone. Having an entrepreneur as a partner is an even harder one that I was definitely not prepared to welcome into my life. I had no idea what I was in for before I met Michael, who was an even crazier version of a regular entrepreneur. He’s a serial entrepreneur. Yikes! I feel like taking this journey with him is like a very rocky roller coaster ride that often breaks down while you’re upside down on the tracks.
I’ve never been exposed to the entrepreneurial life before Michael. I was a full-time student working in retail when I first met him. I’ve worked retail and food service jobs since I was fourteen years old. I’ve always craved stability and security ever since my family and I came here from the Philippines. My mom was a single parent who only had $150 in her pocket with four kids in tow who were all ages ten and under when we landed here. We came to America to start a new life, but of course that also meant starting from scratch. My mom didn’t even know how to drive at the age of thirty-nine! Talk about truly starting from scratch! She was and still is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. I witnessed her sacrifice everything to keep us happy, safe, and healthy while juggling two to three jobs. Coming from that, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that gave me purpose but also a solid foundation, so I could have a stable and secure life that allowed me to be there for my family when they needed me. I went to school to pursue my passion in dietetics, become a registered dietitian, and work in a hospital, which is what I’m doing now.
Man, did I pick a partner who was the complete opposite of the life I wanted in many ways! I love the nine-to-five life! It’s the kind of career path that seems like the nemesis of entrepreneurs from what I’ve noticed over the years. The nine-to-five is often looked down upon by the entrepreneurial community, but I truly believe that everyone thrives in different environments. I like being able to separate my work and life. That balance is very important to me. Being able to leave my work at the hospital as soon as I clock out is a great fit for my mental health. My career is stable and secure. I don’t have to worry about gambling with high-risk, high-reward decisions. I just need a career I love and enough money to cover my basic needs, so I can focus on experiences with my partner, friends, and family that truly make me happy. Growing up as a low- income immigrant in America makes you realize the importance of meeting our basic needs: access to affordable housing, nutritious food, healthcare, education, and not living paycheck to paycheck.
There wasn’t a lot I needed or wanted in my life. Security and stability were two of my biggest goals, so meeting Michael, who was basically the antithesis of those things in many ways, was really terrifying. He had crazy and humongous ideas that scared me. He would risk so much time, money, and effort—pretty much everything—to execute them. There was no line between work and life. His work seeped into every aspect of our life—meals, get-togethers, vacations, etc. It was never-ending. He worked all hours of days and nights. Every business he started was a gamble. I never knew if they would ever take off. Everything was always riding a fine line between success and failure. He lost everything when CurrySimple failed when I met him, and he was willing to risk it all again for another business venture. It was mind-boggling. Meanwhile, I’m just in a corner, rocking back and forth hoping we’d have enough money to pay our bills and put food on the table while I was still in school. I was so grateful when I started my career in the hospital. At that point, at least one of us had a stable career to cover both of our basic needs just in case his businesses didn’t take. That gave me some peace of mind.
Even now that he’s insanely successful, I have the same fears and face the same obstacles. I don’t think that those ever really go away when your partner is an entrepreneur. After being together for ten years, I’ve learned to be a better partner to someone who is an entrepreneur, and Michael learned to be a better partner to someone who isn’t. Here are some ways we’ve been able to navigate through the tough obstacles we have and still face together that may help someone who is dating an entrepreneur for the first time. Of course, everyone and every partnership is different, but these are what helped me and our relationship learn, grow, and become stronger for the past decade.
- There were a lot of times when priority for the business preceded everything else, and our relationship was no exception to that. I have to constantly remind Michael that our relationship is a priority. It can be easy for him to get lost in just hunkering down and putting all of his time and effort into the business. I understand the difficult choices and sacrifices that he has to make on a daily basis, but our relationship is just as important. Simply put in my mind, every relationship we choose to have in our lives is just like having a plant. In order to thrive, it has to be consistently nurtured. You can’t just disappear and hope it survives without proper care and attention.
- I set boundaries in the very beginning also as our relationship went through changes and growth, and I held Michael accountable. Being so vocal about my expectations and what I needed out of the relationship was intimidating at first, but he’s not a mind reader. It was only fair to communicate those things in order to set him and our relationship up for success. Playing guessing games wasn’t going to cut it especially with his already daunting responsibilities as an entrepreneur.
- Making time for our relationship—big and small—is crucial and goes back to making it a priority. Entrepreneurs have the tendency to sacrifice a lot, which can include our relationship. It’s often a big-risk, big-reward mindset and our relationship was definitely in that line of fire. Skipping a date night or an activity we’re supposed to do together here and there can be detrimental. Once you start letting things slide, it can turn into a habit. Our relationship wasn’t built on grand spectacular events. Yes, we had a lot of big hurdles we overcame, but it was also the small things that really solidified our relationship. Even if we do have to push off time spent together, we always make sure to reschedule follow-through.
- Compromise, compromise, compromise. I think we all have our list of deal breakers in relationships, but beyond that, it’s all about meeting someone halfway. Again, Michael and I are complete opposites in every way imaginable—from little things like temperature, weather, food, music, movies, fashion, etc., all the way to bigger things like communication, ways of giving and receiving love, problem- solving, etc. But we’ve learned to always make concessions and find a good medium to keep each other happy. It’s rare that we ever choose to be stubborn. That doesn’t really get us anywhere. He likes comic books, so I go to comic books stores with him. I like scary movies, so he watches them even with a lot of regret.
- Active listening has been a saving grace for our relationship. It took a while to put into practice. In the beginning, I felt like we were just talking at each other whether it was about something simple like what we wanted to eat all the way to bigger arguments, and we were just each waiting for the other person to finish so we could have our say. It’s always something we’re working on. Growing up, my mom was constantly repeating herself to my dad, and eventually I realized that she kept doing that, because she felt like no one was listening. It was a hard realization, and I didn’t want me or Michael to ever feel that way. If ever it does happen, I point it out. I don’t want to be in a relationship with two broken records stuck on repeat.
- Communication. Why are we so bad at it? This has been really tough. Michael and I communicate in VERY different ways. As extroverted as he is, he’s often the quiet one in arguments. I have social anxiety, but I’m very confrontational and have word vomit. I like to talk it out and find a solution as soon as possible. Michael likes to sleep on it and then forget it ever happened. We’re just so different, but all it takes is dedication and work. It all comes back to compromise and active listening. I also think what’s often forgotten is learning how your partner receives information. We’ve both had to learn and adapt to communicating things in a way that the other person actually understands and absorbs. That’s been extremely helpful.
- I made sure that we are both very independent in many ways and have a life outside of each other. He has his set of friends and I have mine. I have my career and he has his businesses. We have different hobbies and interests. We have the same overarching goals and values, but other than that we pretty much do our own thing besides the allotted time we set aside for our relationship. They say long- term partners tend to look alike after a while since we start to adopt each other’s mannerisms and quirks, but Michael and I could not be any further from that since we have our own lives. That has definitely attributed to the longevity of our relationship and has kept our relationship interesting over the past decade.
- I learned to be comfortable with not being Michael’s hype man as his partner. His ideas can be so wild, so I do my best to help tame and polish them. It’s hard for him to take criticism at times, but I noticed that at the top of his game, there’s not a lot of people willing to tell him the truth and make him face reality. I have to hold him accountable. One of my roles as his partner is to be completely honest with him even if he might not like what I’m saying. I may be one of his biggest fans, but that doesn’t mean that I’m his hype person. I often challenge him in how he can better execute his ideas that would be best not just for him but also his team and his clients, and sometimes that means being brutally honest.
This journey has been incredibly tough. We reach our breaking point at least once a year from the incredible pressures of the entrepreneurial life on top of the normal ones from being in a relationship in general. I honestly didn’t know what I was signing up for. It was hard for Michael to share it with someone who comes from a different mindset, but we are truly partners in every way. We dedicate time and effort to each other just as we do in our careers. I never thought I’d live the amazing life I’m living now. Just like the high risk Michael takes every day, I took one, too, by choosing this life with him.
The high reward when it does finally pay off is unimaginable. I honestly never really believed it until it came. I don’t have the same mind as Michael. He’s the most positive person I’ve ever met. He says he’s his own number one fan. I’m a realist, who borderlines pessimism. I just supported him and did everything I could to help him in his journey. I’ve been to places, met people, and done things I would never have been able to do if I played it safe. I’m grateful for the privileges it’s afforded us so we can live a good life and also use it to help our family, friends, and the community along the way. We took a chance on each other regardless of our endless differences. All of the extraordinary things we’ve experienced has been worth every ounce of pain we’ve endured. I am truly humbled and forever grateful to Michael. He’s truly a good and kind man who sees the best in people and all situations. We complete each other, and I’m proud to have him as my partner in life.
What has been your challenges being in a relationship with an Entrepreneur? Let me know in the comments below!
This open letter completely takes my thoughts and sentiments about being a serial entrepreneur and helps arrange them in the most eloquent way that I KNOW my partner can understand and empathize with. Thanks so much!
This truly touched my heart. To be in totally different spectrums is such a difficult concept for me to understand…due to being in a relationship with a serial entrepreneur like myself. You have so much respect for you guys. If one doesn’t have an example of strong couples your are definitely one. As an entrepreneur I know the stresses of the game, the in depth understanding of a business is hard to master. I feel like the relationship is the same concept as your business relates. If you can master understanding , compromise, honesty and loyalty, any two people can become partners and any business can thrive successfully. While the intention may not have been to correlate these two together; the correlation was inevitable. But we must first look at our real life partners and make upfront decisions and goals together in order to support each other with true love and honesty. To be able to be honest with anyone , let alone your partner about their actions, decisions and thoughts is very difficult. You have helped me remember it’s ok to stand your ground even when it doesn’t feel ok. And then be realistic and honest with our business. Setting realistic expectancy doing the hard things and making hard decisions even when it’s difficult. The hard things payoff.
Thanks for the brutal honesty and other perspective to being in a relationship with an entrepreneur, Mary Margaret!
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