Entrepreneurs are a unique blend of risk-takers, mad scientists, hope addicts, inventors and magicians. They can make incredible love partners if you know how to crack the code that unlocks their love and devotion. If you don’t, they can seem like the most selfish, narcissistic, unavailable workaholics you’ve ever met. You can be on an adventurous ride of your life filled with excitement being with an entrepreneur lover -- or on a ride of terror that you want to exit ASAP.
If you find yourself in a relationship with an entrepreneur (or even if you are one yourself), know that it can be challenging communicating your needs in such a way that gives your desired outcome. Please heed the following very carefully. Often we unknowingly say exactly what pushes our entrepreneur lover away. Somehow our words come out in the form of pressure, judgment, blame, shame and general neediness. Instead of bringing playfulness, seduction, humor and kindness, we often demand that our needs be met, and that leads to a response that results in the opposite of our desire.
As an expert in relationships and intimacy, over the past 20-plus years I have worked with all kinds of couples, and my absolute favorite are entrepreneur couples, where one or both partners owns a business. My background in mathematics and neuroscience gives me an interesting perspective of looking at the complexities of relationships with entrepreneurs, their partners, employees, children and extended families through the eyes of pattern recognition. Noticing the natural patterns that arise in any relationship and how to adjust the pattern to get what you want is my specialty.
What I have found is the entrepreneur brings a unique set of gifts and challenges to a relationship. The gifts in relationships are easy to spot in the form of generosity, enthusiasm, dedication, devotion and loyalty. The challenges in love partnerships always have to do with time, energy, attention, focus, comparison, drive and ambition. To fully love your entrepreneur lovers, you must accept them with all their gifts and challenges while also asserting your needs and desires. The key here is the way you assert your desires makes all the difference.
Here is a must-have guide on how to communicate with your entrepreneur partner, including topics and phrases to avoid, and what to say instead. By following the below tips, you can get the outcome you want to live an extraordinary life with your entrepreneur lover.
1. Never say: “Why are you working so much?”
Get used to it. Owning a business means that the bottom line rests with the owner and that means if something goes awry, your sweetie is getting called in to handle it, give an opinion on it or at the very least be informed about it.
Instead, say: “Hey love, when will you be able to take your next break? Because I’d love to help you relax.”
First, get clear with your needs. Ask yourself, What do I really want? Time? Attention? To be most likely to get your needs met, use a loving, playful tone and ask, “Hey love, when will you be able to take your next break? Because I’d love to help you relax.” Wink, wink. And FYI, relax can also mean going for a 20-minute walk to connect, giving a neck rub, drawing a bath together or even taking a nap.
2. Never say: “I had that idea like 10 years ago!”
Is this you trying to relate to how amazing your partner’s business is and its potential? Or are you just trying to toot your own horn? Or maybe you’re trying to fit in and say you have the entrepreneur spirit, too, with unrealized ideas floating around inside? In any of those cases, you must understand that saying “I had that idea like 10 years ago!” is demeaning to your partner and diminishes both her idea and her execution of that idea. It basically states she is pursuing a business that you dreamed about a decade ago so it’s not timely or relevant.
Instead, say: “I’m so impressed that you can implement on an idea while taking on the risk and stress of it all with grace and ease.”
An easy win here is to give praise for your partner's business and risk-taking abilities, which is like a super power to actually take action on ideas. You can start by saying that you’ve had lots of ideas that have never made it into reality and how impressed and inspired you are that your partner brought an dream into manifestation. I mean, seriously, how incredible is it to have an idea for a business and then start it and make it work? This kind of acknowledgement is the unspoken longing all entrepreneurs have at a core level, especially from someone who loves and cares about them.
3. Never say: “In this economy, aren’t customers hard to find?”
If you are a Debbie Downer in any way shape or form, you will lose the attention of your entrepreneur partner forever. Entrepreneurs have very little tolerance for negativity as they have enough fear, doubt and worry of their own that they are working at releasing. They don’t need yours to be added to the myriad thoughts of inner and outer naysayers. Your job is to be supportive and encouraging as a lover. You’re not in business together. And if you are, then take the “business hat” off and put the “relationship hat" on to be supportive in this moment. It is essential for the longevity of your relationship and the business.
Instead, say: “Is there any way I can support you in bringing in more clients/customers/business? Please let me know if and how you’d like me to spread the word about your business, sweetheart. I love what you’re doing and want others to experience it, too.”
What does this do? It reminds your love that there are alwayssuccessful people in any economy. Why not him? When you believe in your partner it’s like giving him the wind beneath his wings! (Yes, Bette Midler shout out.)
4. Never say: “You care more about your business than you do about me!”
Another way this comes out is by saying, “You never spend enough time with me.” You can think these thoughts, but never say them out loud. Let them be momentary thoughts that pass through you like clouds passing in the sky. Easy come, easy go. As soon as you put yourself into competition with your partner’s business, everyone loses.
Instead, say: “I know how important the business is and how much time and attention it needs, and it would really mean a lot to me if we could set aside some quality time to connect soon.”
Keep my favorite mantra in mind: “There is no competition, only creativity.” So, get creative with how you want to flirt with your partner to get the attention you desire while honoring her business acumen. Ask yourself, How can I show up as my best self in order to get my partner’s attention in a loving way?
5. Never say: “We can afford it. You make plenty of money!”
Okay, first, put the spoiled brat away. The odds are that you probablycan afford whatever it is, but that really isn’t the point. Being entitled and flippant with your entrepreneur’s checkbook is a surefire way to leave a bad taste in your partner’s mouth and make the person not want to give to you. In fact, it could push your generous enterpreneuer lover in the opposite direction of your desire. It’s all in your approach.
Instead, say: “This is something that is really important to me and I would be very grateful if you agreed that we can purchase it.”
Always practice being your most gracious self and express your sincere gratitude when your partner gives you time, attention or material gifts. Also, be willing to hear a no. It is essential that even when your entrepreneur lover says no to something you want to purchase that you accept the answer without withholding, punishing or otherwise withdrawing. Give your best logical reasoning for why you should purchase the item and then let it go. The relationship is more important than any material possession, so keep that in mind if you find yourself getting resentful that you can’t have what you want.
6. Never say: “Why are you stressed all the time? Why can’t you just relax?”
Here’s the harsh truth: Relaxation is not the primary goal of any successful entrepreneur. Neither is the idea of work-life balance. Entrepreneurs love to work and gain so much from a job completed and well done. Then it’s a quick relaxation, maybe a celebration, and then onto the next. If you want your partner to relax because the stress is negatively affecting you or you’re concerned about the person's health and well-being, then follow the suggestion below.
Instead, say: “I would love to help you relax. Would you prefer that I rub your face and shoulders, or your legs and feet?”
Creating loving physical touch with your partner will help the person to relax, even if only for a little while. And if your lover is not in a place to receive physical touch then don’t take it personally or be discouraged. Simply seek another way to assist in finding that quick relaxation. Also see point No. 1.
7. Never say: “How much more are you going to invest in this business?”
Stop it. Right now. This is probably one of the worst things you could ever say to your entrepreneur lover. If this is coming up for you, being romantically involved with an entrepreneur may be something you want to rethink. The short answer is, whatever it takes. Most entrepreneurs are so dedicated to their business they are willing to invest over and over until the business flies or it drowns. If you’re not in for the long haul, exit stage left. If you’re in, switch it up and see below.
Instead, say: “Can you please help me see how investing more is the best move for the business, for you and for us?”
How do you turn this one around to really see from your partner’s perspective? This is a philosophical conundrum. The firm belief in going for your dreams is at the heart of every risk-taking entrepreneur. If you are more risk averse and don’t want to witness the ups and downs of self-employment (even from the sidelines) then you have two options. 1) Get a coach, therapist or guide to help you release from codependence and needing to control your partner’s choices so you can get on board 100 percent even with your discomfort. Or 2) Be honest with yourself about your needs in a relationship around security and have an open conversation about your fears and concerns and be willing to let go of your fears. If you can’t let the fears go, you’ll have to let the relationship go or you’ll both live in misery. Harsh, and true.
8. Never say: “Can’t you live without your phone for an hour?”
You know that in today’s connected world that being unavailable at critical times could be a death sentence to a contract, a client or potentially the entire business. What is the real issue here? It’s not about the phone but rather that you want the attention of your entrepreneur and his focus is elsewhere. Look inside yourself and find some compassion for how hard your partner works. See if you can find something else to do until he is off the phone and you can then reconnect. Put some relationship systems in place around how to take calls and return texts during intimate “off business” hours such as dinner and getting ready for bed. Remember there are no real “off hours” for your partner.
Instead, say: “I understand that your work requires you to be available via phone and I really appreciate it when you make an effort to keep your phone use to a minimum when we are spending private time together.”
Being understanding and supportive when your entrepreneur lover takes calls, answers emails or texts (even at the occasionally inappropriate time) will keep you connected in the long term, even though it may feel more disconnected in the short term. Show your partner you understand his plight and positively reinforce when he does demonstrate restraint and chooses to not take business calls during intimate times. After your partner chooses to not take a call, make a reinforcing statement like, “I love that you chose to send that call to voicemail so we could have some private time together.” And reinforce with a kiss or physical affection.
9. Never say: “When can we take a vacation?”
When you ask that question it puts an unintentional and unnecessary pressure on your entrepreneur lover. Keep in mind that your partner probably doesn’t want a vacation. Sounds crazy, right? When we do what we love, we don’t need a vacation from our work. And some entrepreneurs feel they “can’t” take a vacation because they are working so hard to keep the business afloat. Be mindful about your specific entrepreneur partner’s needs and concerns.
Instead, say: “Can we look at the calendar for the best time to take a vacation? I’d love to brainstorm with you on some ideas for fun-filled adventures.”
Would it be best for you to plan the vacation, or better to make the suggestion for a short getaway to refresh and include her in the planning? Not all entrepreneurs want to go on a three-week hiatus from work. If it is important to you, then make that very clear with a loving, playful tone to inspire your love to take action in the direction of alone time together.
10. Never say: “Don’t most businesses fail within the first five years?”
What are you really worried about here? Whatever it is, keep it to yourself. Are you wondering if your partner really has what it takes to make the business work over time? It is natural to have fears and doubts do arise. And how can you shift your thought of fear and negativity into something that inspires and encourages? See below:
Instead, say: “I believe in you and know that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. How can I support you right now?”
Even if your partner can’t answer how she needs support (possibly because she doesn’t hear it that often) just knowing that you’re asking makes her feel supported, and that is like depositing money in your relationship bank account. And that is priceless.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.