Copyright 2006 Donna Gunter
I’ll be the first to admit I’m the “Donna-come-lately” in this game of simultaneously managing a business and a romantic relationship. When I was married the first time around at age 26, I worked in higher education administration and was completely and totally devoted to my job — not necessarily to the exclusion of my marriage — but for many years my marriage and my relationship took a back seat to my job. Big mistake. That issue and a host of other reasons led to the dissolution of my marriage and the finalization of my divorce after almost 10 years of marriage in 1999.
I went for two full years without dating, as I needed to grieve the relationship and heal myself and come to terms with all of my issues surrounding my marriage and divorce before deciding to put my toe again into the dating pool and foist all of these hangups on some unsuspecting guy. This aspect of my healing went pretty well, although I’ll have to admit it took probably 3 years or so after my initial separation to fully work through all the anger I had about the relationship and the divorce.
I began dating again and vowed that things would be different this time. I discovered, however, that dating had changed dramatically in the 13 years or so that I’d been absent from the dating scene, and that I still had alot to learn about being a good partner in a romantic relationship, as well as in figuring out what I wanted in a romantic partner. I saw the good, bad, and ugly sides of men, kissed alot of frogs, and learned a great deal about myself and what I really wanted during my journey.
Synchronicity occurs when you’re ready and open to receive what you truly want. For me, that occurred last fall when I met the man I had been looking for all of my life, Eric. For me, it was love almost at first sight, but I knew by our second date that I had never had this degree of compatibility with anyone I had ever dated before — not even my ex-husband, and I had married him!
Our relationship is still in its infancy, although we both feel like we’ve been together and known each other forever. Perhaps we have in another life, if you believe in reincarnation…..
Here are some things I’ve learned through the school of hard knocks that’s helping me maintain this relationship, as well as run a business, without losing either:
1. Put your partner and the relationship first. Running a business can be a 24/7 job, but the old adage about “no one ever says on their deathbed that they wished they’d spent more time at the office” is true. Eric and I make time for each other during the day, despite working different schedules (he works many night and weekend shifts, and I run my business during the weekday business hours). If he’s at work, we manage to talk at least twice for short periods during his 12-hour shift, and if he’s home during the day when I’m working at home, we try and eat one meal together. At a minimum we drop into each other’s home offices for several quick smooches or hugs or quick “how are you doing” conversations.
In the past he’s expressed to me his concerns that our relationship is interfering with my business. I’ve told him that he’s right — it is — and that because he’s in my life, I’ve had to start thinking about my business differently and work in it differently than I did as a single person. I don’t work the long hours that I used to work before he came into my life. It takes me longer to get things done, but it’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make. Businesses come and go, but finding a soulmate is VERY hard work.
2. Your partner needs to be your best friend. Eric is the one with whom I share everything. I may not always like what he says, but I respect his opinion. When I was married, I somehow got off track with my ex in terms of sharing my hopes and dreams and what I wanted in life, and shared those exclusively with my best female friend. My ex was left out of the loop, and I made many decisions about our relationship on my own, after talking about the issue with my best female friend, not my ex-husband. Having 3 people in a relationship (2 spouses and a best friend) is one too many. Sharing information with a best friend is fine, but don’t do it to the exclusion of your romantic partner, if you want your relationship to survive.
3. Create a calendar consisting of free days, business development days, and profit-generating days. I have mapped out on my calendar my free days (weekends, days off, holidays, and vacation days), my business development days (when I write, speak, conduct marketing activities or pursue strategic alliances) and profit-generating days (when I’m working directly with clients). This has been an exercise in extreme discipline for me, as the temptation is always there to do some type of work on my free days. However, in the last year, I’ve made myself keep my free days free, as I need that time to get away from my business and have fun and recharge.
Since Eric has come into my life, we’ve set aside some of that time for date nights or weekend vacations when he’s doesn’t have to work on a weekend. His impish side comes out on his days off during the week when he tries to lure me out of my office to go out and goof off with him. I’ve succumbed to his whims on occasion, but haven’t quite gotten my business to the point of of having it run successfully without me. That’s my next goal — to have more flexibility in my business so that it’s not so dependent on my presence in my office.
4. Share your business highs and lows with your partner. Every time I have a big business “win”, Eric is the first to hear about it. When something doesn’t go the way I’d hoped, I tell him first. My business is important to me, as is Eric’s job to him, so we both make it a point to ask how the day has gone for the other, and sit and listen patiently to the good and bad portions of each other’s day. As we’re both problem-solvers, it’s difficult for each of us to sometimes simply let the other one vent, as we’re already thinking of solutions to whatever situation is at hand. Sometimes one of us has to say, “Do you just want to vent and have me listen?” when one of us shifts into the unwanted problem-solving mode.
5. Make time for each other. When you have opposing work schedules, as Eric and I have, and add mandatory overtime that Eric has to work frequently during the year, we may see little of each other over the course of a week. We’ve both gotten good at sensing that we’re losing track of each other, and requesting a “date night” so we can talk and play and catch up.
6. Never go to bed angry. By far, this is the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn. When I was married, I would get angry at my ex and give him the silent treatment for days because I knew it drove him crazy. Usually by day 3 or so he would crack, and we’d make up. Now that I look back on this, I realize how immature and juvenile this way of fighting is, so the silent treatment is out as a way of fighting in my current relationship. Eric and I have had our share of spats and disagreements, and I’m almost always the first one to wave the white flag for a truce and an end to the argument, usually within the course of an hour or so. Life is just too short to continue to fight in stupid ways, and it’s hard to regroup in a relationship if you let something fester overnight.
7. Forgive each other for being human. It took me a long time to acknowledge that I’m not perfect, and even longer to figure out that no romantic relationship is perfect, either. Give up the notion of perfection and accept each other as you are. One of my great faults in romantic relationships has always been the need to “fix” my partner. I’d see the potential in a guy and stay in a relationship long after it was dead, under the guise of, “Well, if you’d only do this and this and this, you’d be so great, because you have so much potential.” Oprah said something along the lines of, “believe what they tell you the first time they tell it.” We all bring our quirks, our baggage, and our eccentricities into relationships, and do and say things that drive our partners completely nuts. Remember that forgiveness is divine, and that it’ll only be a matter of time before you need forgiveness.
8. Say “I love you” every day…and mean it. I feel so lucky and so fortunate to have finally met the man of my dreams. I always thought that often-quoted line, “You complete me,” that Renee Zellweger’s character says to Tom Cruise’s character in the movie, Jerry Maguire, was so hokey. However, now that I’ve found someone with whom I’m so compatible, I’ve discovered a whole new meaning and nuance to that line. I tell Eric that I love him at least once each and every day, and then go on to tell him some trait or some action he’s taken that makes me fall in love with him all over again.
Being in love and running a business don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Both endeavors are hard work, and if you forget that point, you can lose one or the other in a flash. Take time to nourish both your business and your romantic relationship, and discover how having both in your life will make your life all the richer.