Nov 20, 20188 min read

Avoid getting divorced when starting your own business.

Kristian Borglund headshot

by Kristian Borglund

Are you afraid of what will happen to your marriage or long-term relationship if you resign from your job (and that steady income) to finally go all-in with your dream of starting and building a business? Here are a few things you can do to prevent resentment between you and your significant other, avoid fights about money, or even – in the worst-case scenario – divorce. Instead, you can use this as an opportunity to reach a new level of connection, love, and adventure together.

Leaving a 9-5 job to put time, energy and money into building a business can feel scary. After all…

What if it doesn’t work?

Your business might not bring in as much money as your current job (it’s likely it won’t in the beginning, and the rest is unknown) and you could also end up working 16-hour weekdays and weekends.

On the other hand…

What kind of life are you living if you don’t give your dream a real chance? What kind of regrets will you have later in life if you don’t follow your heart?

Needless to say, this is a critical moment in your life – and it’s a critical moment for your relationship because it will almost certainly rock the dynamics between the two of you.

The biggest fear: Getting a “no”

“The biggest fear people have is getting a straight-out no from their partner, not getting support at all from the one who is closest to you. That hurts. It may be very hard to live with,” says Nina Jansdotter, Swedish behaviorist, and writer of many books on the topics of success, money, and relationships.

“It might become very clear that the love from your partner comes with a price; you’re going to find out how strong their love for you really is. Are they willing to make the necessary adjustments to support you and your dream? It says something if they say yes, and it says something if they say no, and that’s what the fear is about.”

If you are like most budding entrepreneurs, though, there’s no way of avoiding this discussion. Holding back your entrepreneurial dream year after year will only make you feel soul-deprived, depressed and miserable. Sooner or later you need to bring it up.

However, it also matters how you do it. And when.

No matter how much your partner loves you, you are likely to get a wall of resistance if you go about it the wrong way.

What not to do (the fastest way to create misery)

Imagine you send a message to your partner late one afternoon, saying:
“I’m going to resign from my job. I’m going for my dream. You don’t mind, do you?”

Not a great idea.

“You need to involve your partner in your decision since it’s bound to affect both your lives. It’s not only unfair not to, but it also works against you. You are likely to meet a wall of resistance. There are so many fears involved in this kind of life-changing decision”.

Become aware of the fears involved

In order to have thoughtful conversations with your partner about your business desires, you need to be aware both of your own fears and of how your partner might react when you bring up the topic. If you aren’t, your discussions are more likely to fail.

Start by being totally open with yourself about your own fears and self-doubts regarding making the leap into the entrepreneurial world.

“For example, you might feel uncertain of how you will get enough customers, if you even have what takes to run a full-time business, when – or if – you will ever reach your present income, if you are disciplined enough, social enough, if your ideas will fly, or maybe if you’ll feel too lonely without your current colleagues. Write a list of everything,” says Nina Jansdotter.

After that, write a new list, this time about your partner. This will likely be more challenging, but it will be worth it. List all the fears, concerns or doubts that might show up in your partner when you bring up the topic. If you have already had discussions, you can write down the things that have emerged so far. Spend some time on this. Go deep. Imagine your partner as you ask yourself what kind of fears, concerns, and doubts they might have. For example, might it be true that your partner …

… won’t believe in your idea? If there is a slight possibility of that, write it down.

… won’t believe in you, or will secretly question your ability? Write that too.

… will be worried about how your lives might change? And that.

… won’t want to cut down on lifestyle expenses or monthly savings for a while?

… will feel excluded as you spend time going to networking events?

… will fear your success (that you’ll be the more “interesting” person at social events, for example)?

… will feel lonely as you spend time in new social circles?

… will feel alone in the relationship?

After these exercises, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the “landscape” you are facing as you talk with your partner, including what emotional needs the two of you have. This will make you connect better with your partner as you have your conversations.

How and when to raise the matter

Timing is key.

“It’s not a great idea to discuss your thoughts, desires, and needs when you or your partner are stressed, hungry or overwhelmed by other things. Instead, when you have the chance, suggest spending a day or half day together at a nice place to ‘talk about life and our hopes for the future’, or however you want to frame it.”

Use this “date” as a relaxed opportunity to connect with one another, to open your hearts about how you would like your lives to be, the feelings you want to experience more of, and what you enjoy doing.

“Spend a little time being existential together,” advises Nina Jansdotter.

Instead of selling an already-made decision about a full-time business, sell the idea that you both have needs and desires in life. Listen to what your partner wants, and talk about how you can support him or her. That creates the spirit of conversation you want to have.

“When the timing is right, share that you are feeling a strong desire to go for your dream, and it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore. Rather than saying that you’ve made a decision to resign, ask ‘Are you willing to support me in this?’”.

Ask about your partner’s concerns, and don’t fight against them. Instead, you could say things like “I hear you. To feel comfortable about this, you would need to know my plan for how I’ll get customers. That’s understandable. If I give that some more thought over the next few weeks, talk to some people who might be able to help, how does that sound to you?”

That way your partner feels involved.

Finding solutions together

The more you can collaborate in finding solutions to concerns and worries – including your own – the better.

“Personally, as I started my business, I gave my husband the role of handling the finances, to satisfy his need for control and my aversion to that kind of administration. He still takes care of that. He also helps with my home page. This means he knows what’s going on in my business, which is great. You want to avoid your business becoming your secret lover in the eyes of your partner,” says Nina Jansdotter.

Solutions could be about setting a time limit (“If the business hasn’t reached a cash flow of X euros per month before Dec 31, I’ll get a job again”), or agreeing to spend less money on travel for a while, or re-arranging your shared finances.

“Also, explore the potential benefits for you and your partner as your days become more flexible, and how you will be happier as you don’t need to spend time at a job that drains your energy.”

Another tip is to agree on turning the tables after two years. After you’ve had your two years of exploring your dream, it’s your partner’s turn.

Either way, moving into a new phase in your relationship allows for more adventure, new experiences and added spark.

What to do if you’ve already messed up

Maybe you’ve already screwed it up. Maybe you sent that text. Maybe you were trying to get support for your dream on a day where your partner felt stressed out and it all went pear-shaped.

Is it too late to rewind?

“It may, or it may not be. What usually works best in this situation is to make a sincere apology. Acknowledge that you brought it up at totally the wrong time. Apologize and express that you understand why it didn’t land well, considering X, Y, and Z. Ask what you can do to regain your partner’s trust. Say something like ‘What would help you feel comfortable talking about it again?’”