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As a medical doctor who retrained in human psychology, behavior and growth, I am passionate about the impact of love and intimacy on every aspect of our lives. Entrepreneurs are passionate, driven and committed to their vision. However, this can come at a huge cost to their most intimate relationships.
Over the last 20 years, I have supported, trained and coached entrepreneurs and business leaders to collaborate, connect and lead effectively. Interestingly, I’ve observed in that time that an unexpected source of momentum to fulfill our purpose is knowing that we are loved — deeply, intimately and fully. In short, our intimate relationships can make or break our business life.
In the UK, the Office for National Statistics found that 42 percent of marriages end in divorce. In the US, experts estimate the rate to be 39 percent. However, divorce lawyers suggest that the divorce rate for entrepreneurs is between 5 and 10 percent higher, meaning that half of entrepreneur marriages are doomed. Not good news! How, then, can we as entrepreneurs, enjoy and protect our most important personal relationships? Here are five suggestions.
Related: 35 Successful Entrepreneurs Share What Work-Life Balance Means to Them
1. Stand down your superhero
Successful entrepreneurs can sometimes find themselves in the superhero archetype. Women entrepreneurs in particular are prone to being superwoman — working long hours, working through lunch and rarely taking vacation days, all in pursuit of results. Superwoman burns the midnight oil so hard she often burns herself out.
That doesn’t mean entrepreneurs don’t want to make time for relationships. They do. They may schedule a time or times each week to date. However, it’s their superhero archetype who shows up! That superhuman energy just isn’t conducive to forming a deep connection. What we need to get our business off the ground is often kryptonite for our lovers or potential lovers.
Making time for a relationship isn’t enough: You have to create the space and energy that allows a connection to form and grow.
2. Understand masculine and feminine polarity
According to the six-dimension Hofstede model of national culture, which describes itself as “one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture,” countries can be categorized as displaying masculine or feminine values. The UK, the US, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy, China and others all rank highly when it comes to valuing traditionally “masculine” traits — things like “heroism, assertiveness, competition and material rewards for success.” More feminine countries — those that value collaboration, consensus, care — have lower status when it comes to the perception of them in the business world.
When we grow up and work in cultures where so-called masculine values are celebrated, we too begin to compete and rate ourselves against those values. Regardless of our gender or sexuality, we need to be able to draw on both masculine and feminine energy to create the conditions for deep intimacy and love.
Related: Never Stop Innovating in Business or Your Love Life
3. Perils of prioritization
Successful entrepreneurs thrive on fierce prioritization. We prioritize our time and resources, but unconsciously we often deprioritize our most intimate relationships, be they with our partner, children, friends or ourselves.
Women feel the impact of this prioritization especially keenly. We know that our right to work was hard fought for, and that in that fight women were accused of choosing work over being a wife or mother. This has left us with a subconscious belief that our ability to work means compromising our ability to be a great partner.
We all know that while we might set five priorities for the next quarter, numbers four and five are going to get slightly less attention. So if your relationship is number four or five on your list of priorities, then it’s not going to get the attention it needs to thrive.
Related: 4 Tips to Avoid the Entrepreneur’s Curse
4. Indulge your passions
When our feelings and desires are fulfilled, we are invigorated, our light is lit, and our happiness is visible, stabilizing and infectious. That spark and energy you feel can relight your relationship.
But how many of us make time to regularly enjoy what brings us pleasure? How often do we get lost in building our business? When was the last time you put your needs and desires first?
Discovering and practicing what brings us pleasure — be it a bowl of cherries, kicking autumn leaves or listening to loud music — can bring back our spark, and that spark has the power to reignite our relationship.
Related: In a Relationship With an Entrepreneur? Here Are 10 Things You Should Never Say.
5. Bring the external in
Cultural values of fidelity and monogamy result in many of us creating fierce rules about what is and is not appropriate for us to do with other people. As a result, we avoid the look in the eye of the barista, we question whether it’s right to laugh with a colleague or friend, and we close down the opportunity to enjoy the spark of interactions outside our long-term partnership.
I’m not suggesting for a moment we all run off and be unfaithful! But in closing down joy and fun outside our relationship, we numb ourselves. We switch off our life force energy and reduce the warmth and energy available to bring into our relationship.
Rather than closing down, be open to the smile of a stranger, indulge in laughter whenever possible, and take that inspiration from those external interactions back into your relationship. Harness the cheeky, confident you from work and take her home. And enjoy the fun!