Does pursuing your business dreams give rise to nightmare conversations with your husband?
Many mom entrepreneurs find that their business becomes a sore subject.
At best, we wind up feeling vaguely unsupported, scrutinized, or misunderstood. At worst, we get in narsty fights with the guy we love the most. All because of this business we’re pouring our hearts into so we can express our gifts and support our families, right?
I’m here to reassure you. I coach women on these issues all the time, and seldom do their worst fears turn out to be true.
- “He really isn’t supportive of my business.”
- “We’ll never be able to talk about these things.”
- “I can’t make the investments I need to make because he doesn’t get it.”
- “I have to hide details or lie to get what I need and want in my business.”
Most partners are more supportive than we’d thought, once we discipline ourselves to talk to them about our business in the right way.
There are six keys to successful communication about your business:
KEY #1: Set him up for success
Before you initiate a conversation about your business with your husband – or when he starts one – make sure to flag up what you need from him. Help him succeed by letting him know why you’re talking to him about this and how he can contribute.
Language you can use:
“I want to tell you about the new product I’m creating. All I need is for you to celebrate and tell me I’m amazing.”
You might tell him “I’ll seek constructive criticism later” or “I’ll ask my mastermind for tips on how to make it better.” End with “It’ll feel so good to share this project with you and have you cheer me on. You up for that?”
“Love, I want to run my marketing plan by you, because your marketing brain is so smart. When would be a good time for you to give this some focused thought?”
“Honey, there’s a business education investment I want to make. I feel really clear about my reasons for doing it. It would make sense to me if you had some questions or a reaction. Can I just give you the details in our first conversation, let you think about it, then come back later and talk through what we’d need for this to work?”
KEY #2: Deliberately craft your authority sharing agreement
The last language example I gave – about a spending decision – assumed you needed his okay to make the investment.
This is the single biggest area where self-employed women get in arguments with their partners.
Often, the husband doesn’t have the context to understand the value of the investment. He may not have an entrepreneurial background himself. His fears may be triggered when you talk about spending within the business, because he may feel responsible for providing for the family and closing any gap you might leave if you DON’T earn that investment back. Or you might be spending more than your family can honestly afford.
Regardless of WHY these conversations are tricky, you will avert many a difficult evening by getting clear, ASAP, on which decisions you need to consult him on, and to what degree. Who has the authority in your business, and over what?
Examples of agreements you might have:
- As long as I bring home $2,500 a month or more, consistently, we don’t need to discuss any business investments I make
- My business makes me happy, we have plenty of money to support our family and even for me to spend more than I make in the business, and both of those make him happy. So I will decide on my own what to spend.
- My business is more of an expense source than a revenue source, and he feels better if he gets to decide with me what I’ll spend, so we discuss any purchase over $100.
- My husband is my board of directors. He doesn’t have approval or veto power, but I get his ‘gut check’ on big decisions because he’s my partner and because we both feel better with that transparency.
I use that last one, and it works well for us. The next key will help you decide, if you’re not yet clear, what kind of agreement you might need.
KEY #3: Get real about your situation
It sounds strange, but I see women go for years without really understanding the reason their business-related conversations are stressful. Often, the conversations are stressful because the business is not profitable.
By profitable, I mean it gives the family more than it takes away.
That might mean positive cash flow. Financial profit. Or it might mean that it gives us a fuller, happier mama than we’d have without it.
You can imagine a scenario where you’ve got financial profit, but an emotional and energetic “loss” because making that money is causing you to work all the time, not be present with the kids, or be present till they’re in bed, but then be back on your computer till 11, with no sensual or emotional partner in sight for your husband.
Either kind of loss, pardon my shouting, WILL CAUSE ARGUMENTS.
Your family cannot afford to be “in the red” with your business perpetually, with no solution in sight.
If your man tells you “you’re not really here” or “your business isn’t hitting profitability fast enough,” believe him. Respect him. Accept his influence over your spending or your schedule, trim the fat on both, and take care of your marriage.
If you’re following the rest of these keys and are married to a good guy, this wake-up call will be a positive one for you and your business long-term. If you’re communicating well, you’re available as a mom and wife, you’re on-track to be financially profitable (or don’t need to be) and he’s still complaining, then you’ll need to set a limit. But that scenario is rare, babe.
Start with the Mogul in the mirror, okay?
KEY #4: Respect his needs
Your husband has particular needs he’s trying to address as you two talk about your business. These needs differ, dude to dude and day to day. It’ll be up to you to be sensitive to what it is he needs and how to make sure he gets it, even as you’re ensuring you get what YOU need.
Does he need attention? Respect? Security? Inspiration? Trust?
If he complains “You’re always on the computer,”…
===> He needs attention.
Say, “I’m sorry. I’m neglecting us, aren’t I? What parameters would you like me to set so that I can be sure I’m taking good care of our relationship while I’m growing my business?”
Of course, you can negotiate, but really listen to what he needs.
If he scrutinizes your every expense…
===> He might need to see some ROI… Or, if additional earnings from your business aren’t important to your family, he might just need to hear more about what your business expenses provide you.
Tell him, “I feel so invigorated and self-expressed and connected when I take these programs with other amazing women. Thank you for supporting me to do this!” Of course, insert YOUR actual feelings into this example.
If he disparages your chances of success (even though he’s a good guy who wouldn’t normally disparage something important to you)…
====> He’s scared you’ll fail, either because he’s worried about the money, or because he wants to protect you from pain (I guarantee he wants to protect you from pain), or both.
Ask him, “Honey, what would it mean to you if this didn’t work out?” Let him tell you about his worries. They may have substance (risk of losing your house?) or they may be over-concern (fear your heart will be irreparably broken). Either way, this is the beginning of a fruitful conversation.
If he acts jealous about your business colleagues or clients, complains about how late you’re on the computer, or says directly “we never have sex anymore”,
===> He needs intimacy with you, both emotionally and physically, and you’re “not all there.”
Figure out what time you need to “turn off” your biz (slash Facebook/surfing/reading) in order to “turn on” in your body and have an intimate relationship with your partner.
Admit to him you’ve gotten seduced by the online world or business world, but that he is your one true love and you’re willing to be accountable for layin’ off the smack and letting him – as Fleetwood Mac sang – “lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff!”
KEY #5: Pick the right time to talk
This one’s straightforward: tell him in advance, “I’d like to talk to you about something in my business,” or be more specific. Ask him, “When would be the best time for you to have that conversation?”
This ensures you’re not interrupting or competing with something else, and that he’s mentally prepared to talk.
It takes men longer to change gears, because their minds focus very intently on what they’re doing. Respect that neurological difference, and you’ll both be happier.
KEY #6: Keep your word
If you tell him you’re going to consult him before spending, do it. If you say you’ll be off the computer after 8, don’t fire ‘er back up for “one more email” at 9:15.
If your finances require what I call “mercenary income” – the very dignified acquisition of a part-time or full-time job or contract to supplement earning while you grow your business or take a break from your business – dust off your resume.
Don’t bring upon yourself the fights caused by you over-promising and under-delivering in your relationship. It’s bad business, and it’s bad love.
I speak from messy experience
Lest you think I sit astride a high horse pretending I’ve never made these mistakes, please know I write from deep experience of many a difficult conversation and many a bad choice in the 15 years I’ve been both self-employed and partnered with my husband of 12 years.
Thank God Kurt is a profoundly forgiving man. Not only does he let me write on the internet about our fights and our sex life (I run every post past him before I publish!) but he patiently tolerates my incessant business musings.
Just last night, I said, during our nightly shower together, “I’m writing an article about how to talk to your husband about your business. One of the points I’m going to make is that you’ve gotta pick the right time.” He said, “Uh huh.” Then, when I joked, “So what ideas do you have for this article?” as if I thought this was a good time for him, he was gracious enough to laugh. Sort of.
Which of these keys did you most need to read today to improve your conversations with your husband about your business? What will you do to apply the keys?
Please let me know in the comments below, and ask any questions you have. I’ll lurk about and answer. I wish you profitability in every sense of the word, and a lifetime of love with your husband and kids. I admire, adore, and wish every blessing for mogul moms like you!
About Michele Christensen
Michele Lisenbury Christensen reclaimed her marriage from the throes of mediocrity and, with her husband Kurt, created a turned-on partnership that nourishes both of them to be lively friends, parents (of a four year old boy and a four month old girl), artists, and activists. Michele helps women, men, and couples make monogamy the hottest place on earth. A regular columnist for Elephant Journal, Michele’s other turn-ons include hydrangeas, yoga, and homemade chai tea. CLICK HERE to get her full free eprogram “Relationship Revival for Business Babes” so your business and your relationship can both get completely turned on.