6 Ways to Talk to Your Husband About Your Business (Without Getting Into A Fight)

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.

Fears like:

  • “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.

Your turn

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.

Michele Lisenbury 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.

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31 Comments

  1. Cari

    I think the biggest problem my husband and I have with my business is that he thinks its just a hobby. I have the business mind in our relationship and he doesn’t understand that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. (This is confusing to me because he does construction) However, unless it is over $100, he lets me do what I want. The rule we have when it comes to spending is that the money I spend for my business (including organizational stuff) has to come from money that I made. He does understand though, that until the business is built up, the profit is not guaranteed to be steady. I’m lucky, I just wish he understood business better.

    Reply
  2. BZZ

    have you written anything regarding sons and mothers going into a business together I am 58 and son is 29. We are both hairstylists in the same area. He needs a partner to do a shop yet he wants to be self sufficient as a young adult without leaning on the parent. At his age our children want to be on their own in every way. Sometimes when asking a question can trigger family dynamics of misconceptions and over reactions. Normally we get along as long as I stay out of his business..don’t question or suggest anything in the slightest manner and so on unless he asks.. Already he owns his own town home as he also DJs and is booked with clients in his present salon 2 weeks or more ahead.

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      Not yet – but mom/kid businesses would probably make for a great article! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Michelle @ Find Your Balance

    hehe I’m laughing and nodding my head. Marriage conflicts seem to be a universal truth for mompreneurs! Great advice.

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      We’re so navigating uncharted waters! Even though in the distant past EVERYONE was self-employed (think farmers, cobblers, blacksmiths, bakers!), in recent generations, few men and even fewer women had their own businesses. Add that into the gender complexities of the past few decades, and whoo-ee! We’ve got a hot mess on our hands! Hope these tips help : )

      Reply
  4. Tracy | A Little Indulgence Children's Boutique

    Great post. Loved, point #3. I think I’ll have my hubby read the post.

    Reply
  5. Dr. Susan Bernstein

    Wow, the wisdom just flows here, Michele! LOVE what you’ve shared. This helps in dating situations, too. I’ve been with men who panicked about dating me as an entrepreneur (secret thought “OMG, am I gonna wind up taking care of her?”). Acknowledging the guy’s needs and fears, and being crystal clear about what I need (feedback — not so often…cheerleading or appreciation — yep, from time to time) can save a relationship. I know from experience that money brings up all kinds of messy issues. Thanks for all your wise guidance! You rock!

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      Ooooh… great point, Susan! Entrepreneurs are a handful, precisely because we’re flowing SO MUCH power… But we can be responsible about how we manage it and therefore take great care of our relationships… whether they’re old or new!

      Thanks for sharing that!

      Reply
  6. Susan

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! I SO NEEDED to hear this. Thanks for making it all so clear.

    Reply
  7. Victoria Prozan McGlinn

    The insights laid out here can save a world of heartbreak (and tons of marriages, not to mention businesses!)

    We get so focused carefully explaining our message, vision and objectives to the outside world, that we forget how our empire building affects our own support team.

    Thanks Michele for this super helpful reminder on how we can give everyone else around us, the peace of mind we crave for ourselves.

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      Great point, Victoria:
      We get so focused carefully explaining our message, vision and objectives to the outside world, that we forget how our empire building affects our own support team.

      We gotta be as intentional with our at-home communication as we are with our client-facing communication!

      Thanks for the reminder!

      Reply
  8. Ellen Zimmerman

    Hey Michele,
    #5, #5, #5.
    Here’s the thing: I started my first business (www.zimm.com) in 1989, while raising young kids, and my second business (http://www.JewishHolidaysInABox.com) last year. Business ideas and challenges are on my mind all the time. It’s precisely the creative juice of implementing and solving them that I love. What I need to remind myself is that this is what “I love.” My sweet husband does not need to hear about my brainstorms in real time. I’m trying to do better! Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      Your comment made me laugh out loud, in recognition, Ellen!

      “This is what ***I LOVE***” SO true at our house. This is NOT what needs to be talking about in EVERY conversation with me! It takes a lot of containers to hold all the brilliance flowing out of your mind and mine… but like buckets in a leaky house, they’ll keep the flow from destroying the “foundation,” right? Our poor sweet men. Bless them and us!

      Grinning,
      Michele

      Reply
  9. Bari Tessler Linden

    Michele,
    I just loved this article. I have been an entrepreneur for over 10 years and started my biz soon after my husband (then boyfriend) and I met. He has been a supporter since day one, cheering me on and recognizing there was only one path for me, to work for myself. And, I have been trying to get him to be an entrepreneur and start his own biz as well for years and this year he finally is doing it!

    While we are already having all of these conversations, this article is a great map to refer back to help us fine tune and stay present with all of this in our household, now that we are both entrepreneurs.

    And, I will certainly be sharing this amazing article with all of my clients and students who are also venturing out on their own and need to open up the lines of communication more within their household. Thank you so much. This article really stood out to me!
    with my dearest wishes,
    Bari

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      Thanks so much for your warm comment, Bari. I’m a big fan of your work and am thrilled to watch the emergence of the Tech Husband! : )

      And isn’t it amazing how quickly a self-aware, good communicator of a woman can revert, when her husband is having a career or business “situation,” into fix-it, advising, problem-solving mode? Even though we know it feels lousy to receive, we just want so badly to HELP! Maybe it’s just me? : )

      I really believe marriage is a spiritual discipline, as is entrepreneurship. Two businesses in one family? Y’all are flirtin’ with sainthood!

      All good things,
      Michele

      Reply
  10. Nicole

    #1 is HUGE in my house! I can’t tell you the number of times I just want to “talk” about the business, but my husband thinks I’m looking for him to “solve” whatever it is we’re talking about. I’ve recently learned to tell him beforehand that I’m not looking for answers Honey!

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      Awesome, Nicole.

      “I want to talk to you about my business, but I’m not looking for answers, Honey. Just a place to think out loud.” Totally sets him up to succeed. And they (and we!) often need gentle reminders, too:

      “Oh, babe. Sounds like you want to help me solve this! That’s so sweet. But remember? Right now, all I need is your ears. I’ll let you know when I want solutions, okay?”

      Love it!
      Michele

      Reply
      • Ellen Zimmerman

        On this same subject, Nicole, my sweet husband has learned to ask (since I forget to mention) whether I want help solving a problem or I’m just airing the issues to get clarity for myself. This has helped a lot. And that’s why it’s so helpful to have other entrepreneurs to talk to!

        Reply
  11. theresa ceniccola

    Great article, Michele! Fortunately my husband has always been supportive of my business – often urging me to embrace it and grow it when I was ready to give up. He encouraged me to turn down a J-O-B more than one time so I could focus on the business and create a better family life. However, I must admit to keeping him in the dark on business decisions and investments at times for the same fears you mention. So I love your tips for better communication on these matters. Oh – and I have a feeling if I took a nightly shower with him, I would have his full attention to discuss just about anything:-)

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      So thrilled to hear your husband has been such a champion of your best work. We need that from someone in our lives, don’t we? My husband is that way, too. He MET an entrepreneur, which I think helped! I’ve taught him that a J-O-B isn’t necessarily safer.

      But for women whose husbands aren’t their #1 cheerleader to keep going: find that somewhere else. It’s a TON to ask of your husband, particularly if your family is used to income from you that isn’t appearing right now. Even when he looks critical, it’s often coming from his trying to take responsibility for supporting and protecting his family.

      Theresa, I want to encourage you on both the nightly shower front (wink!) and on the full transparency front. I’ve been slippery on this in the past, too, and it didn’t feel good for me. Having and keeping a clear agreement with Kurt has helped me be clearer with MYSELF on my reasons for doing things. And helped me step out of a little girl “I want it! You can’t make me go without it!” place and into a “here’s the business reason” ORRRRR “here’s the emotional reason” I want to make decisions.

      THEY LOVE US. THEY WANT US TO BE HAPPY. Yes, it helps them to know that things will pay off, that our businesses won’t be black holes, financially. But just as he doesn’t question my “investments” with my hair stylist, my esthetician, or my manicurist, we both feel good about the money I spend that makes me feel beautiful, happy, self-expressed, and free in my business, even if it’s not a FINANCIAL return that money gives us. Hope that resonates for you, Theresa, and for others.

      In joy,
      Michele

      Reply
      • theresa ceniccola

        Yes, absolutely, Michele! I love the idea of getting clear on the ‘business reason’ or the ’emotional reason’ and knowing that either way is OK – just as long as I communicate that clearly to him. Great advice:-))

        Reply
  12. Corinna

    Wow – this article couldn’t have been more timely for me! Just had a discussion/argument with DH last night about biz. Thankfully we were able to get past the arguing and have a meaningful discussion about the future of my biz and how things are falling into place. He was definitely looking for ROI on recent investments.

    I’m going to print this article for future reference!
    Thanks Michele!
    Corinna

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      So glad you moved through it, Corinna.

      Many times, that’s what it’s about: staying grounded and open and continuing the conversation (even with breaks of an hour, a day, or a week) until it can be productive and clear for both of you.

      Money, love, and gender roles that are only a generation old? Volatile mix, baby! More power to us!

      Every blessing,
      Michele

      Reply
  13. Krysta @ Steen Health

    This was a great read – and excellent timing! I often feel like when my husband is questioning things with my business, that he is criticizing, when in reality that is not the case. I know deep down that he is just trying to get a handle on everything, but sometimes it doesn’t come across that way! I love Key #2, and really hope to get to a place where I have the income coming in that allows me the financial freedom to make decisions without him butting in! 🙂

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      Hi Krysta,
      Exactly… When your own prowess creates enough profitability, most any husband will say, “run with it, baby!” and you’ll get to make your own decisions with far more freedom, and rightfully so.

      But your comment makes me think about those husband-words that feel like criticism. It’s useful to run through this kind of check-list to see what’s really going on:

      – Is what he’s saying an echo of something my mean, critical inner voice says to me (for instance, telling me I shouldn’t pay someone else to do things I “could” do myself)?

      – Is what he’s saying an echo of something my wise inner voice is trying to tell me (for instance, telling me I don’t need to go to another conference as much as I need to apply what I learned at the last one).

      – Is he trying to tell me something about one of his needs (for example, for more security, more attention, or more insight into my thought process)?

      – Have I not taught him the words, timing, and approach that help me hear things best without feeling hurt or defensive (this is worth discovering about yourself and equipping your husband with, even if it sounds like a lot of work).

      – Is he just a horrible, critical person who doesn’t want me to succeed? (I’m really throwing that one in there as a joke… It’s not likely the answer. I hope you saw the true source(s) of your feeling criticized before we got to this one. And if this one fits? Well, that’s data, too.)

      Thanks for reminding me to share that filter, Krysta!

      Blessings,
      Michele

      Reply
  14. Angie Nelson

    Michele, this is such a fantastic post. My husband does my day-to-day accounting so he is a big part of my business. Getting on the same page with investments was a chore at first. But, I actually learned from him. “How will you get that money back” was always his big question. It really made me start thinking about why I was wanting to spend and have a plan as to how the investment was going to work for my business. These days, if I can’t answer that question, I know it likely isn’t a worthy investment.

    Reply
    • Heather Allard

      That’s a great question, Angie! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Reply
      • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

        What a great example of you accepting his influence where he is a force for good in your business, Angie! I think sometimes we feel defensive or afraid he’s scrutinizing us, when our husband really intends to help and has goodness to bring to the table. It sounds like you’ve really opened up to receive his profitable help and allowed yourself to have a true partner! Thanks for sharing your story!
        In joy,
        Michele

        Reply
  15. Heather Allard

    Thank you for this wonderful post, Michele! I have a hunch you’re going to help hundreds (maybe thousands) of mogul moms. 🙂

    xo,
    Heather

    Reply
    • Michele Lisenbury Christensen

      So great to be here, Heather. I DO hope this helps more mogul moms have rockin’ businesses AND rockin’ marriages!

      In joy,
      Michele

      Reply

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