Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love For Entrepreneurs?

As a professional matchmaker, I know that dating can be tough - for everyone. For entrepreneurs, it can be even tougher. Choosing to be an entrepreneur, you choose to be the master of your own destiny, to pursue something you feel passionately about and to take a gamble on yourself and your vision. You also choose a lifestyle - even if you don’t know it at first. You are no longer the employee who can throw on his or her coat and walk out the door without thinking about the challenges of the workday until the next morning. Instead, you take your business with you when you are running on the treadmill at the gym, when you are showering in the morning ... when you get into bed at night. Your business becomes as much a part of you as your arm or your leg.

But not every potential romantic partner wants to date you with the extra appendage that is your business. I learned this when I first left my job as an attorney to start my matchmaking and events business. Everyone expected that a matchmaker would be in a wonderful relationship, but instead I found that I was risking being the barefooted cobbler. Early on, I dated someone who was not an entrepreneur. We would go to events and, as necessity required, I would network - which often meant spending much of the event apart. He felt neglected. Nights where he would have loved sharing a private, romantic dinner were spent at large social gatherings. Among the issues that chipped away at our relationship was this tug of war over how I would spend my “free” time. With a truly committed entrepreneur getting a business off the ground, there is no such thing as free time. Only a kindred spirit entrepreneur gets this. My business became my life and I wondered if I would have to forego meeting “the One” until my business did not require so much time and attention.

In my opinion, the female entrepreneur faces even more challenges dating than men do. Men instinctively feel the need to tell a female entrepreneur how she should run her business, even though they have never run a business themselves. If you don’t follow their advice, they often take it personally. In addition, men can often feel a level of competition with a strong female entrepreneur that they would never feel with a woman in a more traditional job. One person I dated felt he had to highlight the gambles he had taken in his career to prove to me - nay, to himself - that he was a risk taker. When the conversations took a tone of "what I do is interesting too!!!", I knew he had reached his limit of being my cheerleader and he yearned to be the star of his own show.

In any healthy relationship, both partners should feel comfortable sharing what is happening at the office, asking for support after dealing with a vexing client or bragging about a job well done that may have not received the proper accolades. Dating a fellow entrepreneur simply augments this dynamic and allows for a work/life balance that both parties can understand. When I met my current boyfriend I felt, finally, I was with someone who understood. He could join me at an event and allow me the space I needed. There was no sense of competition - he too had left the secure womb of his law firm to start his own business and he had no need to prove anything. He has since become my silent partner, my sounding board and my biggest supporter. And I his. As I know personally, despite the heightened challenges, there's no doubt that an entrepreneur can find love - along with profits!

This article is being considered for publication in a book called "Winning Without Losing" which is compiling articles by entrepreneurs on work/life balance.

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