Work Always Comes First: Why Dating Is A Struggle For Entrepreneurs

By Michael Thompson

Some people are just born to be their own boss, and I consider myself included in that group. When I was in my early 20s, I knew that the freedom, opportunity and challenges that entrepreneurship offered were too much to pass up.

I promised myself I would do whatever was needed to overcome the obstacles that would arise, and I would succeed in being an entrepreneur, regardless of how long it took.

Entrepreneurship is a long road, but the first few years are often the toughest because you are starting from scratch.

This makes for a tough position to be in with regard to love and dating because, as entrepreneurs, we have already decided that we must make short-term sacrifices for the good of our company and the betterment of our selves. But, of course, we want love, too.

Starting a business and becoming successful is not a quick process. When you start a business in your 20s, it will consume you for many years, often before any real money is ever made. But you know deep down inside that it is worth it, so you keep going.

As my business evolved throughout the course of my 20s, I did my fair share of dating, but somewhere in my head I thought that if I really committed to a complete relationship with any of these women, my ability to put my business first would be compromised, and ultimately I would not succeed.

There has always been a little voice in my head that has said to me, “you're not where you need to be yet, stay focused and don't get too deep.”

Of course this has meant that over the near decade that I have been growing as an entrepreneur, my relationships have always had expiration dates.

In many ways this has served me well. I started my business for less than a thousand dollars, and have grown it into a profitable company, but throughout the last 10 years, there have been many times where not having too much attachment to someone else has been quite convenient.

For example, when I chose to invest in my company's infrastructure instead of being able to pay rent; it's much easier to crash in your parent's spare bedroom without a fiancée in tow.

The problem is that this can be a mindset that can be hard to get rid of. Entrepreneurs need to be disciplined and be in control, and in many ways this can make it hard for them to have a relationship where they completely give their whole self to their partner.

This is a trap that many young entrepreneurs fall into; they find that in the first several years they are never able to give themselves completely over to a partner, so they remain emotionally closed and give their time, energy and attention to their company instead of their significant other.

This is a strategy that can work well, especially if it results in a startup turning profitable, but the time will come when change is needed, and this can be hard to do.

Changing in this way is often hard for a young entrepreneur, because that means giving up control. For a relationship to work, it needs to be an equal partnership, not the cutthroat dictatorship that a startup often requires to make it through the first few years.

In the beginning, entrepreneurs are vulnerable. There is so much that can go wrong, and that is why being closed and isolated is just an easier approach.

If the ship is going to sink, there is no sense in bringing someone down with you, and that is why entrepreneurs have a tendency to close themselves off (emotionally and physically); it becomes a protection mechanism against vulnerability.

In the long run, though, the key is to find a balance. We need to be able to let our partners into our struggle because with them on our side, we can accomplish a whole lot more; if we keep them on the sidelines, it will never work.

Photo Courtesy: DreamWork Pictures/Catch Me If You Can