2020: The Year My Husband Stopped Hating My Startup

I've been doing a lot of end-of-the-year reflecting, and it has made me wonder about other people and their life partners or families, and how they've handled the whole "startup on the side" or "side hustle" thing. Bringing my (I say "skeptical", he says "realistic") husband along for the ride has been hugely challenging for both of us. I really believe in what I'm working on, and I believe that the tremendous amount of time and energy I'm pouring in to my startup will ultimately pay off. He believes in ME, but is less optimistic. And given that it's taken me a while to figure out how to achieve some semblance of balance - relationship, job, startup, other side hustle, personal health, and all the other stuff of life - there have been moments along the way that have felt pretty bumpy.

I first started getting serious about scratching my entrepreneurial itch in late 2016. Four years later, I'm now on startup #2 (the first one was a failure, a.k.a. a learning experience), and have also been side-hustling to build up freelance income in order to reach a place where I can take the leap to go full-time on the startup. I'm still burning the candle at both ends (especially the "super early morning" end), but I FINALLY feel like I'm doing a better job of regularly making time to just relax and hang out with my husband, without feeling like I should be working on startup stuff, instead. As a result, I'm finding that there's a lot less tension and a lot more support coming from him, and it's easier for me to share the ups and downs and talk about what I'm working on, as opposed to feeling like I almost need hide to hide all of the work I'm doing in an attempt to minimize the impact of my startup pursuits on our shared life together.

I listen to a lot of podcasts about entrepreneurs, and so many talk about how critically important their supportive spouse or partner was to their success... but you don't often hear about how they GOT to that place of support. I can't imagine that it was easy or instant, in every case.

Has anyone else struggled to achieve balance, or felt like their partner resented their startup or side hustle?

(It goes without saying, I think, that I'm not a 20-something single guy... I'm a 38yr old woman with a wonderful husband who did NOT realize that he was marrying someone with an entrepreneurial streak, because I didn't realize it myself! And I'd like to emerge from this adventure with both a thriving business AND a happy relationship.) :)

Any wisdom to share?

  1. 3

    I don't have any advice to give, mostly because I'm also going to be following the comments here. Sometimes I feel like my SO thinks my startup is a cute hobby and isn't something to be taken seriously. :-/

    1. 1

      Yup, that's how I felt for a while... eventually, though, it became pretty clear that I was serious. That probably took about 2 yrs. At first I'd try to set deadlines (like... "just be patient - if this isn't "working" by the end of the year, then we can talk about it again") but we both eventually realized that a better approach was to find more balance and make it something that he could more easily live with, longterm, because it's not going away.

      Plus I've worked on exposing him to other startup stories, and that's helped a little.

  2. 2

    I'm so glad you've raised this topic! Thank you.

    It's been a point of tension for me too. A cathartic moment happened when my partner had a very frank discussion. Why would I focus on something so narrowly, with an almost infinitesimally small chance of reward while risking a relationship I had vowed to keep for the rest of my life (married). This was the question I was posed by my partner.

    It was really hard to give up on building out ideas.

    What annoyed my partner most was how tunnel visioned and uncommunicative I became. I would have one whiff of an idea and become a recluse for a week. Then abondon my project on the scrap heap of other failed ventures. Witnessing my litany of failures also caused her angst.

    I've since found balance. I've followed the gospel of indie hackers and found users and a problem before going all in on building. It's a problem so small and silly that I can build an mvp in a week or so. I feel a lot less pressure, my partner hasn't even noticed I'm starting a new venture. That's a metric I'm happy with. Happy wife, happy life!

    1. 1

      Ah! I, too, become tunnel visioned! And we had a very similar frank conversation.

      I didn't find the indie hacker gospel til part way through my current startup, so missed that boat, a little... but if this one ultimately doesn't work (which of course I can't imagine ;) ) and there's a next one, you better believe I will do things a little differently.

      Life really is SO much better now that my husband feels happier about my startup.

  3. 1

    Love your honesty and reflections in this post. Thanks for sharing your experience. I can totally relate.

    My wife and I are great life partners—we tried to start something together and realized we’re terrible business partners. I just shut down the business around that in December. It was a source of constant tension for us, in the end, I have an entrepreneurial streak and she’s happy to support me but isn’t interested in doing that herself.

    For now, my family gets my best hours (we have 2 kiddos too). I don’t mix side-project work during family time. Most side-project work happens between 9PM-1AM after the family and household tasks are taken care of. (I listen to podcasts or something while washing dishes, tho.) I’m also trying not to add major pressure to my projects to add revenue to the family budget. It’s just fun, and I try to keep it that way (even though I have serious ambitions!).

    Otherwise, having a line-item in the budget for expenses has been really helpful. It means I can pay for hosting or buy a book or domain name or whatever without feeling guilty, or taking more from somewhere else.

    This is not an all in approach. It allows me to scratch my itch and stay (mostly) sane and healthy.

  4. 1

    wow, hope all is well. Is not easy

  5. 1

    Such an important topic! I can totally relate to that

  6. 1

    I don't have any wisdom to share, I'm afraid, Liz. There are people in my life who are puzzled as to why I can't just be happy doing a regular job, but I don't know how to get those people to a different place. I do think it's important to hang out with others who are of like mind, even if it's only on the IndieHackers podcast or here on the website! It makes me feel like I'm not so weird for wanting to do the side hustle thing.

    1. 2

      Agree! Community has been super helpful, even for a total introvert like me.

  7. 1

    Also lurking for comments here. It's a constant source of tension in my relationship.

    1. 1

      It can be so hard, because sometimes it's like "hey, I'm trying to do something that's pretty difficult here, juggling all of these things in order to try to get something off the ground, and I feel like you're asking me to figure out how do it with one hand tied behind my back..." but I also subscribe to the idea that "what you do is who you are" and I don't want to be the kind of person who always puts work first and my SO last.

      All I can tell you is that it's taken a few years, but for me at least, it's getting better. One thing that definitely helped: I now make Sunday a "no computer" day for myself. (I mean, I do use the computer before my husband wakes up, but once he's awake, I put it away.) Having a set day that is free from time where I'm getting sucked into working on startup stuff has been really good for us, in part just for the message it sends - that he is important to me - and in part because it's forced me to do a better job of recharging regularly, too.

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