Startups aren’t for the faint-hearted, as anyone who has survived more than one will tell you. Startup life can be crazy, lonely, exhausting, and even heart-breaking at times — while also being exhilarating and fulfilling in the same day! Startup stress accumulated from long hours, all-nighters and ‘always on’ work pressures can challenge even the most solid relationships with family, friends and loved ones. Unless you’re actually in a relationship with your co-founder (like Eventbrite co-founders and husband/wife team Kevin and Julia Hartz) or with someone who is also in a startup or has been before, you may feel like your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/lover/spouse just doesn’t understand you. If you’re lucky enough to be with someone who ‘gets’ you and your startup life, be thankful and be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them.
Before I met my husband (thank you founders of Match.com), I had already been through the ups and downs of five startups. Some successful, several failures. He was a serial entrepreneur who had also founded several startups, had succeeded and failed and understood my passion for launching ideas that could disrupt the world. We found a kindred spirit in each other, someone who could empathize with the other’s passion while also providing emotional camaraderie after a hard week’s work in the startup grind. Neither of us ever felt neglected when we pulled an all-nighter or jumped out of bed at 2 in the morning to put out a work fire. That’s just what you do when you’re committed to making your startup successful.
Perhaps the craziest test of our relationship came when we decided to launch our family (and give birth to twins!) in the same year my husband became a startup CEO. We are lucky that we can both function on very little sleep, as we barely got any for two years. Our motto back then?: “Sleep is for the weak”. We survived that rough stretch with a lot of help from grandparents, hired helpers and our own resolve to keep our marriage together, no matter what work or babies threw (up) our way.
Our weekly date nights saved us from being too baby- or startup-focused and gave us at least a couple of hours each week to reconnect. If there’s one non-negotiable to keep your romantic relationship from flaming out while you’re in startup mode — keep your date nights sacred and make time for connecting one-on-one, just like you would with your co-founder, investors or team mates. After all, your team mate on your life journey is probably (and hopefully) more important than any of the people you’re working with, with greater impact on your lifelong happiness than whether your startup is successful – read Clayton Christensen’s How to Measure Your Life for more insights.
Our twins are now five years old and my husband and I have both been through three startups each since they were born. We couldn’t have tackled the challenge without a whole lot of empathy for each other’s passion, plus collaborative team work to manage our household, childcare and taking care of ourselves as well as our kids as true partners.
On this Valentine’s Day, I’m feeling most grateful that my life partner is also my greatest startup partner and supporter of my professional dreams.