As I am on this #RubyWooPilgrimage bus, I wanted to share a Q&A with a fierce woman, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, author of the new book, “Start, Love, Repeat: How to Stay in Love with your Entrepreneur in a Crazy Start-Up World.”
What was the inspiration for this book?
This book came about for selfish reasons: After about nine years of being married to an entrepreneur, I was desperate for advice from someone who understood what it was like. But there are so few resources for entrepreneurs’ spouses out there, and many that exist are unrealistically optimistic.
I wanted a resource that was completely honest about how hard it can be to do life with an entrepreneur, but also provided practical advice and offered tangible reasons why all the hardship was still worth it. I wanted someone to acknowledge that I could simultaneously love and support my husband and still hate the ways in which his business turned our lives upside down.
Why do you think this book is necessary?
The stereotypical picture of the entrepreneur is the brilliant, unmarried, twenty-something college dropout-turned-billionaire. In reality, the vast majority of entrepreneurs are running a business while also being spouses and parents.
The average age of someone starting their first business is forty. Seventy percent of business owners are married, and almost all of them also have children. The risks and challenges of starting and running a company are being borne by not just the founder but by his or her entire family.
In general, those in the start-up ecosystem haven’t done a good job of acknowledging this. As a result, when you talk to entrepreneurs and their significant others, you’ll find a good deal of messiness, and even bitterness and resentment within these families. Even if they’re successful in business, there has been a high personal cost to that success.
What are the typical challenges that entrepreneurs and their partners face?
The two most common challenges relate to finances and time. New businesses seem to require a black hole’s worth of both. If spouses never see one another or their bank account is always hovering around zero, this inevitably takes a toll on the relationship. As a result, both partners are more stressed and less connected, which impedes their ability to communicate well or to make thoughtful decisions together.
As you can imagine, over time these circumstances inevitably lead to resentment and loneliness. It leads to conflict and misunderstandings, or even to serious betrayals like infidelity. It’s not uncommon for partners to find that the ideal family lives they each want are fundamentally incompatible, which means that both of them have to be willing to make major concessions and compromises.
What are some of the most effective strategies for entrepreneurial couples?
One of the most helpful things I realized as I was researching this book is that small steps can make a big difference. Oftentimes the most effective ways to strengthen a relationship are small actions, done with love and intentionality, over and over again.
What do you hope are the main takeaways for your readers?
I hope entrepreneurial couples—especially those who are struggling in their relationship—will recognize that they’re not alone. No matter how crazy your life is because of the business, it’s likely that someone else has been through something similar and found a way to make it through with their marriage intact. With few exceptions, there is always reason to hope, and there are always changes you can make to try to improve your relationship. Even tiny steps can make a big difference.
About the Author:
Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is an award-winning writer and a columnist for Inc.com. She and her entrepreneur husband, d.light CEO and co-founder Ned Tozun, have been married for twelve years and have two adorable hapa sons. Learn more at www.chengtozun.com.