Mixing Business with Pleasure; The Truth Might Set You Free
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My partner and I love Rehoboth and never miss your column. We recently started a business together and it has changed our relationship. The stresses and conflicts have transferred into our home life, and our affection for one another has taken a back seat to our disagreements. We want our life back, but the business is already rather successful and we depend on it. Is it going to be just one or the other? Help!
Dr. Hurd replies,
Few things are more difficult than launching your own business. I applaud your efforts, but the toll on your relationship speaks for itself. It’s no longer business as usual—for your relationship, that is. In the past, you probably took your “alone time” for granted, but you can no longer do that. You’ve got to actually carve out time for yourselves, i.e., time together where you agree to not discuss business. The key isn’t what you do with this time as much as what you don’t do with it. Go out and enjoy something special or just stay home and hang out. But don’t talk business! Being your own boss is a 24/7 proposition, and if you don’t separate those matters from personal ones, they will slowly devour your personal life. Just ask anyone with a family-owned restaurant.
This is not unlike when people have children. Couples with children often find they must carve out a “date night,” i.e., anything not involving the child. The demands of a fledgling business are not all that different from a child. But you still have to set aside time for the sake of your relationship.
You mentioned that your venture is succeeding. Why don’t you take a moment and congratulate each other on your success? Something is working, and while it hasn’t come without a cost, wouldn’t you say it’s worth it? The next step is for you and your partner to delegate some of the work to an employee, or whoever is appropriate. Perhaps your cry for help is an indicator that your business is—happily—experiencing the growing pains of success.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’ll put it bluntly. I cheated on my partner of almost 20 years. We were at a party, one thing led to another and…it happened. It’s the first time. Yes, it was fun, but now I’m wracked with guilt. He has no idea it happened, and I know if I tell him it will break his heart. But I also know I’ll feel infinitely better if I tell him, no matter what his reaction. He has noticed my stress, but he thinks it’s just about work, etc. In retrospect, I don’t think the 45 minutes of clandestine fun was worth this anxiety. But what’s done is done.
Dr. Hurd replies,
I know the knee-jerk conventional wisdom is, “Telling him the truth will be good for you, but it won’t be good for him. So don’t tell him.”
I don’t buy that. For one thing, the truth is rarely, if ever, your enemy. The truth can hurt, but isn’t it better to know than not to know? I realize some will deny that, but my answer has always been “yes.” I guess each of us must decide for ourselves.
But that’s not even the main issue here. You’re already subconsciously telling your partner that something’s going on. You said, “He has noticed my stress….” He knows something is up. Sooner or later he’s going to ask you. Then what are you going to do? Tell him a lie? Once you do that, you’ll have to pile on more lies to conceal the first one. And you’re going to feel even worse than you do now.
Given how guilty you feel, sooner or later the truth will come out. If it doesn’t come from you, it could come from someone else (especially in a small town). At that point, your partner will have two difficulties. First, you had an indiscretion with another guy. Second, you lied to him about it with a convoluted patchwork of untruths until the whole ugly mess blew up. He’s going to hurt as much or more about that than he will over the original episode.
I realize you don’t want to confront his reaction. Who would? But maybe what you really don’t want to confront is why you did it. Was it really a rash indiscretion, or is it indicative of something else you don’t wish to face? Perhaps you think this relationship is no longer for you, and this was a symptom of your ambivalence. Or maybe it really was just a dumb and impulsive thing that has made you even more aware of how important he is to you.
After his initial reaction, your partner will want answers to those same questions, as you undoubtedly would in his position. So you owe it to yourself to answer them to yourself first. Spend some time on that, get your feelings in order, and I think you’ll find it will be a little less difficult to finally admit the truth.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email Dr Hurd