Date Night: How to Build Your Relationships as You Build Your Business
When you’re an entrepreneur, most of your waking attention is spent on your work. And your work requires almost nonstop hyper-focus. Hence, it’s all too common for entrepreneurs’ relationships to fade into the background. But whether you find yourself outright sacrificing personal relationships, subjecting your partner to too much work talk, or letting calls interrupt dinner, it’s worth reclaiming your partnership as a conscious enterprise.
Your partner, yourself, and your business all stand to gain.
The key is carving out dedicated time and attention to improve your relationship. Even before that, though, you have to recognize its complete value.
Retraining your default mode
In the early years of my own entrepreneurial journey, I let my personal relationships slip into the background. I went weeks without speaking to my mother. Dating was difficult—not only fitting it in time-wise, but also because I was emotionally unavailable. I put all my energy, including emotional energy, into my work. I wish I knew then what I know now: Relationships are actually what hold you up and help you be your best.
Partners, specifically, are part of the entrepreneurial journey, even though they didn’t necessarily choose it. And even if they are invested in your success and love sharing that journey with you, no one can listen to work talk all the time (and work talk only), because it’s not the kind of conversation that builds a relationship.
Too much work talk in your personal life is a sign that your work is consuming you and becoming your default mode—and that you’re letting this default mode run your life for you. I learned the hard way that this default mode does not care about the wellbeing of your personal and social life (which are critical to being a healthy, sane, and whole person), and will in fact work against it.
The key, then, is to retrain your default mode. To be more intentional with your relationships, and work consciously to prepare and structure them for growth—just like you do for your business.
Implementing a Date Night
Every intentional action starts with making time for it: putting it on your calendar and sticking to it. And when that comes to your romantic relationships—whether you’re in a brand new partnership or have been partnered for years—a great place to start is with a weekly Date Night.
Here are some things to remember:
Make it a non-negotiable, dedicated weekly practice. Truly treat it as a date.
Do something you both enjoy or find exciting, and in which you can have an uninterrupted talk. Take a walk. Get take-out burritos (in Covid times).
Give your partner your full attention. Slow down that freight train of your entrepreneurial mind. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb.
Don’t talk about work. Remind yourself of that as much as you need to.
Make sure it’s just you two. If you have young kids, find a sitter, or quiet activity for them, or modify Date Night to Date 30-Min or Date Hour if it’s all you can do—but do it!
Shoot for deeper conversations. The book Eight Dates: Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by John Gottman (et al.) is a great reference point for this. It walks you through eight structured conversations that help build a stronger relationship—no matter what point you’re at.
“Build with scaffolding”
The important thing to remember is that a partner’s emotional support is what holds you up, and enables you to be your best, in life and in work. Your weekly Date Night is to, first, make sure that support is not taken for granted.
Date Night’s second purpose is to deepen the relationship. To construct a strong building, we all know it needs a strong foundation. But I would add: It also needs scaffolding to do the work as you work upwards. The intentional act of a weekly Date Night can serve as the scaffolding that helps build your partnership up, ensuring its integrity.
As your relationship grows, so does the emotional bedrock of everything you do. I’ve found that when you improve as a partner and invest more in your relationships all around, the investment pays off everywhere—including in your work. You are happier, less stressed, and more energetic because you become better able to maintain perspective on what’s really important. With a little regular, intentional work, you can achieve an ever-improving synergy between you, your partnership, and your company. It’s a win-win for all.
A special thank you to my partner, Jordyn, for patiently listening to my long-winded, enthusiastic entrepreneurial ideations—and for gently nudging me to cut it off at the right times.