Without the support of my wife I would not be where I am today. With my career as a small business owner and entrepreneur, she’s had to put up with a lot – long hours, extensive travel, missed paychecks and the list could go on. Lucky for me, 19 years later she’s still by my side.

A lot of entrepreneurs aren’t as fortunate. The unconventional career path often strains marriages to the point of collapse.

Since my wife Nicole has been there from the beginning, I thought she’d be the best source on surviving as an entrepreneur’s spouse. Here’s her take on this adventurous road we’ve taken.

Andy and I met in college. At the time he was working for a cell phone company. I was so smitten with him; two days after we met I was cold calling new business prospects from the yellow pages trying to help him gain sales.

That job paved the way for the wireless company Andy started soon after we met. When we moved in together, our home doubled as the office, the pool table served as our stock shelf and the business became our first child.

After 17 years in business, we sold the wireless company in 2011 and planned for an early retirement. Not so fast. Entrepreneurs don’t retire.

Soon after selling the wireless company, Andy discovered a new passion in helping his friends grow their businesses. He decided to create a business out of it, and in 2011 he started Petra Coach.

Here are three main pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned from my years as an entrepreneur’s spouse:

  • Accept your spouse for who he or she is – I married a guy who is constantly on the go and isn’t fulfilled by a traditional 9 to 5. Because of that, he’s not home every night for dinner and a Seinfeld rerun. Once I got over trying to fit Andy in the mold of a stereotypical husband, and instead accepted him for the unique individual he is our marriage improved tenfold.

If your significant other has an unconventional career, remind yourself what originally attracted you to him or her – it was probably his or her unconventional outlooks.

  • Look at the positive – As I mentioned, Andy isn’t home for dinner every night, but when he is home, he makes up for the lost time. He is a very engaged father and husband. His fine-tuned management and problem solving skills that make him a great entrepreneur, also make him a great family man.

Further, the business has given us huge advantages. For instance, when the kids are home from school during summer break, Andy and I can rearrange our schedules at the office to spend time with them.

If your husband or wife is a business owner, remind yourself of all the opportunities and advantages the business has added to your life. While you’re at it, make a list. You may need a reminder when the glass appears half empty.

  • Discover your own interests – Building a business and paving a new path takes time. When Andy is busy at work I don’t sit around and wait. I have my own interests and passions I pursue. This way, there’s no pressure for Andy to put aside a stream of creativity or productivity to hurry back to a lonesome or irritated spouse.

Don’t get me wrong, we are both accountable and respectful of each other’s schedules, and genuinely love spending time together, but we understand what makes the other person tick. Although we are married, we still allow each other time to develop as individuals.

If you’ve been wanting to volunteer more, or perhaps start your own business venture, go for it. Your happiness can’t rely entirely on someone else’s schedule.

While being married to an entrepreneur is not always easy, it is certainly exciting and fulfilling. After 19 years together, I wouldn’t change a thing. Andy, like many entrepreneurs, is always looking for the next challenge, continually hunting for ways to improve and eagerly awaiting opportunities to step outside his comfort zone. The qualities that make him a great entrepreneur also make him a great husband.


This article was originally published in The Tennessean.

Photo credit:  <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/annabelfarleyphotography/68