Q&A: Surviving as an enterpreneur’s spouse

I’ve been writing this blog for more than six years, usually once or twice a month. I haven’t, to my amazement, run out of things to say. However, I think it’s time to open up the forum to other voices. So today I offer the first of what I hope will be regular guest posts and Q&A’s with other authors.

A new book about keeping the flame (of love) alive

I’m excited to introduce author Dorcas Cheng-Tozun. Our friendship began when my two careers, writing and doula work, came together rather serendipitously. Soon after she hired me as her birth doula, we attended a meeting of the California Writers Club (separately) and were somewhat surprised to see one another there. Since then, we’ve participated in a critique group together, exchanged editing, and cheered one another on along our writing journeys as well as our parenting journeys.

Dorcas’s book, START, LOVE, REPEAT: How to Stay in Love With Your Entrepreneur in a Crazy Start-up World releases today. You might think there’s nothing in it for you if you’re not married to an entrepreneur. However, anyone who’s the partner to someone whose work consumes them could benefit from the ideas, strategies, and stories Dorcas shares. (Writers, you might consider giving it to your significant others!)

Here’s what she has to say about the genesis of the book and about the road that brought her to publishing it.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: 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.

As I talked to other entrepreneurs’ spouses, I heard the same thing from them. They couldn’t find the support or help they needed. They couldn’t find a book that reflected the experiences they had lived.

So I decided to write what I would have wanted to read when I first married my husband. I wanted to tell the whole story of what marriage to a creative, inspired, ambitious business founder looks like, in all its imperfect glory.

Q: You interviewed dozens of entrepreneurial couples for this book. Were there any stories that particularly stood out for you?

A: Though my own experience of being married to an entrepreneur has been challenging, I was still surprised by the depth of pain that I encountered. There are families who have lost almost all their material possessions because of a failed business; others have lost all sense of trust in their spouse because of decisions they made or the ways in which their character changed under the pressure of running a business.

But then there were those stories of spouses who had stuck with one another decade after decade, surviving extremely trying seasons. They had wrestled with deep anger and resentment and stress, and were still able to come out on the other side of it with an even greater affection and respect for one another. They appreciated how much they had learned about themselves and one another through the ups and downs, and actually had a remarkable amount of wisdom and maturity. They knew exactly what was important in life and what was not.

These were the couples that convinced me that, despite all the challenges, or perhaps because of them, being married to an entrepreneur could, in the end, be a wonderful experience.

Q: Do couples running a business together face any unique challenges or derive any special benefits?

A: For couples in business together, both the benefits and the challenges of entrepreneurship are amplified. I’ve heard many couples talk about how much they love having a shared passion and purpose that aligns their priorities and brings them closer together. They get to spend a lot of time together and often grow in their respect for one another as professionals.

On the other hand, co-preneur couples can struggle even more with time management, finances, and stress than couples with only one entrepreneur. They’ve put all their eggs in one basket, and if something goes wrong with the business, the financial and emotional fallout can have a double whammy. There’s more potential for conflict, personally and professionally. They also risk spending so much time together as co-workers that the romance can fizzle.

Running a business together works really well for some couples and is disastrous for other couples. It really depends on how aligned your professional interests are, as well as your willingness to resolve conflicts and trust each other in a different context.

Q: Writing and launching a book shares some characteristics with starting a business—it’s intense, all-absorbing, and demands a lot, especially when you’re on deadline—which may have made you feel that at times there were two entrepreneurs in the house when you were working on the book. What were some of the challenges you faced bringing your book into the world while being married to an entrepreneur?

A: Writing and launching a book has felt a lot like starting a business! In the past year, Ned and I have had to really up our game in terms of our communication with one another and sharing the load of childcare and other household responsibilities. Especially when I was on a tight timeline, I had to ask Ned to step up more at home or to schedule his business trips around my availability. I also felt a lot of pressure to make the most of the time that I did have to work, knowing that that could change at any moment if a crisis came up with Ned’s company. On the upside, it made me much more productive, but it has been a bit of an exhausting run.

All that said, it’s been great to have Ned’s support in this. He has done everything he can to give me the space and time I need to get this book off the ground. In years past I have sometimes felt like his career overshadowed mine and was more important than mine, but he’s gone out of his way to show me that he respects and values what I do as much as I respect and value his work.

Q: It seems to me that a wider audience than spouses of entrepreneurs could benefit from the advice in the book. What other professionals might face similar challenges? And what might entrepreneurs themselves get from reading the book… assuming they could ever make time to sit down and read it?

A: I think any professional that has an extremely demanding job or career is going to relate to this book. I’ve had spouses of everyone from CEOs and investment bankers to academics and missionaries tell me that they experience a similar dynamic of having an unavailable significant other and high amounts of stress and uncertainty. It’s more about the nature of the work, its lack of boundaries and the personal sacrifices that it requires, than about the industry or sector. In any of these situations, there are going to be challenges faced by the family, and the strategies that I share in START, LOVE, REPEAT will be just as relevant for them.

I certainly hope entrepreneurs will read this book. If nothing else, I think it will give them insight into what it’s like to be in a committed relationship with them. We love our entrepreneurs, but they sure can be hard to be with sometimes! The more entrepreneurs and their spouses can empathize with one another and understand the mutual sacrifices they are making for each other, the better their chances of being able to work through conflict and challenges in a gracious and loving way. There is also plenty in the book about self-care and remembering what really matters in life, reminders that could certainly benefit entrepreneurs no matter what stage of the business they’re in.

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is an award-winning writer, editor, and speaker. As a columnist for Inc.com, she writes about the intersection of start-up life with marriage, family, and well-being. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Christianity Today, the Unreasonable blog, The Entrepreneurial Leader, and dozens of other publications in the U.S. and Asia. Dorcas 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 http://www.chengtozun.com or on Twitter @dorcas_ct.


Your turn!

Are you a writer? Would you like to participate in a Q&A or contribute a guest post? Let me know and please include: 1) a link to your website or blog, 2) information on your published work or your writing career, and 3) a few sentences about what you’d like to write about and why it would be of interest.











6 thoughts on “Q&A: Surviving as an enterpreneur’s spouse

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  1. “It’s more about the nature of the work, its lack of boundaries and the personal sacrifices that it requires, than about the industry or sector” How well put. It sounds like a book that can help so many as jobs are becoming more fluid these days.


    1. Absolutely. I really hope Dorcas’s book will gain a wider audience. I know publishers are always looking for a specific target market–and hers has one–but as you’ve identified, it applies to so many types of work now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kudos to the author for finding a niche to write about that hasn’t been addressed much before. That’s not easy to do in this book-glutted atmosphere. Looks like an important read. Nice interview too!


    1. That is so true. It’s easier for fiction writers because the trick is in the telling (I think I’ve heard that there are really only a dozen plots in the world). But for nonfiction, you definitely need that new take on a topic, and she’s found it.

      Liked by 1 person

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