How to Start a Practice Without Wrecking Your Marriage

We've talked with a lot of nurse practitioner practice owners lately to get their insights on owning a business. If they all agree on one thing, it's that the life of a nurse practitioner entrepreneur is a challenging one. So, how do these NPs balance practice ownership with a personal life, particularly when it comes to marriage?

Taking the leap towards being a nurse practitioner entrepreneur or practice owner is an exciting time, especially when you think of all the possible perks and luxuries that come with being your own boss like having have more control over your salary and practice model, for example. While there are many positives to having your own NP business, with great success comes great sacrifice and responsibility. The long hours, stress and the unpredictability of whether the venture will be a success or failure can weigh heavily. For married NPs, these pressures can put a strain on even the best of marriages and might even cause irreparable damage to your relationship if you don’t tend to your marriage just as carefully as you do your business.

In order for marriage to thrive, hard work and dedication are required of both spouses but the same are required of entrepreneurs and business owners; you must be willing to put in the time and effort if you want to see your business thrive. Unfortunately this creates a tug of war between love and business, often putting one or the other at risk for failure. While little research exists about the actual divorce rate among entrepreneurs, it is thought to be higher than that of the general population, which still lingers around 50% in America. But this doesn’t mean that if you’re a married NP with dreams of starting a business, you’re doomed for divorce. Here are four ground rules for starting a company without harming your marriage.

Keep communication open and honest

As most marriage counselors would agree, in order for any marriage to be successful, effective communication is key. Unfortunately though for most couples, poor communication is one of the easiest bad habits that spouses find themselves in; which often leads to the destruction of many marriages. Before diving into entrepreneurship, talk with your spouse about your idea for your NP business. Openly discuss your goals and the hopes and dreams you have for it as well as the sacrifices that will be required. Give your spouse some time and space to think things over and allow them to be able to openly communicate with you their fears. Listen intently and acknowledge their feelings and opinions, rather than taking offense.

Throughout your venture, continue to keep the lines of communication open about what’s working and what’s not in terms of your work and family life. Don’t be afraid to have honest and vulnerable conversations with one another, or to seek professional help if you’re conversations are unproductive. No matter how difficult the conversations may be, it’s important you have them. Fighting respectfully matters. Not fighting is a delusion of success for many couples.

Set office hours to keep healthy boundaries around your time

One of the luxuries of owning your own business is the ability to have flexible hours and make your own schedule. Unfortunately because of this, family members often forget that you still have to dedicate time to focus on your work and can’t always be so lax. For example, your spouse may assume that because you now run your own practice, you have the flexibility to tend to personal matters during the day like running errands or assuming the responsibility of taking the day off if one of your kids gets sick. While this is a benefit to being your own boss on occasion, it’s important that it’s not the expectation. After all, no one is going to care about your business as much as you do which is why it’s going to require a lot of your undivided attention at times.

It’s important that though you can be flexible you still set and keep office hours that work with your schedule. Communicate with your spouse that during this time frame, you’ll need to focus all of your attention onto your work with as little interruption as possible. Your hours don’t have to be traditional, but they should be consistent. During the initial start up, you may not be able to set consistent office hours right away, especially if you’re working in another clinical setting while you’re trying to get your idea off the ground. In this case, block off a set amount of time each week (as your schedule allows) to spend on your new business.  

Having a set cut-off time for your work day will not only help you accomplish what you need to get done before the end of the day, but you’ll be better able to switch your mind off of work and onto your home life when the workday is through. Though tempting, don’t make it a habit of taking your work home with you so that you can be present and attentive when you’re at home. This will help your spouse and your family members feel that they are also a priority to you and that you value your time with them.   

Schedule quality time with one another

Often married couples fall into the trap of assuming that being home at the same time as one another counts as quality time, but it doesn’t. As defined in the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, quality time is time spent in giving another person one's undivided attention in order to strengthen a relationship. It doesn’t mean watching TV and talking to one another during commercial breaks. Instead, quality time is engaging in quality conversation and togetherness.

Make quality time with your spouse a priority in your marriage no matter how busy your schedules are by actually setting aside a scheduled time to do so. Plan a date night or get up earlier in the mornings to have coffee with another before the chaos of the day begins. Have breakfasts or dinners at the table together with the TV turned off and cell phones put away. Plan vacations or staycations and relax with each other without interruption. Whatever you chose to do, enjoy your time together and remember why you married one another.

Acknowledge your spouse

Starting a business not only takes up a lot of time but a lot of your mental focus as well, which can cause you to overlook the sacrifices that your spouse is making or the additional responsibilities they have taken on in order to support you in your business aspirations. As a result, your spouse may feel underappreciated and resentful towards you and the success of your venture. When your spouse believes that you understand how incredibly valuable they are to you, it will help them feel emotionally secure in your marriage and all the more supportive of what your trying to accomplish.

Every person likes to be acknowledged and appreciated differently, so be sure that you acknowledge the value your spouse brings in a way that will be well received by them. For some spouses this could be through verbal affirmations, public acknowledgement or an unselfish act of kindness that you know will mean so much to them.

When you’re passionate about your NP business, it’s understandable why you’re driven to work hard and pour your life into its success. But remember that it takes the same diligence and intentionality to keep your marriage successful as well. By keeping your relationship at least as important as your business, you’ll be able to successfully manage both without harming one or the other.