Love AND a Startup?
October 28, 2011 2:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm a woman in my 30's founding a startup that I'm very excited about. I'm also ready to seek out a serious relationship. Are the two mutually exclusive?

I'm super psyched about the startup I'm founding, and I wake up excited about it every day. It uses a bunch of different talents and skills I've developed over the years, and I think it's going to make a difference in the world.

I'm also at a point in my life in which I feel I'm finally ready to meet someone to build a future/family/life with. I'm 34. I'm worried that it might be hard/impossible to build my startup while finding/nurturing a meaningful relationship.

Has anyone had experience both building a startup and building a love life?
posted by enzymatic to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Focus on your start up and let the rest fall into place. Worrying about a variable that isn't even a variable yet is a surefire way to let paralysis set in, and right now your relationship with your business should come first.

Congrats to you on your new business venture! May it be a success in every way.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:25 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

To be honest, it's not startup + relationship that's the really hard slog; it's startup + young kids that's the killer. I know very few women without a stay-at-home spouse who have made that fly. You have plenty of scope for dating and building a relationship right now. Your startup will either sink or swim within the first three years. Should you meet Mr Right tomorrow, the timing for family planning will be important but could all gel well. So yeah what you're hoping for is possible but you're sweating a lot of details that may or may not fall into place. And statistically the relationship is actually more likely to work out, so there is that!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2011

Best answer: No, it's not impossible. In fact, there's been a lot of talk during recent years about the importance of sane working conditions when running a startup. This might set a limit of the growth of your startup but depending on what you're doing you might not even reach the limit in the first place.

And good luck with your startup - I'm happy for you!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:32 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sure plenty of people have done it, but I bet hardly any of them set out to do so at the same time.

Sounds like you're trying to be Superwoman. Why not concentrate on #1 for now, and maybe #2 will happen anyway? The startup will be stressful and time consuming enough by itself, so don't make it any worse by creating additional expectations that you don't really have much control over.

Are the two mutually exclusive?

So basically my answer is "no", but if you set out to achieve both simultaneously, the answer will probably be "yes".
posted by alan2001 at 2:34 PM on October 28, 2011

There's really no way anyone can tell you whether it will work for you or not. If you're concerned about the time investment for both your business and a relationship, you can't predict what the outcome will be. Your start-up may end up eating a lot more time than you realized, or a lot less. Depending on what is eating your time, you may be doing well enough to hire more people to take the load off, or you may not. You may only have spikes of intensive time use that, depending on your SOs schedule, work out well. You may be happy spending whatever amount of time you have left on a relationship, or you may be frustrated you don't have more time -- and that reaction will vary depending on the person you're with, how they feel about how much time you're spending together, etc. You also seem to be worried that having a relationship will somehow make you abandon or neglect your start-up against your will. How would that happen? Either you will decide you have to devote your time to your start-up, or it will no longer be your top priority and you will be happy doing something else. No partner can make you stop your passion; if they get pissy and demand more time you can't devote to them, then you break up. You may get a partner who is more patient, or more understanding, or simply doesn't need to spend a ton of time together.

There's a really weird idea, especially in the US, that people can't have a relationship and a career at the same time. I find it seriously baffling that this idea leads people to worry about these things before they are even a problem. You will only know if it's a problem if it becomes a problem. People routinely have successful relationships when they are in med school, law school, working on a thesis, working 80 hour weeks, and so on. Just because sometimes it's an issue doesn't mean it will be an issue for you, and it doesn't mean it won't either. You can't know the future and if you want to do anything you value, you have to make peace with that.

Personally, I think it would be really odd and unfortunate to say, "welp, I'm not even going to bother having a relationship, even though I want one, because maybe it won't work." It may not work even if you had all the time in the world. There's always one more reason a relationship wouldn't be perfect right now. Tons of people have strong relationships during college, for example, many ending in marriage -- but it would sound logical to say, "I need to focus on school, I can't divide my attention with a relationship." And a lot of people that tell themselves that could probably handle having a relationship -- i.e. they already are doing well and decide this before they ever slip up, not after, when it makes more sense -- they just don't allow it. It would really be a shame if you didn't allow yourself to have a relationship if one was a possibility, based on an unfounded fear that maybe time (or whatever) might be an issue in the future. Cross that bridge if you get to it.
posted by Nattie at 2:38 PM on October 28, 2011

Best answer: My friend opened a bakery and started a relationship in the same week it seems like. Two and a half years later, both are doing well.
posted by sweetkid at 2:39 PM on October 28, 2011

Put it this way. Last year my partner started his own business and very soon after started going out with me. He was 39. So I think it's possible. The challenge is being an entrepreneur and being pregnant (if that's how you want to have a kid), which I have no experience with, but I imagine that if I had my partner's job and was pregnant, it'd be kind of hectic. But you hear stories of pregnant women working right up to the end. I don't know if that's what you'd want to do though.
posted by foxjacket at 2:40 PM on October 28, 2011

Having founded a startup I'd say they are not mutually incompatible, if anything trying both can help make your startup better.

I've found if my startup life was to crazy for non-work things, it means I'm doing the wrong thing at work. all-nighters a symptom of a problem with work, not a thing that is needed to make it successful.

I'd say especially true at 34.

I have more regrets around family things I wish I spent more time on than work things I wish I spent more time on.

then there's always your next startup.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:41 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, if you'd like anecdotes, I do have an acquaintance who's doing this right now. Her startup predates her relationship by a couple years. While I don't have details, it sure looks from afar as if both the startup and her love life picked up significantly once she did a lot of work on her mental health, which hadn't been so great before.
posted by clavicle at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2011

Sure you can do this, if you are lucky enough to meet someone with serious-relationship potential. Good luck all the way around!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:06 PM on October 28, 2011

Yup. Your S.O. is going to take it on the chin for a few years before you have something tangible to bring home. I don't recommend getting them involved unless the relationship predates the startup by several years, but that is the way to amend the inattentiveness that you will be exhibiting as you obsess about the business.

I'd be very careful with emotional commitments now. Your enthusiasm will translate as "sexy," and the opposite sex will come knocking, with flowers, promises, and alcohol. It's still what you are used to, but it will seem more significant because of the very real stress that permeates your life. You can't afford distractions if you are going to get a business off the ground in this climate.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:21 PM on October 28, 2011

Best answer: I mean, no, it's obviously not incompatible, but I think it would be a disservice to you for anyone to sugarcoat it: you're going to need to prioritize dating almost equally high as the startup, and you need to ask yourself if you can do that. At 34 (I know I might get ripped apart for this and for not being a die-hard romantic, but) you need to treat dating as a second job, because it's not just going to happen spontaneously in the common room in the dorms, and especially not if you're working long hours at the startup.

So be prepared to go on as many first dates as are available through whatever means (online dating - I'd join multiple sites; singles events; networking events; ask everyone for set ups). And be prepared to rapidly prototype your future relationship.s

The good news is, passionate, ambitious people make interesting dates! Good luck.
posted by namesarehard at 5:00 PM on October 28, 2011

It's not impossible, but it's REALLY REALLY REALLY hard. You ARE going to need to treating dating like a second job and you already have one job that's sucking up a lot of your time -- it's natural to really give priority to the actual job that you have (the start-up) rather than to the personal life one. I say this as a workaholic who has worked at a start-up. I actually ended up dating someone I worked with so, er, hire hot people? Just kidding. (Mostly.)

What you're going to have to really do is be very very careful about setting time out of your schedule for dating. I used to have weeks where I would connect with someone on, say, OKC, and I literally would not be able to meet him for WEEKS because I was so busy with work. Which, it turns out, a lot of people think is crazy. It's a very delicate balancing act and you're going to have to be constantly aware that work CAN eat up all your time, especially if you're enjoying it.

You can't not date because you've got a start-up, and you can't not do your start-up because you might meet someone, but you will have to be very on-top of your to-do list, is all. VERY. And cross your fingers that you meet someone who will understand that sometimes you can really only see him between 8:45 and 10:30 because you have to go back to the office.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:47 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Congrats! Founding a startup puts you in lots of situations where you'll necessarily meet new, interesting, motivated people. Seems like a good way to meet a match to me.
posted by anildash at 8:26 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm a little late to this question, but I can speak from a personal situation very similar to yours. I'm about your age, started a business a few years ago and also have gone through the process of dating in my thirties. In fact, this afternoon I was at a singles mixer and this evening I'm stuck in the office sorting out some work issues.

I will tell you it is going to be really, really hard to start your own company and also be active in putting yourself out there to meet people. I started my company in my late 20s and it has put a serious crimp on my social life to the extent that I'm not sure if I had it to do all over again that I would have made the same choices. I remember back before I started my company how I considered it a highly unusual thing to have to work past 6PM or, heaven forbid, do some stuff on a weekend. Now it's a routine affair, and it's more notable when a week passes that I DIDN'T have to do those things. You may very well be working 60+ hours a week if you really give things your best shot. The real problem, though, isn't time but rather emotional energy. Startups involve lots of complex decisions with no clear right answers and no one but you to take the blame if things go wrong. That can be very draining. You will spend a lot of your time putting on your "confident" face for clients, employees, etc. It can make it hard to be able to summon the same sort of energy for the rollercoaster that is dating in your 30s. In order to meet people in your 30s you will have to spend a lot more time putting yourself out there - social events and online dating, and you will have to maintain your motivation to do so even if your business is blowing up and everything is going south.

You don't mention any business partners in your question; if there's one piece of advice I can give you it is to make sure you go into a startup with at least one business partner that you like and respect and trust. You need someone to be able to share the burden with you, and that is doubly true if you are not in a relationship with someone who can be there for you through the process. I can't imagine going through these last years without my business partners.

Whatever happens, try to keep your own sense of self-respect and accomplishment separate from what's happening in both your business and your love life. You can work hard at them, but there is a luck element regarding being in the right place at the right time that governs them both. Good luck!
posted by sherlockt at 7:00 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: namesarehard: what exactly do you mean by "rapidly prototype a relationship"? i'm not quite grokking.
posted by enzymatic at 10:10 PM on October 30, 2011

I don't think this is a problem. I'm in the same situation except I'm already married. But maintaining a relationship also takes time, considering I'm also taking care of his brother. The thing is, you have to balance your life and work, if you value them both equally. Think about the future, you will have plenty in your plate, what's the point of working if you can't enjoy your personal life fully?
posted by artofgiving at 12:39 AM on November 8, 2011

Oh, sorry, I totally missed your comment there - I thought it would be clever to use startup terminology to describe dating :) What I meant is try out many things and be willing to quickly scrap and go back to the drawing board for anything that lacks real potential. Be efficient and discerning, and don't waste months on someone who you know to not possess long term potential.
posted by namesarehard at 5:44 PM on November 13, 2011

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