The Blonde believed I was having an affair, and she was right. There were late nights, the meetings and chatting online, my mind was often elsewhere and I was distant at times, and I always had excuses why we couldn’t spend time together. But its not what she thought. The affair was with JuicyAds, the sexy advertising network that I founded. My business may not have been a sexy younger woman, but it did more than enough to drive a wedge between us and I didn’t realize it until it was too late.
A new study from 2014 shows that almost half of married people get divorced by their late 50s, and the rate just doubled for Americans over 35 years old. It’s no secret I’m divorced from The Blonde now. Sometimes I wonder if the acceptance of the high divorce rates in our culture actually fuel people’s decisions to simply call it quits instead of keeping the vow of “through good times and bad.”
Despite being burned once, I still believe in marriage. It just needs to be with the right person and The Blonde was definitely not the one.
Aside from the statistics suggesting divorce is almost unavoidable, I did a lot of stupid things and made bad personal decisions due to my business’ needs that caused some of our problems and resentments. Up until our first separation I didn’t even know what a resentment was. Things like working on vacation, evenings, weekends, and being awakened at 2 a.m. may seem like normal things when you’re launching a new business, but to her (someone who did not appreciate the hard work or the sacrifices of being a entrepreneur) these little things added up. By the time my marriage was on the rocks I had no idea what had even happened, but she remembered every single little thing I had done “wrong.” What I actually was doing wrong was I didn’t dedicate time to focus just on her. Its like picking up the phone to text when you’re in a meeting or restaurant with someone (don’t do that, either).
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, especially in the adult industry. It seems like all of us know at least a few people who it hasn’t worked out for (the business, as well as relationships) but being your own boss creates amplified problems in a marriage regardless of the industry. Founders often work long hours and put an unhealthy amount of stress on themselves that weighs not only on the company but the relationship. Taking the leap of faith on your own business is a risky move financially and it conflicts with the need for safety in a relationship.
Money is often a big issue as resources are tapped and every day brings the family closer to either grand success or bankruptcy. Studies show that fighting about money is actually more likely to cause divorce than sex (or lack thereof) or other marital issues. I thought I was safe from these troubles because I had been a successful affiliate for years before JuicyAds and had more than enough to sustain a new venture. We never fought about the money we didn’t have, it seemed she always wanted to fight about the money we did have.
We didn’t struggle because I was never home, we struggled because I was always home. Working with your spouse or partner is a very risky concept from my experience. In the beginning I thought nothing of working together in the same office. In the early years The Blonde was in direct competition with me as an affiliate (which caused problems) but later she ended up helping me with some routine business tasks. I was bombarded all the time with personal issues and fights during work hours and endless jealous questioning of “who are you talking to?” When we would have a fight, she would “quit” then attempt to rescue me and later pick up the tasks she had been helping me with as a way to apologize.
Its hard for romantic partners to understand that when you’re there in the home office working, that you’re not actually available. It was hard to learn to respect that work-home boundary; To understand that there is a time for work and a time for life. The Blonde’s inability to do this was not only hard on me, but hard on the business. Not being able to juggle them separately that can push a relationship into trouble, or to its breaking point.
The final fight we ever had as a couple took place in my home office. It was mid-afternoon on a busy Monday and I was working during my regular hours. She was upset because I had not replied to her numerous texts. Instead of being patient, she came home and demanded answers right at that moment. It became a huge fight about everything that had ever happened in the relationship, and our marriage ended that day. I regret the fight, but I don’t regret the end of the marriage or trying to uphold the boundary of work and home.
Surprisingly, a study by Neuberger Berman showed that 42 percent of CEOs of startups say that their business had a positive effect on their relationship (only 32 percent reported problems because of it). The Blonde at one point demanded I sell JuicyAds so that we could spend more time together. I compromised and cut back my work hours instead, but this did very little to help the marriage. After that point I also attempted to shield The Blonde from the business. I stopped discussing everything with her to try to reduce the stress and resentment between us. However, I found out that communication about your successes and failures is very important for a relationship to survive. Ending that flow of information sent a signal to her that something bad was going on (even though the opposite was true) and it actually made things worse.
I love my company. Before my separation, I struggled to stay away from my office because I wanted to work, I simply loved it. At many points I have considered: Did I love my company more than my ex-wife?
When I was suddenly single, life balance was no longer difficult or even a struggle. I was dealing with the fallout of my marriage and was not in a good place in my life. For months I found it difficult to work for more than an hour or two per day. I forced myself out of it by working out with a personal trainer four times a week, and made an effort to meet new people. During those “Dark Years” I dated and “split tested” my way through dozens of women (XBIZ World April 2014). After a few months I had little trouble working all day again. What was different was I was quitting work by 6 p.m. and shutting off my “business brain” because most nights I was spending time with women trying to find a connection. It was like I lived in a sitcom, and at some points what would have made a really awesome reality-tv show. I rediscovered the freedom of starting over and how terrible (and amazing) dating again could be.
Now that I have been dating The Brunette for over a year, why is it that my work life has not spun wildly out of control? I’m still the driving force here at JuicyAds where I manage a growing team, work very hard on development, marketing, fraud detection, programming, and write far too many emails. Somehow things are different now, even with the endless ambition and drive to build a better advertising network. I enjoy taking time to be with The Brunette in a way that I never did (and never wanted to) with The Blonde. We spend every evening and weekend together and I’m rarely at my desk when she is around. Its not because I promised myself I would never let my work-life balance ruin another relationship. Its because I actually respect and cherish the time I get with her. I realized the key ingredient to keeping a healthy balance in business and in life — is happiness.
Despite the risks, running you own business has ample benefits that outweigh the struggles and stress. Entrepreneurs have additional struggles as well as unexpected advantages when it comes to dating, relationships, and marriage. Despite being burned once, I still believe in marriage. It just needs to be with the right person and The Blonde was definitely not the one. I’d like to think that people can keep work and home separate, but that’s just not truly possible because we are the sum of our experiences. The people that say “marriage takes work” are wrong. Marriage takes an effort for someone you care about, and if it feels like “work” to you, then perhaps its time to think about why.