When I got pregnant from a brief affair and had my daughter, my business partner of 12 years was supportive. Last fall, I hired a private eye who found my daughter’s father. We got to know each other, and he moved in with me. I think we are falling in love and might get married. The problem is that when my business partner raises his voice or argues with me, my boyfriend gets upset. My business partner is moody, bossy and temperamental. We have a history of being brutally honest, squabbling and getting over it without hard feelings. I do not want to walk away from our business projects of 12 years or the trust and true friendship between us. I think my boyfriend is protective, but I am caught in the middle. I understand both points of view and don’t want to lose either guy. Do you have any ideas to help this situation become a win-win?
Yes. You’ve assessed the situation rationally, but in that analysis you have omitted the essential element: What opportunity for growth are you being offered? Without that awareness you will continue to approach this challenge as a problem that exists between the men in your life. In reality, their drama is a reflection of an issue inside your psyche that is ready for change. So let’s hit the refresh button in our brains and reconsider this story’s moving parts. In 12 years, you have developed the capacity to see your business partner’s talents and failings and learned to accept him as he is. Now, a romantic partner enters your life and expresses indignation at the way your business partner speaks to you. Hmm, is it possible that you have accepted abuse from your business partner because you have learned to value the potential financial rewards more than your self-respect?
Do you avoid addressing your business partner’s behavior, allowing minor violations to pile up until the tension implodes into argument? And what is brutal honesty, anyway? Real honesty is the quality of being truthful, sincere and ethical. Sometimes a person receiving genuine honesty calls it brutal because he or she doesn’t really want to hear the truth or admit its validity. There are also people who share opinions, but when confronted try to dodge responsibility by saying they are being “honest.” That, of course, is brutal. So, if your business partner is unrelentingly harsh in his opinions, or if you are, stop. It’s unkind and an obstacle to the forward growth of your company.
Your boyfriend’s evaluation of your business partner’s behavior may be accurate, but your man may also be jealous. And because you are invested in building a life with him, you may be sharing more work stories than you normally do with a boyfriend. It’s up to you to create a healthy boundary that allows your romantic life to flow smoothly. Hire a coach, engage a psychotherapist or join an entrepreneur’s circle to establish a safe place to process work problems.
When your business partner initiates drama, listen. Without responding to any of his comments, say you need time to consider his concerns and cite a specific time and day to get back to him. Then leave the room or the building if necessary. If a conversation turns harsh, stop. Offer to speak again when the two of you are ready for conversation. This is practice for you. You must learn how to speak to someone who does not know how to speak to you. Stop fearing that if you behave maturely you will lose your business partner. Step out of the adrenaline-fuel pattern of arguing and begin the evolution of your personal and business relationships.