Yesterday we talked about getting more support for your adventure. The first challenge many new explorers experience is…their family. Getting support, encouragement, or even just surviving a hailstorm of questions and doubt. It can make you feel like your family is the last place to get support, but, honey, having at least one person who knows you sooo well, and believes in you can do wonders for your confidence (and thus, business).
Today, let's talk about you can bring your family on board with your adventure, and specifically, how you can ask your partner for more support. *
Your family is a double-edged phaser. They can be an area of support…and a reason you need outside support. Getting your partner behind your business idea is the thing that just about every new business mentions to me – How do I get them to respect this? How do I get them to see this as a real thing? And a bigger one: How do I get them to respect the money side of thing? (Hey, I wrote about that here!)
The answers to these questions are as unique as the situation. In most cases, you've got to have a series of conversations. In some instances, for some partners, you need hard proof and Spock-like answers. (I have a list of answers here, regarding the Starship, but I really need to create a book full of Spock-like answers for every aspect of your business, don't you think?)
But no matter who your partner is or what you need, you can find a way to talk to them.
Your job is to figure out:
1. What kind of support you need. Do you need them to take the kids for…how many hours? Do you need them to make dinner? Do you need them to get behind you by investing money in it?
2. What their brain will understand (this is probably easier to know the longer you're with someone – if you haven't figured this out yet, I promise it'll help every aspect of your relationship!). Some people need charts and graphs. Some people (like my Jay) don't want too many details, but want to know you have a plan. Others have extensive experience with “big” business and won't understand that the rules are different for a one-gal-show. Yet others will have no experience with anyone they know being self-employed and the whole thing will seem like a ginormous risk. Others (like me!) have self-employed people everywhere, thus they see it as a normal career path.
Knowing what they need to know (and their own risk-tolerance) and presenting your request to them in a way they understand will make everything go smoother.
3. How you can ask for what you need + deliver what they need in a way that respects you both.
Here's the truth – your relationship has an agreement in place. You might never have spoken it, but you've come to embody it through the years. The agreement might be about who does the dishes or who provides child care or who “deserves” a break when they get home from work. Every relationship has an agreement, no matter how progressive and feminist you both are (your agreement might be that there's no gender-based roles! That's an agreement too!).
When you start to ask for what you need, what you might be asking for is a change in the underlying agreement of your partnership. This can be scary for both partners. You can sidestep some of the fear and conflict if you first notice what your current agreement is and acknowledge it together. And then, start talking about changing it.
You see, if you just rush in with all these changes, without acknowledging that you are fundamentally changing the foundation of your relationship,well, you're really shaking up the world of your partner, which can lead to a response that's defensive or aggressive.
It's not that they don't want to support you, it's that you're asking for more than you think. You're asking for a total shift.
So! Your job here is to acknowledge the current agreement (together!) and start talking about a new agreement that would suit your new goals.
Of course, it's possible that your current agreement suits your business growth just fine and no roles are changing. But just recognizing the underlying agreement will go a long way to understanding every kind of support you need.
The final step – start talking! Ask them how you can explain this in a way they'll understand. Let them know how important this is to you. Ask for the kind of support you need. And ask, over and over. In every moment, when you need support, ask for it. Be specific.
Say: I really just need you to listen and reaffirm that this does suck, I don't want any advice for fixing it.
Say: I really need help finding solutions to this.
Say: I need a hug.
Say: I need to spend another hour finishing this project. Could you please do X, even though I usually do?
Don't wait for them to notice what you need! Ask for it!
And above all, assume the best.
If you have a healthy, loving relationship, assume that your partner is trying their best. Assume that any mistakes are not malicious. Assume that a miscommunication is just that, not a sign of DOOM. Assume that if you ask, clearly and without blame, they will step up.*
Assuming the best of people tends to bring out the best in them.
Although this is a little outside of what we usually talk about it here, I think it's important to address. Because you are not alone. If your partner seems unnaturally (for them!) dismissive, or unwilling to give you the support you need, you're not alone. I hear this from women all the time. And it's ok. It's not a sign that you've partnered with a total jerk*. There's hope for working this out and shifting even the longest-held roles. And it's ok to ask for what you need.
All of the above applies to asking the rest of your family, with the added step of figuring out who you can truly ask for support, and what relationship will not support a direct request. (It's ok that you have some relationships with your parents, siblings, in-laws that are not built for this kind of mutual support.) Once you have recognized that this a relationship that can provide the support you need, remember to ask for it in a way that the other person will understand and appreciate. And keep asking for it. And, of course, assume the best.
How do you get support from your family and partner?
What have you learned to be the best way to approach them?
*I am not a relationship expert! I have a happy 9 year marriage (after a childhood surrounded by unhealthy, abusive partnerships), and have spent my life surreptitiously studying what makes happy, supportive relationships last…and performing experiments in my own marriage and that of my clients.
This is all assuming you're in a healthy, non-abusive relationship. If you are with someone who doesn't respect YOU and your smarts, creativity and general awesomeness, that's something else entirely.