Help! My husband's passion is killing our marriage!
Ian Dyason. 21 Nov 2021
We get questions about the growth mindset and the articles we publish on a weekly basis. Most are technical questions. But every now and then, we get an emotional and provocative question, or challenge, that we would publish the response to, not to shame, but to share and learn. Here is one such question. The names have been changed to protect the innocent...
You mentioned previously that passion is an important behaviour to have to build a growth mindset. I disagree! In fact, it is passion that is causing my husband to lead us to financial - and relationship - ruin! He has been so passionate about running his business that over the past 3 years, he has dug into our savings to start his business because it is his passion. But not only is his business not bringing us any income, it is causing us to fight almost every day! I feel that his passion is causing my marriage to slip and fail!
Can you help me to turn this around or are you just another one of those phoney gurus?
I am so sorry that you are facing hardship in your relationship with your husband. Indeed, if I were in your position, I too would seek redress on people causing the problem.
Before I go on, just as a point of clarity - I am not a guru, and I do not purport to be one. I have only been sharing research, knowledge and experience in the area of the growth mindset and how we can develop growth behaviours. Passion is a great driver in pushing our learning and doing; but passion gone overboard might cause one's business ambitions to take a toll on other aspects of a person's life. But before we label the issue of this problem wrongly, let's talk about passion.
Are we calling out the wrong demon?
Passion can fuel both positive or negative outcomes. Osama bin Ladin was certainly passionate about bringing down the United States, and wage a war of terrorism on it. Hitler was certainly passionate about creating the perfect Arian race, and waged war on the Jews. Trump was certainly passionate about remaining in the White House and called on his supporters to storm the Capitol. Conversely, Kennedy was certainly passionate about going to the moon before the end of the 1960s, which resulted in funding and the setting up of NASA. Einstein was passionate about space-gravity-time continuum which resulted in his Specific Theory of Relativity in 1905 and his General Theory of Relativity in 1915. All of these events were driven by passion. Passion drives effort. However, whether the effort leads to positive outcomes or negative ones depends on its intent. However, even if the intent were negative, to the intender, a successful outcome is still positive! Why? Because they cannot see what is wrong with their intent!
So the issue now is not about passion, it is about intent. Perhaps your husband did not go into business to feed the family but to feed his ego? Perhaps your husband did not go to business to contribute to the household income but to realise a dream? Perhaps your husband did not go into business to "save your marriage" but to run away from it? (I know - it is a nasty thing to say; but perhaps?) What I am trying to allude to is that, unless you know precisely why your husband went into business, and whether the business is meeting his intent, you cannot say that it was passion that caused your husband to neglect his marriage.
There are 4 major assumptions that inexperienced business owners are blind to; customer value, execution, scalability and defensibility and these assumptions are the main killers of business!
But let us assume that it was started with all the right intentions - that he wanted to go into business to contribute more to the household income and to your marriage. Let me ask - what experience does he have in running a business? What does he know about customer value? What about execution? And scalability? Or defensibility? There are 4 major assumptions that inexperienced business owners are blind to; customer value, execution, scalability and defensibility and these assumptions are the main killers of business!
the assumption that says, "If you build a business, the customers will come." This is a sure-fire way to business failure.
Assumption 1: There is customer value
Customer value is the assumption that many people hold; it is the assumption that says, "If you build it (a business), they (customers) will come." This is a sure-fire way to business failure. If you don't really know who your customers are, where they are, what they want, how much they are willing to pay for what they want, how often they want it, and where else they go to get their fix, you don't have customer value. So how many of these questions does your husband have the answer to, and are these answers verifiable? If he does not have them, then he does not have a business. And starting a business from this standpoint will lead to failure. It is only when there is true customer value in his business, is it time for him to look at the next set of assumptions, execution.
Assumption 2: I know how to build it
So, now that your husband knows exactly who his customers are, what they want, how often they want it, and how much they are willing to pay for it, does your husband know how to make what they want, when they want it? Does he know what processes to use? What ingredients to add? How much supplies to order? Where to order them from? The lead time for order? The capital he needs to hold in order to meet the business demand before he collects the revenue? There are so many reasons a business will fail despite having customer value. Does your husband know what it takes to execute the order and meet the demand?
What is his production possibility curve and is he operating below or at the optimum?
Assumption 3: I can make to scale
Now, even if he does, he is not out of the woods yet because, so what if he can make ONE such product; can he make many? How many can he make before he runs out of money? How many can he make before he needs to reorder? How many can he make so that he can meet variable demand and not lose customers due to lack of stock? How many can he fulfill in a minute, in 30mins, in an hour, in a day? Can he achieve economies of scale or is he stuck in fixed production volume? What is his production possibility curve and is he operating below or at the optimum? There are so many questions that need answering even before your husband starts down the road of starting a business. Indeed, if his business cannot scale, then you also know there is a limit to his earning potential, and if it cannot even meet his personal expenses, much less the household expenses, they why is his doing this?
even if you think you have a wonderful business idea, if you cannot defend it, then you will lose out to those who have greater reach and resources than you.
Assumption 4: I can protect my business
But let's assume that he has all the assumptions for scalability answered, and it is a very promising business. Then the last set of questions to ask are for defensibility - how well can he hold onto his market share, his product IP, before competitors come in. The thing about doing business is, even if you think you have a wonderful business idea, if you cannot defend it, you will lose out to those who have greater reach and resources than you. Some people use patents to protect their business, some use complex processes, a secret recipe, a magic ingredient. But, you know right? Customer tastes are very fickle; today they like the product, tomorrow they move on to something shiny and new. Unless his is an evergreen product (like chicken rice) that will always have demand (but also with many chicken rice sellers such that he is cornered into a geographical locale), his inability to protect his market will lead to its demise.
If you truly want to support him, you must ask all those difficult questions I just posed earlier. Because, like it or not, these will cause the death of your husband's business, not passion.
What are YOUR assumptions to this issue?
So, Marianne, now that you know the 4 basic (but not simple) assumptions that all businesses must answer clearly before getting into it, and you see that intent leads one to act in certain ways, do you think this is a problem of passion? I am unable to answer that for you, but you must sit down with your husband and start talking to him. I am not a marriage counsellor, but I'll bet that you have not really communicated with your husband on his passion for doing business. Perhaps you thought you needed to be that supportive wife and just kept quiet and gave him space? Unfortunately for you, this "supportiveness" has caused your relationship with him to be where it is right now. Because, as your husband has been running on false assumptions in relation to his business, perhaps you have been running on false assumptions in relation to being a supportive wife?
It is time to call a spade a spade. If the business is failing, the business is failing. There's no amount of fudging and hiding from the truth that will change that. The ostrich that hides from troubles by burying his head in the ground gets eaten. If you truly want to support him, you must ask all those difficult questions I just posed earlier. Because, like it or not, these will cause the death of your husband's business, not passion.
I wish you every success!