Today’s guest contributor is my friend, Alisa Bowman, author of Project: Happily Ever After, which tells the true story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love. She is also the creator of ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.
More than 6 years ago, my then unemployed husband came to me with a proposition. He wanted to open a bicycle shop café. The shop would sell bikes and related merchandise. It would include an open concept bike repair area, where patrons could hang out and watch as mechanics worked on the loves of their lives. And it would also sell espresso, Gatorade, and muffins—some of the staples that many serious cyclists rely on before, during and just after a long ride.
It was a brilliant concept. It was also the absolute perfect business for my husband—who is both an avid cyclist and has an MBA.
The start up costs (about $40,000) were scary, but reachable if we second mortgaged our home.
The problem, though, was this. We had a baby on the way, and I was self-employed. If my husband opened this business, he would have no income for a year or two or more, and he’d also be tethered to the shop. I would become, by default, a single mother. I would earn all of the money and do most of the parenting.
I was naïve. I told him to go for it. He did.
Three years later, he was still bringing in less than $20,000 a year. My income was paying all of the bills. He was also still working 7 days a week, for 12 to 14 hours at a time. When he wasn’t working, he was on his bike or out with his buddies.
What was I doing?
I was planning his funeral on the off chance he might conveniently drop dead. I was also planning our divorce.
Oddly, it was a divorced friend who convinced me to work on my marriage. Over a period of 4 months, I read every marital improvement book I could find. Then something odd and amazing happened. My marriage improved.
We were now talking about our problems. I was now voicing my irritation and my resentment about his business, his bike, his friends and a billion other things. He’d changed his behavior. I’d changed mine. We were having sex again, and we were growing closer.
As the months became years, our marriage improved even more.
And then I decided to completely reinvent myself and my career. Until then, I’d earned my living as a ghostwriter and book collaborator, and I’d earned a good living at that. Now, however, I wanted to write in my own voice.
And I wanted to write about very personal topics—like my marriage. I wanted to launch a blog and a book about our marriage experience, and I wanted that blog and the book to launch my career into a new, exciting direction.
But it was going to take a major investment. I figured it might take, oh, about $40,000 to pull off. The money would be needed for logo design, branding, publicity, marketing, travel, and equipment. This was also going to take time. Since I was still the breadwinner of our household, I didn’t have the luxury of channeling all of my time into this new venture. No, I’d have to work at it while also working full time on my other paying projects.
I would be doing this as a mom, and as a wife, too.
It’s one thing to work yourself silly when you are single and young. It’s another to do it when you are on the cusp of 40 and you have a preschooler in the house and a marriage that was recently on the brink of divorce.
Was our marriage strong enough to survive this?
As it turns out, it was. I’m not fully through my reinvention yet, but I am probably more than half way there. I have a book coming out in a few weeks. I have a fairly successful blog. I’m making money off my new brand. I’m writing about topics that many women tell me their husbands would never allow them to write about.
And my marriage is stronger than ever. Here’s some advice if you’d like to take a similar leap—and keep your marriage intact while you do it.
Make it a family effort. You might think that your career shift is all about you. It’s not. Everyone in your family will be sacrificing as you do this. Get everyone on board from the very beginning. Make sure your spouse knows why you are doing this, how long the hardest stage will last, and what he or she can do to support you.
Continually check in. Nearly every evening, I ask my husband how things are going and how he’s feeling. I want to make sure his voice is heard and his needs are met. I also make sure to tell him about my ups and downs. I want him to be on this journey with me. More important, I want him to understand that my fatigue, sadness or any other negativity I might be dealing with has to do with the day I just had and not with him in particular.
Say Thank You. I thank my husband dozens of times a day. I thank him for entertaining our daughter while I work. I thank him for cooking dinner or cleaning the house. It doesn’t matter if he’s doing something that I normally do (and normally don’t get a thank you for). I still thank him. I want him to know I need him in my life. I want him to know I appreciate him. I want him to know that he’s part of the team.
Be willing to lose it all. This is probably important for all start up businesses, but it’s especially important when your start up affects other people in your life. Think of your family as shareholders in your business. Is everyone going to be okay if—worst case scenario—this business just doesn’t work out? From the very beginning of my reinvention, I knew exactly how much I was willing to spend and sacrifice (and potentially lose) to launch my new business. My husband and I were both at ease with the fact that we might never see this money ever again.
Don’t let your sex life slide. Use your sex life is a barometer for marital satisfaction. It’s normal for your drive to drop when you are under stress. If you can’t remember the last time you saw your spouse naked, however, it’s time to shift your priorities. I personally make it my goal to bed down with my husband at least once a week. I do it no matter how many items are still on my to-do list and no matter how frazzled I feel. Sometimes he has to work at it to get my motor running, but that just makes me love him all the more.
Go in spurts. Create push periods in your reinvention plan, and create rest spots, too. For instance, this summer, I slowed down and eased up on what I was doing. This allowed my husband to focus more on his career, and it allowed me to love up our daughter before my big fall push.
Alisa Bowman is the author Project: Happily Ever After, which tells the true story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love. She is also the creator of ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.
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