When my wife and I moved to the Bay Area, we were immediately knee deep in the startup world. I founded my startup, RentLingo, in the last year of business school and my wife joined NatureBox as their first. In the past couple of years, we’ve learned how to adjust to the demands of startup life and how to make our marriage a priority. Overall, while there’s some stress because we both make a lot less than our market wage in salary, we’re betting hard on our companies and the experience. In a way it’s actually great to both be doing this at the same time because we definitely understand what the other person goes through but can also provide helpful advice. Here are some of the tips on how to survive a startup marriage:
Prioritize what’s important. Just like anyone who is busy, we’re all forced to plan and prioritize. This forces us to focus on getting done what matters most. In our personal lives, we’re committed to being a “50/50 household.” That doesn’t mean tracking or keeping tabs, but that mindset means a willingness to pick up the slack at home if the other happens to be busier that week. Part of making that work is planning ahead a lot and communicating plans to each other so you can anticipate the other person’s needs. So going into the week try to find out if there are specific plans on a given night and just plan accordingly. Obviously random things come up but it’s important to stay mindful of the impact it might have on the other person.
Make a budget. A budget is the easiest way to manage the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. We’re like most households in that we have a budget and just plan around it. We’re lucky in that there isn’t variance in our salary in the way many households, especially with hourly or shift work may face. So we really have little room to complain. We see ourselves at a stage in our life where instead of focusing on saving money, our respective equity is our savings. You obviously can’t do that forever but we think we’re at a good stage to do that.
Commit to date nights. Friday nights are pretty sacred. We rarely plan anything with friends then and really reserve that time for us. It may not always be romantic but it is definitely just us time, which really helps. In general, we’re really attuned with what the other person is doing so it’s not like we’re checked out from one another. If anything having someone share and feel invested in the rollercoaster of the startup can bring you closer.
Understand the volatile nature of startup life. I think this is where us both being early in a startup is really helpful. We totally get the other person’s ups and downs and talk about very specific tactical parts of our jobs with each other. We also cut each other slack for being on email at weird hours which otherwise may be frustrating for the other spouse.
Share your experiences: We commute home together two or three days a week and that’s when we usually share how things are going and give each other advice on things to try. We feel like our companies get the benefit of an extra person thinking about their problems! In many ways we are each other’s best advisor. How many advisors feel totally committed and interested and are willing to talk every day without pressuring you? That’s not to say our relationship is purely focused on our jobs – we have a bunch of outside interests but I don’t think our jobs take anything away from our relationship either.
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Dan Laufer is the CEO and Co-Founder of RentLingo. He is a Virginia native and an honors graduate in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia. After working as a consultant for Bain & Company and in multiple leadership roles for Mitchell International, he received his MBA from Stanford. At Stanford, Dan and Byron Singh developed RentLingo and with it won first prize in the highly competitive Stanford-wide North Bridge Ventures seed competition in 2012.