By Carlee McCullough, Esq., Special to The New Tri-State Defender

As an attorney, I have seen the impact of a business on relationships. Whether the business is successful or not, it can have a detrimental impact on all parties involved. Owning a business is supposed to be the “American Dream.” But entrepreneurship can send a healthy relationship into a tailspin if the participants are not adequately prepared for the challenges ahead.

Mentally absent

In business, the pressure to be successful is so great that the business owner can be physically present but not mentally available. During special events, dinner, PTA meeting, and date night, the entrepreneur’s thought process is on how to make payroll for the business or how to pay the utility bill or the home mortgage. It is not enough to simply be present. The lack of engagement, for example, can trigger discussion by the significant other. Unfortunately, if there are children involved, they feel when a parent is aloof or disengaged. So extra effort has to be made to leave the office problems behind when it is family time.

Physically absent

Business, whether it is old or new, frequently requires after-hour meetings with the opposite sex or even out of town travel. In a two-parent home, frequent meetings and travel by the entrepreneur requires the other parent to pick up the slack. This can be overwhelming for the parent with the children the majority of the time.

Often times the business owner is caught up in their own day-to-day operations and the advancement of the business that he or she repeatedly and inadvertently minimizes the contributions made by his or her partner to maintaining the family.

This lack of compassion for the stresses that both parties endure contributes to resentment. Therefore, communication is required to overcome the challenges presented by a physically absent parent. The entrepreneur has to remember that his or her partner needs a break as well. A break does not necessarily include the children.

Financially strapped

A business can be more than a drain on a household. Regularly, the business requires extra funds to meet payroll, taxes, and all of the ancillary expenses incurred on a day-to-day basis. The startup may require loans from family, friends and maybe even against assets. Servicing the debt can be even more of a challenge when you have to face the same family, friends and spouse with no money to pay them back. The stress builds and so does the resentment when there is no communication involved.

One of the top reasons for separation and divorce involves financial problems in a relationship. The buildup of anger and bitterness is difficult to overcome and contributes to problems. The communication breaks down and the individuals completely shut down sharing their feelings with each other. Even in times of financial strife, sharing with a spouse or significant other becomes most important in getting over the hurdle. Beware of sharing with others while not sharing with your loved one. This creates a recipe for disaster.

Business success

The business is a success and all should be well. Money is rolling in, the bills are paid, and the entrepreneur is vindicated that starting the business was the right decision. Sometimes the spouse or significant other is still not happy. Success is not necessarily the answer when damage to the relationship has been done along the way and animosity has built up over time. Regardless of the success of the business, it can still be stressful on the relationship. Sometimes money has a way of changing people…sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Remember, every step of the way, communication is the key to overcoming challenges.

A form of infidelity

It is so easy for the business to become a form of infidelity in a relationship. The business consumes all of the entrepreneur’s time, effort and energy. The owner’s mind is always on the business and not on the family. The entrepreneur travels, dines, and meets consistently with colleagues and staff. The company requires commitment and devotion. But remember, in the long run, so does the family, spouse and/or significant other.

While it may seem simple enough to divorce or end a relationship for the sake of the business, understand that ending a relationship takes an emotional toll and frequently leaves a path of destruction on not only the participants, but the business as well. Just as the business requires nurturing, those personal relationships require attention as well.

(Contact Carlee M. McCullough, Esq. at 901-795-0050; email –