It's not the beau. It's his shop.

All right, I admit it. This has the makings of a rant, but I really and truly want input, so I will try to keep it cool.

The scene: I have been seeing this guy for a few months now. Not long, but long enough that I know I want to know him better. We see each other about once a week or so, sometimes more, sometimes less. He has a lot of qualities which I truly admire, including the ability to make things happen. I have learned that if he says he’s going to do something, it’s very nearly a fait d’accompli before you ever hear of it.

So, he takes me out for dinner one evening in late August, and tells me, oh so casually, that he’s thinking about opening an automotive shop. He’s got the capital, the connections, the expertise, and most importantly, that je ne sais quois which makes a person a successful entrepreneur. I thought he was just playing with the idea, so I started asking the tougher questions about where he would set up, what kind of a clientele did he already have, what kind of partnerships and backing was he going to get from his family, etc.

“Well,” he said, “Dad and I are signing the lease tomorrow, I have a contact who is selling me some equipment at starter prices as a favour, the following companies have agreed in principle to service contracts for their fleets, and a lot of friends will be showing up with their cars. Oh, and the doors open in early September.”

Like I said, by the time he tells you he’s going to do something, it’s practically a done deal.

So, it has just turned October, and the shop is open. And busier than any opening business expects to be. He is working some brutal, brutal days, and carrying a tremendous amount of stress. I know that this is part and parcel of the opening round, but I am having a wee bitty of a problem here. There is precious little I can do to contribute to the shop itself, and so he and I agreed that my “job” is to provide some R&R on occasion. I think that apart from a couple of drop-in visits to the shop, I have seen him maybe twice since he opened. Mama’s gettin’ frustrated.

So, I am looking for advice. How to balance a new relationship with some decent potential against the real and critical demands of a new business? How long is it likely to be before he finds a rhythm he can maintain successfully, and still have a life? What other “new-business” challenges exist that I should anticipate?

Ummm… speaking from diamond hard, real world life experience on this topic, start up businesses (and especially retail) will absolutely consume you unless he can make time for you, and if he cannot compartmentalize a space for you in all this you’ve really got to move on. Really.

If you are forced to try and fight for his attention you will lose. Typically (not always) the entrepreneur in this scenario will be flush with the success of the new enterprise and anyone who demands/requires a non-business related chunk of time is taking time away from his baby and just doesn’t understand.

Lay your cards on the table and tell him you understand his time constraints, but unless he can set aside a good chunk of a day once every week to ten days or so, for some alone time for both of you, it just isn’t going to work and let him decide. He’s got to make the decision. If you are forced to fight with his business you will lose.

How many years have you got?

Seriously. Our business is twelve years old. My husband and I, though we work together, still have to make personal time together. Working together doesn’t count as personal time, trust me. Even if you did manage to find full time work at his shop, there’s nothing romantic about it and in fact, working together can be detrimental to your relationship. It’s brutally difficult, not to put too fine a point on it.

You may be thinking along the lines that he will have more time when the place can support more staff to run the day-to-day. True but who knows how long that will be, and as the owner, he’ll always, always be on call.

What other new-business challenges can you anticipate? Hmmm.

Maladaptive coping comes to mind. Drinking or drugging, the old “self-medication” is just as rampant among business owners as it is everyone else, except maybe more so.

I’m not saying he’s gonna turn into a drunk/drug addict, but it could happen. Lots of people fall into that trap. My husband & I both did, to different degrees. The stresses and pressures of owning your own business are enormous and it’s difficult to understand unless you’ve been through it yourself. Although we’ve come a long way and drugs are no longer in the picture, my husband and I are still enthusiastic social drinkers. shrug That’s reality.

I think if you see a possibility for a long-term relationship here, then it may be in your own best interest to be patient. If he senses your impatience, he may be the one making the move to end it before it goes on much further.

He does not need any extra pressure right now, believe me.

I want you to think of this as a long-distance relationship. He will find time to make it to you. Think of the shop as afar-'way place.