Q: My husband and I seem to have very different risk tolerances in business and it’s creating problems in our relationship. He is much more willing to take chances than I am. How can we address this difference without it driving us apart?...
A: It’s a good question and I’ve actually been asked some form of this question over and over again at events we have done so rest assured you aren’t the only ones trying to do this dance. Most couples I know, Greg and myself included have had to deal with the issue of “risk tolerance” in some fashion and have had to work our way to common ground and a mutual understanding.
More often than not one partner in a business or marriage has a greater ability to handle and live with risk and uncertainty than the other. To be fair, I do believe that business partners need to be more like minded in this regard than marriage partners and since you mention this difference exists between you and your husband, versus your business partner, I tend to expect a wider berth. In other words, I actually think these differences are quite healthy in a marriage relationship, but can be much more concerning and consequential within business partnerships. I think that most relationships truly benefit from a balance that can be stuck when differences are both respected and embraced.
If we want to get anthropological about this, men were the ones out hunting large animals, succeeding on a combination of risk taking, strength and adrenaline. Women were more apt to be gathering, tending to and raising children. Have we evolved? Of course we have, but my point is we come by these differences in instincts and skill sets genetically and that’s a good thing. Both were necessary for survival then as they are now believe it or not. Everything needs a balance. A ying and yang as it were. And where marriage and especially families are concerned, these differences are the ingredients for the finest recipes of all. But the key is that the aspects of what you both bring to the table are respected and valued for how essential they are. Your husband’s ease with chance and uncertainty can be absolutely necessary to drive business and financial success in a forward direction. It can also be the spontaneity and spirit that adds incredible moments and experiences to your repertoire of life stories and adventures. But at the same time your husband needs to value what your steadiness and stability contribute to the relationship and family. You are likely the influence that keeps his actions risky versus reckless. Greg is all emotion and I adore this about him, but sometimes in life a more tempered and measured response is needed far more than a fiery and impetuous one. I can love Greg for his willingness to walk the razor’s edge but he also appreciates and respects the fact that there are certain basics and givens that I need in my life. I can cope with an extreme amount of unknown and anxiety in life if our core foundation, our home, our family and those basics needs never feel threatened.
In all honesty this has been quite a learning process for me. I had what you would consider a pretty darn conservative upbringing so it has only been through my relationship with Greg that I have learned to not just tolerate, but to embrace a very unconventional life. On the flip side I believe that in both life and business certain times call for subtly, tact, and a certain amount of diplomacy. Not generally the realm of the risk taker. A velvet hand can often times be far more effective than a hammer. Patience and grace can often be far more becoming that insistence and immediate action. I will never forget a wonderful statement I remember hearing Dr. Phil make about his wife. His comment was, “I make the living and she makes the life worth living.” The comment spoke volumes about his appreciation for the color, the tenderness, care and the joy that she brings to their life and family. I also remember hearing the female CEO of a Fortune 500 company being interviewed and asked the secret to her success. Her answer; “I never tried to be a man.” In other words, she brought her compassion, warmth and femininity to the table and feels she was successful not in spite of it, but rather because of it.
To some degree the bottom line is, “do you trust your husband?” Do you trust that he will never do anything that would threaten the well-being of what is truly important in your life? Do you trust that he will respect and appreciate that the temperament and qualities you bring to the table of life are every bit as valuable as the ones he brings to the mix? In a thousand lifetimes I cannot imagine asking Greg to get a corporate 8:00 to 5:00 job so that we could have a more predictable, anticipated life. In the same breath, he should never insist that I change who I am and that there are certain givens that I need to feel safe and assured. Have we both come to the middle? Absolutely. And in the end, I know we are both far better for the influence of one another