How To Survive When Your Spouse Doesn’t Believe In Your Dream
Let’s face it – most of the people who jump into real estate investing are dreamers. The vast majority of investors pursue this profession because at some point, for one reason or another, they bought into the idea that they could do something great through the power of real estate.
Believing in this kind of dream is an important part of every investor’s story. It acts as a springboard for this great adventure and it’s part of what drives us forward when things get difficult, but what do you do when your spouse (or your family, friends, significant other, fill-in-the-blank) doesn’t share your enthusiasm? How are you supposed to start or continue your journey with their support when they just don’t get it?
Have you ever experienced this before? There is nothing worse than having a burning desire deep within your soul to accomplish something great, only to have the most important person swoop in and blast it to pieces. This kind of rejection can be a miserable experience, but as with anything in life, the way you react to these kinds of obstacles can have a monumental impact on your future.
Understanding Why They Don’t “See The Light”
We all know how exciting a new business idea can be, so if your spouse isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with you, we need to start by getting down to the root of where the disconnect is.
In your mind, your enthusiasm for real estate investing probably makes all the sense in the world. There is no way you aren’t going to succeed once you put your mind to it, but the fact is that this other influential figure in your life doesn’t agree, and this should cause you to start asking some questions. In this moment, keep in mind that this simple disagreement doesn’t automatically make either party “right” or “wrong”. It means that YOU need to do some digging to figure out what the sticking points are and start addressing them.
In my experience – these could be some potential reasons for the disconnect:
- They don’t have all the facts about the business you’re trying to pursue. They’re hearing the details that (in their mind) make it sounds bad, scary, risky and foolish, but they aren’t hearing the upside benefits that make it sounds feasible, realistic, achievable and worthwhile. As a result, they are doing the math in their head and it’s not adding up. All signs are pointing to a seemingly obvious “No way.”
- It may be that you haven’t clearly explained exactly how YOU are going to pull it off and why the odds are in your favor. When this kind of key information is left out, the recipient is literally incapable of envisioning how you (or anyone, for that matter) could ever succeed at it.
- Perhaps they have never seen a real-life example of what your idea looks like when it has been successfully pulled off. In their minds, they can’t even imagine what “success” would look like without some clear-cut examples or a better explanation from a credible source.
- It’s possible that that they know that they could never do it themselves and they are unknowingly projecting their self-doubt onto you. Often times this is a subconscious thought process where most people don’t even know when they’re shortchanging others for their own lack of self-confidence.
- They don’t like the thought of you doing anything unconventional. Some people only know how to think along the lines of “established norms” (what they know and are comfortable with). Doing anything outside of this just makes them uncomfortable.
Most of these scenarios are usually coming from a fairly innocent place (however disruptive they may feel to you). In many cases, these misunderstandings and disagreements can be overcome with a bit of tactful communication, patience, time and understanding on your part.
The Most Important Reason You Should Pay Attention To
There is another fairly common reason why your spouse may not be willing to “drink the Kool Aid” and it’s something you need to think long and hard about:
- This person knows your weaknesses (probably better than you do). They have observed you for a long time and they know how you operate. They’ve heard all the details of your plan and they have every legitimate reason to think that this is a bad idea. At some point in the past, you’ve exhibited certain behaviors and have led them to reasonably believe you simply don’t have the ___________ ( e.g. – knowledge, patience, guts, perseverance, passion, drive, education, background, fill-in-the-blank) to follow through and achieve what you’re setting out to do.
This particular reason can be uncomfortable and even unpopular to talk about. It’s a topic that doesn’t sell motivational material very well – but it is just as real and important a factor to consider. Let’s be honest about this! You’re not perfect (nobody is). We all have our weaknesses and if this business idea of yours doesn’t align with the things you’re gifted at. Who would know this better than your spouse? In their position, if they know that you’re walking into a disaster (even if you don’t see it), they owe it to you to shoot the idea down.
The reality is – this person is your partner in life. Your future is their future, so if they are fearful or hesitant about what you’re trying to do, pay close attention to this. Approach these kinds of disagreements with great humility and take special care to heed their criticism. As hard as it may be to believe this, your spouse wants what’s best for you because it’s also what’s best for them. Don’t forget that you will very likely experience the same victories and losses that come as a result of your decisions.
How to Respond to Skepticism, Rejection and Negativity
1. Don’t Argue
Arguing puts up walls and it won’t bring about the result you’re looking for. If you come across with hostility, this problem is likely to escalate and in the end, both you and they will walk away from the conversation with a great deal of negative energy, so don’t go down this road.
“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie
2. Make Room For Their Skepticism and Validate Their Concerns
If you want to defuse an imminent fight or avoid a screaming match – one of the best things you can do is to show them that you understand their hesitancy. Acknowledge that they aren’t crazy for having a different perspective than you. Start with something like this:
“I understand where you’re coming from and I think your concerns are totally valid. If I were in your shoes, I might even think the same thing.”
“Those are some really important points for us to think about. Let’s keep talking about the pros and cons of us making this decision.”
“I really appreciate your honesty and it’s helpful for me to hear your skepticism. I think a lot of people in your position would feel the same way.”
These are powerful words that exhibit understanding. They give your spouse what their heart desires most, to be understood by their partner and given the room to express their thoughts without being overpowered or ignored.
3. Don’t Commit Yourself to Success
The last thing you want to do is make a promise and then not deliver. Be realistic about the fact that you’re going to give this your best shot and you want your best friend along for the adventure.
I know this can be hard – but be honest with yourself and answer these questions:
- Is it financially wise for you to do this?
- What is the likelihood that you will succeed vs. fail at this?
- What will be the fallout in your worst case scenario?
- Can your relationship survive a total loss on the money you’re investing into this venture?
- What kind of toll will a “total failure” take on your relationship?
- What are you sacrificing to pursue this business? (e.g. – family, friends, health, career, spiritual life)
- Suppose this dream doesn’t materialize and you end up wasting a portion of your life in pursuit of it. Are you okay with this? Is your spouse okay with it?
There are a lot of things to consider and many times, it’s easy to interpret your spouse’s lack of support as an act of hostility but more often than not, they have your best interests in mind. If you’re really paying attention to the concerns of your spouse and being honest about the reality of the situation – you may come to the conclusion that you really shouldn’t pursue this… and you need to allow room for this as a possible outcome.
Making Your Ultimate Decision
It’s important to distinguish that the point of this exercise is not to get your way. The point of this exercise is to do what’s best for you and your spouse. It’s about making the right decision, not just satisfying your immediate wants and desires.
Ultimately – we all have to decide what belongs on our priority list and which items will take precedence over others. These decisions can be guided by your spiritual convictions, what you value most in life, what your life’s purpose is, etc. I can’t tell you what belongs on your list because those decisions aren’t mine to make. What I can do is tell you what belongs on my list.
My spouse is at the top of my list because frankly – I don’t want to go through any part of life without her (let alone, something as huge as a business venture). When it comes to pursuing a decision that has huge implications for our time and money – this is something where I definitely want to be on the same page with my wife. This means there will come times when I’ll have to say “No” to things – even when I believe it is a “Yes” decision. It can be painful, it can be miserable – but all in all, it’s what’s best for my life (and relatively speaking, it’s not a common scenario in the first place).
One of the most enlightening lessons I’ve learned in my marriage is that about 95% of the time my spouse disagrees with my decisions (however big or small), she ends up being right. Regardless of how off-base I may feel she is in the moment, the truth is that she knows my strengths and weaknesses better than I do. There is an ocean of wisdom and valuable insight that we have access to in our loved ones. When it comes to those major, life-altering decisions, the biggest challenge is simply to listen and have an open mind. When you take the time to heed advice and be mindful of your own potential shortsightedness, you will always come out with a better, healthier result in the end – regardless of what your final decision ends up being.
Photo: Russ Allison Loar