Advice for Spouses of Inventors and Innovators

“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” Albert Einstein

Yesterday I shared a very abbreviated story about the long journey my husband has been on to bring an exciting technology project to fruition. He’s an inventor, innovator and entrepreneur now operating in his element: in the music space. Before I knew Scott as an innovator and entrepreneur, I knew him as a gifted musician, guitarist, producer and songwriter. 

Life with a gifted artist – and my own family is filled with artists, including our son – is an amazing adventure. I wouldn’t want anything different. I believe I am uniquely created and built for this life. But it’s not as simple as doing life with, say an accountant, dentist, attorney or insurance salesman.

For extra fun, add to that artist’s personality the extra creative twist of innovation. Mix in a healthy helping of the entrepreneurial spirit. Next, pour in the problem-solving mind of an inventor.

Now you’ve got a potential disruptor on your hands.

As a young child or teen, the disruptor poses a challenge to both parents and teachers. But if you can channel all that energy into positive projects and goals, you’ll do them and the world a great service. That’s another article for another day. 

But as an adult, this unique kind of creative takes a relationship to a whole new level of excitement and adventure — if you’re up for the challenge. Because with the excitement come some curveballs you may not be expecting.

First is the constant flow of ideas. They see business ideas and opportunities everywhere. And they see opportunities others don’t. They know they can’t do it all, so they choose the best option and pour themselves into it. If you like things predictable, you may be shaken at first by the way your partner quickly pivots and takes a project in a new direction, then pivots again. This is normal for the creative process, but especially for an innovator and inventor who’s also an entrepreneur.

Sometimes your partner may experience discouragement if something they’ve chosen to pursue with all their heart doesn’t turn into what they’d hoped. But they don’t just sit and wait for another idea – they take what they learned and move on. Either the project evolves, or they cut their losses and move on to another exciting endeavor without skipping a beat.

They live to create, tear down, and rebuild until what they’re working on takes shape and begins to grow into what they’ve envisioned, or something even greater. Maybe even something that changes an industry or market, something that disrupts what has been the norm and ushers in a new era.

And for this rare type of creative, anything is possible. They believe, with all their heart, that they were born for this kind of life. Nothing else will fulfill them. To deny them of that and try to force them into a box is futile. You may as well put them in chains.

If you’re up for the excitement, or you already find yourself in a relationship with an inventor and innovator, here are some things I’ve learned in the last 30+ years that have made all the difference.

How to Have the Best Chance for a Successful Marriage with an Inventor & Innovator

1. Encourage and support your partner’s creativity and passion for inventing. Encourage them to pursue their ideas. Even if you think it’s a harebrained idea and “will never work,” keep that to yourself. The creative process includes plenty of harebrained ideas. But as any brainstorming coach will tell you, there are no stupid ideas in the early phase of a project. Everything is on the table until a project begins to take shape and move forward. What may look like a stupid idea could turn out to be the catalyst for the next idea – the one that takes on a life of its own.

2. Provide them with the emotional and practical support they need to follow through on their projects. Be inquisitive about what they’re working on. Listen intently if they want to share every detail or what they’ve discovered or experienced. Try not to look at the clock or sigh heavily. If you don’t have the time or bandwidth in that moment, say so and ask if you can reconnect later because you really want to know what’s happening. But understand that “later” your partner may be in a completely different place, having moved on. For many inventors and innovators, talking out loud is part of their creative process.

3. Be understanding of the time, energy and dedication inventing can require. Inventing can be a time-consuming and demanding process, and it’s important to be understanding and patient with your partner as they work on their projects. If you’re emotionally needy, you’re going to have to find other ways – without jeopardizing your relationship – to get your emotional needs met. Hopefully you have gifts and talents of your own that take up their own time. If not, take this opportunity to find them. Maybe your gifts and talents will be a perfect fit for your partner’s needs, as ours are.

4. Help your partner manage their time effectively and carve out time for other needs. Inventing can be all-consuming, so it’s important to try to help your partner find a balance between their work and other commitments, such as family time and self-care. I’ve found a gently flexible routine works well with breaks built in. We do the same thing together every evening for an hour or two, and then he goes back to his work. Sunday mornings are spent together, and then we see family. We guard our time so mid-afternoons and evenings are free. We try to always go to bed at the same time every night, and early, knowing he will wake very early in the morning ready and eager to work.

5. Communicate openly and honestly with your husband about your needs and concerns for not only them, but yourself and your relationship. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open and to be honest with each other about your feelings and needs, so that you can work together to find a balance that works for both of you. The key word here is “balance that works for both of you.” There must always be some give and take. Try to give more than you take, while making sure your actual needs are met.

6. Seek out a supportive community for yourself and your partner. Inventing can be a lonely and isolating pursuit at times, so it can be helpful to connect with others who are in similar situations or who can offer support and advice. This might include a spiritual community, other spouses of inventors, professional organizations, or online communities. You might even keep your ear to the ground for opportunities for your partner to connect with others who share their drive to create and build.

7. Work hard to have open, loving, non-defensive discussions about finances and responsibilities around the home. This can be tricky to negotiate, as you will probably have very different perspectives on what is important and what’s just preference. Find a way to negotiate and honor your differences. After all, you’re on the same team. You just have different roles and different ideas about what you each want. Try to see things from the other’s perspective as well as your own.

8. Keep an eye on your partner’s physical and mental health and, when needed, gently ask if there’s anything you can do to help them get the rest or help they need to be at their best. Without care, their tendency to burn the candle at both ends can lead to exhaustion, and they will still keep going. Fight the tendency to parent them or treat them like a child. Hopefully you will have built up a strong level of trust in your relationship and they will know, ultimately, that you care because you love them and want what’s best for them.

9. Finally, be your partner’s protector. Defend his or her need to work, create, and build while everyone else is enjoying a day at the beach or a night of partying or whatever else they’re doing. Others may feel slighted because your partner is preoccupied with their work. They may be hurt or feel rejected. You can be a bridge here, gently defending your partner’s unique needs while empathizing with the friend or family member’s feelings as well.

10. I’m going to leave this one blank and let other partners in similar relationships share what they’ve learned!

How about you? Are you an entrepreneur, innovator, inventor, or creative? Or are you in a relationship with one? I’d love to hear from you. What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about relationships?  

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