True Story: I broke one relationship, and missed another because of my startup, is it worth it?


Note 1: I am a frequent contributor to SE sites, my account is obviously a throwaway account, for obvious reason.

Note 2: I'm not too sure whether such a question is allowed here, I would like to make it into a community wiki if I could. But I think this kind of question should be interesting to entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs. So please ooh please my dear moderators, don't close it!

Here it goes. I started to work on my startup since last year January. At that time I had a girlfriend. She was very supportive of me when I first started. I told her upfront that the startup would be a very consuming job by itself, and on top of that I had another full time job because I needed the income to support my living expenses. She said she could cope with it; and she could find other form of entertainment and won't do anything to jeopardize the relationship. Note that at that point of time I didn't even ask her to support me, either financially, emotionally, and I didn't ask her to share my stress, work load and troubles.

All I asked from her, was to not cheat on me.

Fast forward to six months later, just as my startup was showing signs of life , I found out that .... she cheated on me. I was heart broken and promptly broke up with her. She was sad and pleading for second chance; she wanted to salvage the relationship.

I said no.

I would need full energy and concentration to deal with two demanding programming jobs day and night; I didn't want to remain in a relationship with no trust; I didn't want to check on her everyday. That was just painful.

Then I met another girl two months after the broke-up. We showed some affection towards each other. But the hurt was still lingering in my mind. I afraid that if I launched a full-fledged relationship with her, the same thing would happen to me again, for the same reason. So I was very cautious, refraining from taking the relationship into deeper water. We were dating like twice a month-- going to movies, having dinner together, just very casual and friend-type of meeting and nothing sexual ( we were less opened to sex than most western countries). But we did SMS daily. I got this strong feeling that if I openly pursued her, I could easily won her over.

But I didn't; the cost of pursuing a girl might not be very high but the cost of maintaining a relationship is. I wasn't sure I wanted to make that kind of commitment. And of course, the memories from previous relationship didn't help.

I told her that I would be concentrated on my startup, which by the time, was showing very good sign-- so good that it was generating at least twice of my full time income ( and my full time income is already very high by my country standard), and I was prepared to go full time. I also told her, frankly, about my past relationship failures and I didn't really know whom to trust/ not to trust. She laughed, assured me that most girls weren't like my ex, and they would be willing to sacrifice for the boys.

Still, I was unsure of that, so I didn't make move.

And then, yesterday.

She SMSed me, telling me that she got a boyfriend.I was stunt. I was sad. I couldn't help by feel that I actually miss the opportunity for a fruitful relationship because I was too absorbed in my work.

A no small part in me started to question what I believed: is it worthwhile to do a startup, embark on a journey full of risks, and break all the relationship?

Usually I was very motivated. But as I woke up in the morning today, for the first time in many many years, tears streamed down from my eyes; a sense of emptiness engulfed me. What's the point of earning all the money in the world, and having no life?

Is it worth it?

Is it worth it?


asked Feb 26 '11 at 12:43
Sad Guy
36 points
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  • Shouldn't this be posted on ? :) – Jas 13 years ago
  • That's a sad tale. However, your question isn't really a question suited for this site. A plea to not close a question is usually a sure sign that the question should be closed. – Michael Pryor 13 years ago
  • Michael, I disagree with your decision to close the question. Work/life balance, particularly balancing your relationship with a significant other, is a **fundamental** skill in creating a startup. There have been other questions about this area on the site that have contained a lot of useful answers. Ok, maybe the question could have been expressed less emotionally - but its still valid. – Susan Jones 13 years ago

4 Answers


First off, I don't know whether I should dispense relationship advice.

Second, we only have a few lines from your perspective to go on. Everything what I say below may be false. Really. Don't take this for more than it is, it's just cheap advice given for free on an Internet forum, without knowing the deep details of your situation.

Note that at that point of time I didn't even ask her to support me, either financially, emotionally, and I didn't ask her to share my stress, work load and troubles.

I'm going out on a limb here, and extrapolating from what I have seen from myself, and from male entrepreneurial / programming friends:

This to me sounds like you took an often seen male approach, and assumed that your partner would get stress from sharing in the specifics of your startup; the agony, the fear of no income, the customers sending you negative emails, etc.

In my personal experience, most good women get stress from emotional absence in the relationship, not from the specifics of your job situation. Women often feel problems get smaller from sharing them in the relationship, whereas men sometimes feel sharing problems means burdening the woman with issues that aren't hers to carry, and hence don't share their burdens/fears/sorrows. And that's exactly the wrong and damaging thing to do.

Is it possible -- and again, I don't know -- that your relationship was troubled by your unwillingness to show your woman what you were actually doing and what you were secretly scared to death of, and not your long hours?

I got this strong feeling that if I openly pursued her, I could easily won her over. [..] the cost of pursuing a girl might not be very high but the cost of maintaining a relationship is.

Look, again, I don't know I'm just guessing. But the above sounds like a classic case of not being ready for the next relationship, and thus not sending the right signals to her.

What's the point of earning all the money in the world, and having no life?

I can't say, as I have never tried having tonnes of money. But as a good guess from my current vantage point, trading love away for financial success will never ever be worth it. At the same time, it feels to me as if you're selling yourself a little short. It sounds as if you attracted two good women within a short time frame; so clearly you have something going for you that is desired by the opposite sex. Good luck on the next one!!
answered Feb 27 '11 at 12:43
Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points
  • I really have to agree with this. Involve the woman in as many facets of what you're doing as possible. Tell her and show her what you're working on, explain the business, walk her through the problems, etc. My wife gives me a blank stare if I show her lines of code, but cares about me and my passions so she'll listen to just about anything else. I think if you have the right woman, she will care about you and by extension, what you're doing. – Jordan 13 years ago
  • thanks for your advice, but I did try my best to share my working life with her, but then she would scold me **because** I talked about work even during dating time with her. She felt that I wasn't devote enough attention to her. – Sad Guy 13 years ago
  • @Jordan, good for you and your wife. My ex wasn't really interested in my passion, not at all. But she wanted me to solve all of her problems. – Sad Guy 13 years ago
  • `It sounds as if you attracted two good women within a short time frame; so clearly you have something going for you that is desired by the opposite sex`. I'm not too sure how did you reach this conclusion? Mind to explain? – Sad Guy 13 years ago
  • @Sad Guy: Ok, if she would scold you for talking work and wanted exclusivity on your time, then perhaps she was just too needy and not the woman for you. So the "good" part of "good women" above was perhaps wrong; but keep dating and you'll find her one day. – Jesper Mortensen 13 years ago


Sad Guy - some thoughts - hope they're helpful.

  1. Relationships are inherently risky things - although your situation significantly increases the risk, the things that have happened to you could have happened to someone in a steady normal job. Look at this way - better to find out about someone's tendencies towards infidelity early than 10 years down the line. If you are hoping to find a life-partner, you are going to have to risk getting hurt; there's no way around that.
  2. If you have entrepreneurial
    blood, you are never going to be
    happy in a regular job working
    ultimately for someone else's
    benefit. So you're kinda stuck with
    running your business(es) and trying
    to work out how to get your life
    back. Having a couple of years of
    high intensity is okay (and some
    would say inevitable) but you need
    to see a light at the end of the
    tunnel. Getting to the point where you can share some of the work with a business partner or employee is something to aim for - if there are two of you, you can operate with a bit of give-and-take in the business. (For the record, I wished I had spent more time with my young kids after the first couple of years of my first business, but I let it carry on being non-stop for nearly 5 years - it's a wonder my marriage survived).
  3. You've should be pleased that you've come to the realisation that there's more to life than money and business at this stage. I think it took me 10 years and countless misssed family opportunities to get to that place - opportunities I'll never get back. Use this as an opportunity to work out what you really want out of life and then go about achieving it. Seems like you want to find a partner - I suggest you make that a personal goal with a timescale attached to it, but recognise that (as a man) you can't do two things at once. Focus on getting the business to be more self-sufficient in the immediate term so you can devote more time to courting, etc, in maybe a year's time. Just don't lose sight of the fact that we each don't know how much time we have on this earth, and as Jeremy notes, nobody wishes they'd spent more time with their money.

Hope you managed to work through things. Good luck.

answered Feb 26 '11 at 21:24
Steve Wilkinson
2,744 points


Every entrepreneur I've known has experienced the tension between the demands of a start-up and the rest of your life and relationships. And, as the saying goes, nobody on their death bed wishes they'd spent more time with their money.

One of my strategies is to be disciplined about how I manage the demands of those crazy periods when it's all piling up. I extend my core day into earlier and earlier morning - and protect evenings as long as I can. That way I know I can give time to others without worrying that I'm taking it from work. And those around know that sometimes, I'm with them because I value time with them, even if all they get is the worn-out bit of me that's left after a hard day.

Then, whether what I'm working on is successful or sinks without trace, the time comes when I hit the evening still fresh - and because I've stuck to the habit of spending time with people I'm close to, it doesn't feel like I'm pushing my way back into a social life I've forgotten!

answered Feb 26 '11 at 18:02
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points
  • I only wish it was that easy; I had two jobs and they consumed my day and night. After I go full time, things are expected to be better, but I can foresee that I won't have my evenings and weekends back until things stabilize, maybe 1 or 2 years later, *if* it stabilizes. – Sad Guy 13 years ago


Never drag your baggage from one relationship into another. Your new girlfriend is not your old girlfriend. Being cautious over you new girlfriend because of something your old girlfriend did is not a good way to move the relationship forward.

Also, it's admirable that you are so devoted to your work, but remember to stick your head out from the trenches every once in a while otherwise you'll miss what's going on.

Best of luck moving forward.

answered Feb 27 '11 at 11:33
Smart Company Software
1,190 points
  • I understand; but as old saying goes: once bitten , twice shy. How do I know that all the rest of the girls aren't like my old girl friend? – Sad Guy 13 years ago
  • You don't, but chances are they aren't. – Smart Company Software 13 years ago

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