How to balance being a CEO and being in a relationship - Mark MacLeod

March 3, 2021 - Mark MacLeod

How to balance being a CEO and being in a relationship

In this post, l’d like to explore a touchy, but important topic: how to balance leading a high growth company AND a marriage or serious relationship.

How do you both be the best possible CEO while also being the best possible partner?

Last I heard, the overall success rate for marriages is around 50%. I have never seen this statistic for entrepreneurs as a group. l’m guessing it is lower.

Creating any company from scratch is hard. Creating and scaling a high growth technology company, and meeting or exceeding the expectations of your investors, is particularly challenging.

As l’ve written before, I find that startups are either struggling to create growth or struggling to keep up with it. There is almost no in between state.

Are founders just setting themselves up for dissapointment and failure trying to do both? Is it a given that the founder’s partner will have to compromise and sacrifice to make room for the needs of the company?

Since many CEOs are both crushing it at work and at home, the answer has to be no. So what sets them apart?

Having gone through a failed marriage myself and having thought a lot about it, I would offer up two traits that enable CEOs to also be great spouses: perspective and intention.


The CEO recognizes that while their company is all encompassing at the moment, in the grand scheme of things it will exist for a small portion of the founder’s life.

Perspective also recognizes that most startups don’t succeed. So, run it in a way where you can look back with no regrets. This is a balancing act of both giving the startup everything it needs, while also preserving other important aspects of your life so you have some solid foundations regardless of what happens to the company.


Recognizing that the company may not succeed, intention is about declaring What is truly important to you and making space for it. Work will expand to fill all available time. if you don’t create boundaries for work, it will consume you.

Many CEOs want to devote more time and energy to their spouses/ partners, but they have nothing left in the tank. Work consumes them.

This is not their intention, but by doing this, they are sending a message that the relationship is less important than the company.

Startups are never a straight line. So there will be key moments where the relationship must INTENTIONALLY take a back seat. But if this happens all the time, then the relationship will likely not work out.

l offer those thoughts with no judgment. There is no one right way.

You may decide that your company is your main or sole focus. Scaling the company may change or grow you such that you no longer want or value the same things as your partner. This is fine. Life happens.

All I propose here is that you be in charge. Be intentional. Don’t let life just happen TO you. Design your life.

If your relationship is a priority then intentionally create time and energy for it. Think about it and invest in it just as you do for your company. Give it the priority that you think is appropriate based on your intention that this relationship will be around long after your company is.

This may be difficult or impossible in the early days, but as your company scales you can add people and structures to create the space you need to invest in everything that is most important to you.

This is not easy. It only happen through clear intention. Through having a vision for your life and turning that vision into reality. The exact same approach you are taking to building your company!

Questions to consider

How satisfied am I with my relationship with my partner?

How satisfied do I think he/ she is? (suggestion – ask them)

How important is my relationship me?

Does the time, energy and intention that I put into my relationship match its importance in my life?

In what ways am I not honouring this relationship?

What holds me back from both being a great CEO and great partner?

What is my ideal life? Describe it. Picture it.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Your journey is never done

Sign up to my newsletter and join an inspired community of leaders who realize that the journey to achieving their full potential is never done.

    If you’re curious about my coaching and deal work you can learn more here.

    back to blog

    Latest Blog Feed

    From Burnout to Balance: Chris Savage’s Strategies for Leadership

    Check out my discussion with Chris Savage, the co-founder and CEO of Wistia, on The Startup CEO Show. In this episode, we unpack the deeply rooted values that have shaped Chris’s company, emphasizing the importance of genuine connections, personal growth, […]

    read more

    Competitor Analysis in an AI-Driven World with Jason Smith

    Listen to my conversation with Jason Smith, CEO of Klue, as we dive into the gritty details of building and leading a tech company in the Competitive Enablement space. Dive into the Transcripts for Key Insights from this Episode Mark […]

    read more

    Startup Resilience: How Notch Pivoted to Success with Jordan Huck

    Tune into my conversation with Notch’s CEO, Jordan Huck, where we dive into the critical decisions and pivots that shape a startup’s journey. Delve into the Transcripts for Key Takeaways from this Episode Mark MacLeod:Jordan, welcome to The Startup CEO […]

    read more


    Email :

    Follow me:

    Mark MacLeod ICF Member

    Send Me A Message