Early Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend and I were about to head to one of our favorite eateries when he received an urgent email–something on the site needed to be fixed, ASAP. He told me he’d need to bring his laptop to brunch to resolve the issue. I said no problem.
We sat at a table towards the back of the establishment. He pulled out his laptop and began coding furiously, intense concentration etched on his face. Now was not the time to interrupt or make chit-chat. I sat my iPhone on the table and, after checking my email, began playing a quiet game of Hedgehog Launch, occasionally sipping on my mimosa once it arrived.
Within a few minutes, another couple sat down at the table next to ours (the table edges were separated by less than 2 feet, I would guess). The woman was sitting on the same side of the table as my boyfriend.
And that’s when the meal got interesting.
She quickly remarked to her boyfriend/husband/date that “he’s coding.” Nothing unusual there, just regular human curiosity and observation. But then I began to hear snippets of her conversation every few minutes… “Isn’t she offended? I would be so offended.”… “Look, she’s almost done with her food, he hasn’t even touched his.”… “What horrible restaurant etiquette.” I wasn’t offended, I just hoped her increasing loud comments weren’t impeding my boyfriend’s ability to work. They weren’t, and we had a good laugh on the walk home. Clearly she–and no one she knows–is involved in the start-up sphere.
For years I trained to be (and was) a professional ballet dancer, and my boyfriend showed me the same patience, respect, and understanding that I now strive to show him. There’s no room for being offended, for being irritated if plans get changed. Rehearsals run late, problems arise. If you want to spend time together, it can be just as rewarding to sit in silence, working side by side, as it can be to go out or have conversation.
To be in a relationship with someone heavily involved in a start-up, you need to put aside the “me” and focus on being a partner. Look towards the future and make the present, well, pleasant. There’s no room for bullshit. If you’re insecure, unhappy that you’re not getting to do what you want, slighted that the focus isn’t on you, it’s not going to work. Although all relationships should be partnerships, the added strain of late nights, early mornings, and heavy workloads really puts them to the test.
One of the best ways to combat this is to get involved yourself. Teach yourself to code, if you don’t know how to already, then you can either help with their project, or start something of your own. If that’s not appealing, then you’ll just have to find ways to entertain yourself sometimes. Having a support network can also be a godsend–network with their coworkers, or other friends/couples in start-ups. You’ve all got something in common and you’re all most likely fairly intelligent, so stimulating conversation shouldn’t be lacking.
I don’t imagine our Sunday brunch experience was the first, nor will be the last, time we get weird reactions from others not in the scene. We’ve popped open our laptops in all sorts of places, forgone drinks and dinners on multiple occasions in favor of working late into the night. We have no intention of stopping that any time soon.