How to keep your business healthy while going through a divorce

05/25/2017 12:09 am ET

Entrepreneurs are inherently risk-takers who thrive on the rush of deal-making and meeting new challenges. While those are great traits for business, they don’t bode nearly as well for marriage. While the statistics are not broken down by profession, many experts believe that the divorce rate for business owners is likely higher than the national average.

Many small businesses fail along with their owners’ personal relationships. However, the end of your marriage doesn’t have to lead to the end of your business. While divorce is often traumatic and almost always emotional, business owners must find a way to manage the distraction in order to mind the shop.

Here are four ways that owners can keep their businesses healthy while going through a divorce:

1. Take time to grieve

Divorce is a life-altering experience that can lead to a host of negative feelings toward ourselves, which can easily bleed over into the workplace, according to relationship expert Toni Coleman, licensed clinical social worker and Certified Management Consultant. After all, if you were so wrong about your partner, how can you trust your instincts about other people?

“These feelings are normal, and the best way to handle them is to remain fully aware of the impact your broken marriage is having on your confidence regarding your instincts and judgment,” Coleman says. “This way you can challenge any unconscious feelings that may be creeping into a work relationship and identify what is going on.

2. Get support

You may need to take some time off, and that’s OK as long as you recognize your limitations and designate someone else to be the decision-maker. Don’t let your employees and the business suffer.

When you return, you’ll want to recognize that there are many people in the organization whom you can lean on during this difficult time, says Marcy Fetzer, Ph.D., a leadership consultant and a visiting professor at Brigham Young University in a personal interview.

“The feeling of betrayal and broken trust is a powerful emotion,” Fetzer said. “In fact, it can be overwhelming, even debilitating. To prevent those feelings from affecting your ability to delegate, start small. Delegate a low-stakes task at first to someone who you believe you can trust, and then be reassured when they deliver. It is important to remember that there are people who you can count on, people who have earned your trust and not betrayed you.”

3. Don’t succumb to fear

“The most common mistake that I see when people are going through a divorce is that they let the emotional aspect of their divorce paralyze them with fear,” says Julia Rodgers, a divorce attorney and the founder of “This can result in people making irrational decisions based on irrational emotions. Remember, life goes on, and once this burden of your divorce is lifted, you will feel like you have a new lease on life!”

Several relationship experts suggest that your business acumen can help you get your personal life back on track. This is a time where you can draw upon your gift for strategic planning and time management. Make a to-do list and stick to it.

“Discipline is my go-to,” says Janeen Diamond Golightly, a television account executive and author. “Stay focused on where you plan to be in three years.”

4. Reach a business settlement quickly

A business led by two partners at war with each other is a recipe for disaster. Usually, one of the spouses will choose to exit the business with his or her equal, rightful share of the business. You may need to hire a business-valuation firm to help reach a settlement. Do it quickly.

After the dust settles, the one who stays with the business needs to make sure that employees do not get caught up in the drama.

“Your divorce is no one else’s business unless you choose to make it so,” Coleman says. “Use discretion when sharing, and set limits on anyone who decides that your divorce is OK to bring up as a topic among your co-workers. You can do this by changing the subject, redirecting, and/or letting people know you are not comfortable or ready to talk about it. People will follow your lead if you are clear and consistent in letting them know what you feel and what is acceptable to you.”

And when you get home after work?

“Do a workout, eat a good meal, take a bath, and go to bed early,” Golightly says. “Do what you can to love your life – it’s going to get better, I promise!”

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