If You Love Her, Let Her Grow

Almost exclusively the Green Room centres on the successful businesses, the people who run them and the strategies they employ to get, and stay, where they are. These are all super-important and you should be learning something from every article but we have absolutely neglected something equally critical from these pages. Something it took me too long and too much effort to realise on my own.

You might have already read about how this blog came to be, Kat has written about it on a couple of occasions but it’s necessary to go over it one more time to get this rarely discussed point across. This time the story will be from my perspective. And as everybody knows there are always two sides to a story.

A few years ago Kat was working nightshifts, five days a week, including covering the weekends. I was running a small IT company with a friend who I knew from college. In spite of my innovative ideas the business was merely treading water and the work was extremely stressful. I vividly recall several times when one wrong move would have lost millions of pounds worth of data, forever. As much as I love computers (and working with enterprise servers and infrastructure is awesomely exciting) I love my wife even more, she was my only motivation. Providing for my wife was the only reason I stayed at it. I wasn’t making much money but I had the potential, if things really took off, to give us a comfortable life.

The problem was our work schedules conflicted horribly; we had two short evenings in the week when we could spend any time together. Out of this we spawned ‘date night’, which I later found out is nowhere near a unique idea. We would go out to a restaurant, see a movie, and just spend ‘quality time’ together, which I later found out is also a euphemism. This worked really well for a while, until the blog started to take more of Kat’s time. While not working her day (night) job, Kat was busy working on the blog. Seeking out new photographers, posting content, and getting involved in forums and groups. It didn’t take long until I spent more of our date night staring at the back of a mobile phone than into my wife’s eyes. This was a serious issue, more so since at this stage the blog was making no money (we did not accept advertising requests until much later) so it seemed like a sacrifice without purpose. I felt like the only thing that was, is, important to me was becoming harder and harder to reach.

One night, while Kat was at work, I was sitting alone thinking about how this obsessiveness she displayed was driving a wedge between us. I was to confront her, I decided. The phone had to disappear, I never wanted to see the back of that thing again. Maybe the blog had to go too, after all, we weren’t planning another wedding. What was the point of it? As the list of demands grew selfishly in my head a tiny voice spoke up. What if she’d told me I had to pack in working for myself? I had been living payday to payday yet could have easily picked up an IT job in the City and instantly made us better off but I have always loathed the office/commuter lifestyle. She knew this and accepted the risks that came with me running my own business, without questioning, without prejudice.

I had always imagined our perfect future would look like me running a super-successful company and my wife would be a stereotypical domestic Goddess. In many ways we’re both quite old fashioned at heart; I like to hold doors open for her and she likes to cook for me. At that moment I recounted the phrase “Behind every great man is a great woman”. It is not only old fashioned but also sexist to ignore that the reverse of this must be true. If many of the great men throughout history have been empowered to greatness by the freedom their wives gave them then many of the great women must have been empowered by their men. If it’s Kat’s desire to get into wedding blogging, I further reasoned, then it’s my marital duty to support her in any way I can.

The first action I took was to let go of the anger I had been feeling about Kat’s mobile phone use at date night. This deliberate, forced attitude shift made the world of difference. I soon began to take a genuine interest in what she was doing, who she was contacting, how she was working. I think it was around this time that we started talking about how advertising might work, establishing the value for an ad slot, and looking at the layout of the site. All skills I had picked up in my years sitting at a computer, being a geek.

The more involved I made myself, the more interested I became in the business. But still I remained very much hidden, behind the scenes, for this world of weddings is a woman’s world. Or so I thought, until one peculiar night when I found myself sat on a table with Pete, husband to Emma Case, and Dave, husband to Lucy Ledger. These two guys were so proud of their wives, they openly acknowledged how hard the girls had worked, and continue to work, and were happy to be second-in-command, picking up the slack wherever it may be. And that was just it, second-in-command, that’s what my subconscious was still having trouble accepting. I looked back at Pete and Dave, how they acted with their wives and how they interacted with each other and I realised nobody was ‘second-in-command’, they were partners, in every sense of the word. And I knew that was what I wanted for us too.

In the years since, Kat has worked tirelessly and performed miracles with the business. Building it to the stage where we could both quit our other jobs and spend nigh-on twenty four hours a day together. Our home life has changed quite a bit and spending so much time with each other is never going to be everybody’s cup of tea but it’s perfect for us. By letting go of my hitherto undiscovered sexist ideals I know that I have enabled her growth. Yet it scares me to think back to that lonely evening when, in trying to protect our relationship, I almost made a decision that could have destroyed everything. And so I’ve never shared any of this with Kat before now.

Sadly, I know there are other women out there, struggling to turn their dreams into reality, whose partners do not support them the way they should. Perhaps my story will help. Perhaps your partner will read this. Perhaps he will make a small change to his behaviour. Often, all it takes is a small change, such as turning a blind eye to a mobile phone over dinner on date night.

Supporting Cast

104 comments

  1. Gareth, this is such a beautiful and thoughtful post and one I feel every couple should read. It’s not just about men supporting women, but about couples communicating and working together. I love how it’s worked out for you both, keep up the good work! Corinne x

  2. Pete Smyth

    Beautiful words, beautifully written.
    Felt very moved by this mate and wanted to reply.

    Your words are so so true and there are more than a few familiar things that I too went through.
    I actually felt resentful at the beginning of Emmas journey, at that time I was working upto 60 hour weeks in my job as a support worker and then coming home to the back of Emmas head on a computer. Even so, I was always very attentive and enthusiastic to Emma and wanting to know more about her new world and do everything I could to be supportive, Emma is my best friend and I want her to feel loved and supported no matter what she wants to do.

    I was recently asked..”do you ever get tired of being Emmas skivvy?” which is pretty insulting and very ignorant.

    Like you and Kat, we are a partnership, a team that brings out the best in each other. Don’t get me wrong, it is very hard work and can be extremely tiring, and we are in dire need of a break, but the fact we get to go through this together and share every element is just perfect for us.
    From the very beginning we have been a team, and when this little business started, we were in it together, travelling, learning, growing.

    Not long after we met, I remember having a conversation about how we would support each other in chasing our dreams no matter what the circumstances, no matter where it lead us….and that is still very important to both of us. Just remembering that we are individuals who choose to be with each other. We don’t have to be together, we are not bound by any obligation, we want to be together, all the time, making this work for us, to enable us to have a better life together. We want to share every element of our lives. ….. a huge bonus is that we have also met some of the loveliest people and made some amazing friends.

    So Gareth, thank you for sharing your story and for mentioning Emma and Me.
    Huge love and respect to you and Kat, and big special loving hugs to Lucy, Dave & Tristan.

    Hopefully see you guys soon

    Pete xx

  3. I remember how miserable Kat was working at the night job. I am so glad you are both able to continue this passion together and enable you both to travel together and meet people all over the world. You are opening doors for artist globally I cannot help but think all these wonderful things for others are enabling you to be blessed. You are both amazing and I am sooo happy for you!! Gareth you are the man behind a great woman and I know you are so proud of her. Its a beautiful thing to have found your soulmate. God bless you both :)

  4. Wow, what a beautifully well written and heart felt post. Gareth if takes a true man to sit back and be as thoughtful and understanding as you were. We are currently going through a similar thing, I have given up my “proper” job to start SO Jewellery and I am currently working day and night redesigning the site, so all my poor husbands sees night after night is the top of my head over my laptop and hears me banging on about image quality, seo etc. The world of weddings can be a daunting thing for a bloke but thankfully there are a few of you out there that are evolved enough to let us dive into that world and you are happy to come alone for the ride! I honestly would not have started (and continued through the tough times) with this business if it wasn’t for the love, encouragement and never ending support of my husband.

  5. Gareth Williams, great thanks for this inspirational yet beautiful and thoughtful post!
    you both look PERFECT !
    :)

  6. So lovely to read this – you have obviously been such an amazing support Gareth and it’s brilliant to see. I know plenty of self-employed women who don’t get the support they deserve. You truly are a fabulous team and your success proves that.
    I’m also lucky to have a ‘Steve’ – we’ve actually both been involved in the business since the beginning and boy, have we been through some crap! We’ve been through all the highs and lows together but we’ve made it work as a team. We’re now full time in the business with 2 staff and 2 young children but we still have time for each other which is so important.
    Thanks for a refreshing post Gareth!

  7. Wow, what a beautiful post, you two are a credit to each other and your success – the world is your oyster!!!

  8. Gareth, this post is fantastic and so heartwarming! It’s amazing what your relationship can do for you when you decide it’s a partnership and not just a one man band. I know I’ve been able to accomplish a lot with the support and partnership of my husband. Thank you for sharing your heart and I hope it inspires others as well! :)

  9. Gareth, Thank you for sharing so honestly… I just celebrated my 35th wedding anniversary, we made it that far as a team, walking side-by-side believing in each other and supporting each others dreams! You two are on your way!!! You are a dynamic team!

  10. This article really struck a cord with me. I’m just starting a new business The Artful Bachelorette and I am so unbelievably lucky to have the support of my amazing husband. Having someone believe in you and have faith in your idea even it evolves throwing awesome art parties for bachelorette with hot nude models is true love. Here’s to all the super hubbies & partners out there!

  11. This is a beautiful declaration :-) Well done on you Gareth for admitting a mistake and changing something about you, and well done on Kat for choosing Gareth :-)

    You guys are truely an inspiration!

  12. Sigsy

    Today – I thought “The more he loves me, the freer I feel” about my husband so the timing of reading this is impeccable.

    He came home from a bike ride to Shibuya last night and was really sweet.
    He told me later he’s been thinking about how great our life together was and that he decided to say yes to everything I said and suggested on his return from town.

    I felt so free and empowered and I didn’t even know why until he told me over curry.
    Being supportive of each other and giving the ‘yes’ is so liberating.

    And your liberated both of you in the end.

    Love your work.

    Thanks for putting this out there I hope is finds its way to a bloke Blog or FHM magazine or Loaded.

    Nice one!
    S

    Really enjoy your Blog Kat.

  13. (… and the comments are still coming.)
    This has made my eyes well up!
    I’ve got a ‘Gareth’ and Gareth’s post has made me realise just how lucky I am!
    thanks x

  14. Wow, there are so many parallels between this and my own situation I felt the need to comment. Just this year I have stopped working in web development to focus full-time on the photography business my wife started a few years ago. It has not always been an easy ride and at times in the past I’ve thought it would be much easier to jack in the photography business – but so glad we never made that decision! Love what you guys are doing and i’m sure you can still get your geek fix by ssh’ing onto your server and running apt-get update from time to time!

  15. Thank you for your honesty and open expression of doubt-turned-support. I think you exemplify a common plight amongst serious bloggers’ significant others. I recently started a blog, with no plans of it ever becoming a significant part of my life, well, until it morphed into exactly that. My husband has been supportive, but I do feel guilty about the amount of time and energy I put into my work, and underneath it all, I think he shares some of the feelings you had in the beginning, understandably. But I do hope that my quickly growing support for the blog will, in the future, blossom into something bigger than either of us could have imagined. Congrats to you two on a beautiful marriage and a successful way of doing business together; every couple in the world has something to learn from this post. xxx j

  16. I cried at this. We’ve had the ‘give it up’ conversation many a time, but my husband is so supportive now. If we ever go backwards, I’ll ask him to read this.

  17. Only just discovered this now, what a wonderful post. You are both so lucky to have each other. I am also one of the lucky ones as my husband is so supportive and also a mentor to me as he too as his own business. x

  18. so well said. Having Met Pete and Emma – Pete you are definitely no skivvy!!!!! Once you see a couple in action and working alongside each other – both roles are so vital for running a successful business. One wouldn’t work without the other. The support and quiet role is just as important as who “fronts” the business. Very very cool!

  19. It’s amazing that you saw through it. Hard work pays off. A 4 year relationship came to end for ex and I as he couldn’t see and support past it. You guys are blessed to have come so far :) great post

  20. I’m pretty much sobbing.

    Thank you Gareth, for letting us women know that there are men out in the world, like you, who will support us, no matter what.

    Thank you!

  21. By far one of the most honest and touching post I’ve read. Well said Gareth, actually well written! The frase “and I realised nobody was ‘second-in-command’, they were partners, in every sense of the word” it’s just beautiful, what a statement of true love. I myself have to thank my partner for all the support she has always given to me (…in my case it’s a great woman behing a great woman!)and it’s heart warming to see that that’s an experience that many other couples go through. Strong love, supportive partnership and hard work pays off…

  22. Christine

    What a well timed post! I have been dating the most wonderful guy for about 9 months now. We generally have busy schedules but recently our couple of evenings a week together seem to be a luxury of the past. He is involved in a start up which is sucking up weekends and I have a full time job and a looming masters thesis deadline. Whilst it’s not the case of one person needing support, it is a tricky balance to manage responsibilities and goals as well as personal happiness and your relationship. Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective. It really helped!

  23. This is a beautiful post Gareth. Thank you for sharing. You are both lucky to have each other, and after all, isn’t that what marriage is really about – partnership?

    I think that those of us that are lucky enough to have supportive partners are truly blessed.

    Good luck to both of you – keep up the good work!

  24. cat

    Beautiful post, really enjoyed reading it, though wish my partner was more supportive with my own career. He has commented before that I love my job more than him, which is of course not true, but I do have a different work ethic & type of job to him! :S
    Kat, you are a wonderfully lucky lady and you both deserve all the success and love in the world. Thanks for your inspiring posts!

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