Q. My wife and I started our own online travel firm three years ago. Business is going well but sadly our marriage is not. All we talk about is work and we rarely have fun together any more. We're mortgaged to the hilt and can't afford to take a step back from the company. Any advice?
Jeremy says: Starting a business from scratch is one of the most demanding actions a human being can undertake. Starting a travel business, with your wife, three years into an economic downturn must count as the most perilous. Absolutely everything in your life is suddenly at stake: your marriage, your money, your house, your self-esteem - and even your legacy. Should it fail, that failure will be all that your life will be remembered by, or so you will believe. Only obsessive, day-and-night, single-minded intensity of effort can keep those dark fears at bay, and for the first year or two, that's no doubt how you and your wife lived and worked.
But habit can imperceptibly become an addiction. And I am pretty certain that's what has happened to you and your wife. You feel you daren't let go.
Yet if your business is going well, I don't for a moment believe that you can't afford to step back, at least a little. If you had a physical home and a physical office, it would be easier. The very act of stepping out of one building, travelling some distance and then stepping into another twice a day makes the separation of work and the rest of life seem natural. So, contrived though it will certainly feel at first, that's what you and your wife must attempt to simulate.
If you run your business from your own house, designate part of it Office and the rest of it Home. You'll feel foolish doing it, but put up signs to that effect and try to stick to regular hours. Whenever you move from Office to Home, pour yourselves a drink, even if you don't particularly feel like one. Nominate one night a week for going to the movies. In other words, quite consciously work at establishing a new pattern of habit because that's pretty much the best way of breaking an old one. The moment it begins to feel natural (and it won't be immediate) will be the moment you know you're on the road to recovery.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.