Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] Our struggling business is causing a strain in our relationship

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] Our struggling business is causing a strain in our relationship
Is it a good idea to mix business with pleasure?

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,

I’m hoping your advice will help. I used to go to a counselor, who unfortunately passed away this year.

Since my 20s, I’ve tried various businesses. Just when I think things would take off, they develop problems, forcing me to move on and look for another venture to invest in. I dream of making it like the hardworking people in “Shark Tank.”

But I’m already in my 30s and I know I should be more stable. My current business was mainly training dogs, but the pandemic and limited resources put a stop to that. I think God/fate led me to take care of various dog breeds as a way to earn an alternative income, apart from another business I set up, which is doing moderately okay. 

I try to manifest things like a better home for my dogs, and a better set-up for the business. But during the past years, my partner and I encountered problems such as untrustworthy buyers, flaky staff members (whose negligence and abandonment caused the death of some prized puppies), and even an irate neighbor who campaigned to have my dogs confiscated by the city veterinarian. These events have put a strain on my relationship with my longtime partner “Peter.” 

Sometimes he expresses his anger or disappointment that because of our business he is unable to accept other better-paying or fulfilling projects.  Sometimes, this disappointment is manifested when Peter makes snide comments about me or the business. I get even by dishing the same back at him, even when I feel on some level that this isn’t healthy. We’ve been together for about eight years. He says he plans to marry me, but I’m not sure anymore, especially because our resources (especially finances) are still not solid.

Some friends have advised that we seek couples’ counseling, but I’m not sure if Peter will cooperate. Another friend recommended a financial counselor, but I felt intimidated when they asked for my annual report, statement of assets and liabilities, and financial report. I feel that I can still make it with the right investors who understand me, or maybe go to a business school with an entrepreneurship program, but these setbacks have been getting me down.  What steps can I take in my relationship with Peter, and our businesses?

Thank you po.


Dear Zillah,

There are two issues at play here: business and relationships.

Starting with business, it is widely recognized that to create a successful company requires an array of skills that not everyone possesses. It demands a product, an organization, a marketing strategy, legal and accounting inputs, banking facilities, an appropriate workforce etc. It also requires management skill to nurture the fledgling, grow it into a viable entity and then expand it to meet the (hopefully) burgeoning market.

Since all these skills seldom reside in one person, a key component to success is the ability to hire and retain the right people for the right jobs. You intimate that your experience to date as an entrepreneur has not been one of unmitigated success. This may be because while you have had good ideas, you have not had the necessary skills to turn ideas into productive ventures.

If the very notion of annual reports, statement of assets and liabilities, and cash flow statements intimidates you, but you still wish to be an entrepreneur, then perhaps enrolling in a business school is indeed the way to go.

Regarding your relationship with Peter, mixing business and pleasure is not always a good idea. It is not clear what role Peter plays in your ventures but it is clear that he is unhappy with it. Perhaps he would actually be better off pursuing his own business projects while you employ a professional manager to fill his role. That way you would have a happier partner in your romantic life and a more committed professional in your business.

Best wishes,


Dear Zillah,

Thank you very much for your letter. Mr. Baer is correct in saying two issues at play here are business and relationships. I love how dispassionate he is when analyzing what you’ve shared. This makes it clear that walang personalan (no criticism of you or your decisions), just a clearer assessment of what might be better decisions on your part. The issue of relationships affects yours with Peter, but your relationship with yourself even more so.

First, super duper congratulations for recognizing and then “admitting” your faults in this letter to us. That is a gift not many people have. However, as Leonardo da Vinci once said: “ I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. ”

So, when you say “I get even by dishing the same back at him (Peter’s snide remarks), even when I feel on some level that this isn’t healthy,” perhaps reminding yourself of da Vinci words about knowing not being enough might be a good idea?

Another example of knowing not being enough is when you say: “I’m already in my 30s and I know I should be more stable.” Actually, this brings to mind something some people do which they seem to think absolves them from things; such as “I’m sorry for being am ahole, but I grew up with no one to guide me.”

A more mature way of looking at things would be to say, perhaps even with a sigh, “I grew up with no one guiding me, which sometimes explains why I behave like an ahole, but that is no excuse to continue behaving like one. I know I have this vulnerability of not being guided since young, so all the more I should work towards being less a**hole-like”.

I hope my words on the non financial aspects has also helped, Zillah, and if not, I am heartened by the knowledge that Mr Baer’s words have.

All the best and happy holidays,

MG Holmes.


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