Building Successful Long Term Relationships

Twenty-two years ago today, the Gotham Gal and I were married. I've learned a lot in the twenty-seven years that we've been living together and much of those lessons have spilled over into my business life. I also have to say that observing my parents, who have been married fifty-two years now, provided a lot of learnings for me early in life that have helped me with my own marriage.

I thought today might be a good opportunity to talk about some of those lessons and how they impact how I approach building successful long term relationships in business. In my business, the most important relationships are those between my partners and me, and the relationships with the entrepreneurs we back and their teams. It's absolutely critical to get those relationships right and sustain them for the long haul.

A marriage is not an easy relationship by any means. The stresses of children, finances, families, and a shared living space (and many more) wears on the partnership and causes tension and friction. It takes work and a lot of communication to make it successful. But in addition to constant effort and communication, I think there are two other critical factors – tolerance and shared vision/values.

Rabbi Niles Goldstein told a joke in his last shabbat service at the New Shul. He asked a woman to explain the success of her marriage. And she replied "shtick tolerance". I've tweeted and told that joke a few times publicly since hearing it a few weeks back. I like it very much. I know that my shtick gets old and nobody has heard it as much as the Gotham Gal. She knows how to mute it. And I can do the same with hers (and yes, she has a shtick too). Tolerance is critical to a successful long term relationship. You need to be able to tune out certain stuff that gets old and let it pass you by without getting annoyed or upset. I've had to work hard on that and it has paid dividends in both my marriage and my business life.

Even more important are shared values and vision. Milton Pappas, the man who taught me more about venture capital than anyone else also taught me a lot about marriage. When we got married, I was working for Milton. When our first child, Jessica, was born, he told me, "make one night a week date night. do it every week without fail. and when you are alone, don't talk about the daily grind, talk about your hopes and dreams, what you want to do together and what you will do together". That was very sage advice. I must admit that I don't practice it enough, but I do practice it (like many things in my life).

Tolerance and shared vision/values are critical in business as well. This past thursday night, I talked to Prof. Ari Ginsberg's class at NYU's Stern School Of Business. In the Q&A after my talk, a young man asked me "when you are in competition for a deal, how do you win the deal?".

I replied that we compete on cultural fit and shared vision/values. I explained that we don't compete on price, terms, "value add" or any other of the typical things VCs talk about. We focus on building a relationship with the entrepreneur that makes them comfortable with us and that convinces them that we will have tolerance for their shtick (and man do entrepreneurs have shtick). And most importantly we talk about their hopes and dreams, how they plan to get there, and why we share those hopes and dreams and want to help them achieve them. That is the only way I know how to win a deal and it works when both parties are sincere and open and honest with each other.

Like a marriage, a venture investment is a long term relationship. None of mine have lasted twenty-two years and none will be as important as my marriage. But if you treat them like a marriage (on both sides) and work hard at them, communicate early and often, are tolerant, and most importantly share your vision and values, it can be a very rewarding experience, both emotionally and financially.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Ari J. Greenberg

    As someone who is just recently engaged, an entrepreneur, and certainly has a “shtick” that might get old, this is great advice. Thanks Fred!

    1. fredwilson

      i am a big fan of passing down what i’ve learned just like Milton and others(including my parents) did to me.

      1. Mike

        In an industry as competitive and private as VC, I’m sure that adopting a “shtick” that involves both openness and candor was not an easy thing to do. Good to see that it’s translating both in and out of the business world.Have you ever had an experience where you walked away from a deal because you did not believe you’d have the patience for the entrepreneurs shtick despite it being a company you believed in?

        1. fredwilson

          Yes I have

  2. drm10506

    Nice post Tolerance is easier with shared values. A key is reaching the level of honest dialogue where you can assess the true nature of the values. In situations free of stress, words have an elegant, lasting power. Not until you reach those moments of stress that test us do you find out what the words really mean in action. Too often the shared values fall apart at those moments. The shared interests are thrown out of alignment. And then you have to lake a judgment: Can we become re-aligned? Or did we misjudge at the outset, based on words that signalled intent, but that don’t work in action.

  3. halichamus

    This was a short, important and smart article. Thank you.

  4. KareAnderson

    FredThis is one of the most insightful of your (many) posts… now wouldn’t it be a kick if it was picked up by some of the womens social media sites like vibrant and wowwow… spread your fame, give fresh reasons for your friends to kid you (admiringly) … next a lit agency asks you to write a book on The Secret of Schtick Tolerance for Successful Relationships in Marriage and in Life and Work

    1. fredwilson

      i think the gotham gal would have to write that book!

    2. Keenan

      I’m am going to forward this to my wife. It’s a post that transcends business. It’s real.

      1. chefbikram

        Ha, I’m forwarding to my husband of almost 12 years! And we also work together, which was a HUGE test. I believe writing a book together prepared us for parenthood. Talk about blending styles, having tolerance and recognizing each other’s strengths. After spending years on a trading floor, compromise, patience and tolerance did NOT come naturally. Still don’t. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Mark Essel

        Absolutely, my fiance enjoyed this one. But she walked away during the stocktwits video ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. fredwilson

          Howard is hard to take ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Julien

    I am surprised you didn’t mention the word “love” in this great article. I think in the end this is all about loving people you’re working/married with, as much as yourself (and you have to love you a lot!).

    1. fredwilson

      hmm. astute observation julien. as i think about why that is, it seems that i was caught up in the analogy between marriage and business and love is not a word applied to business relationships. maybe it should be.

      1. Ryan Power

        Ever since I joined the family retail business my Dad’s been teaching me his shtick. He likes to remind me all day long how important it is to ‘fall in love with your customers’.

      2. shafqat

        To make a marriage work, there must be love, first and foremost. That’s what gets people through the highs and lows of any relationship.To make a business work, surely the founders must love their product/service and believe in it. Or atleast love building something or perhaps they love their customers.A different type of love, but without it, neither business nor relationships can prosper.

        1. chefbikram

          Keep in mind that loving your work is a gift and blessing. I spent years in finance and loved the challenge, learning and climb, but I hardly loved what I actually did, which was move money around/change the risk profile of that money.If you love your business, I do think you’ll have a certain love for customers which means, at least for me, that business becomes personal. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s worth it.

      3. Julien

        I think my english lacks a few words. Of course this is not the same “love” in marriage and business relationships. The “love” I am talking about has probably some “passion”, some “compassion”, some “patience”, some “curiosity”, some “admiration”, some “excitement”, some “contemplation”… I just don’t know the coefficients here ;)I also like the ancient greeks words for love :

      4. Tyler Willis

        Fred, I really dug this article. Love does have it’s business analogies — I’ve always liked Feld’s take: “Trust is the business word for love”…

        1. fredwilson

          Brad is a smart guy. Great post from him

    2. Keenan

      actually, i am not surprised love was not added. Love is the emotion. People who love each other get divorced, break up everyday. There are people we love AND are in love with that we are unwilling or unable to give the schtick of tolerance to.I think this post is about the conscience effort required to make the love work. We can’t control who we love or how much we love them, but we can control HOW we love them and the schtick of tolerance is one way.

  6. tanomsak

    Thank you for sharing this and passing down Milton advice on date night. I just married three months ago, this is great advice.BTW, happy anniversary for you and Gotham Gal

  7. genevangelist

    Awesome post, Fred. This really hits home with me and @genevate who not only have been together for over 7 years, we also work side by side in our dev company every working minute. It’s tough – but as long as you share the vision/values and communicate – it truly is the MOST rewarding experience – in our case, building a life together as well as being partner entrepreneurs in a fast-paced tech world! I could not see myself doing anything else with anyone else. Thanks for this, a post that really hits every part of the two of us and makes me feel ever more lucky and grateful to be with him. ;-)And Happy Anniversary!!!

  8. stanleyyork

    I just finished Warren Buffett’s biography, ‘Snowball’…this “strategy” (really just good human nature) reminds me a lot of how he acts.

  9. Mihai Badoiu

    Interesting analogy, Fred. Thank you for sharing.

  10. KareAnderson

    Perhaps, in support of the preservation of your marriage, you may want to have it be “by” both of you “with” a good writer you both admire…. just kidding:)

  11. Carol Ross

    Great post! I’ve been married for 25 years. Over the years, my husband and I not only tolerate each others’ shtick, we play off of it. Not laughing at, but laughing with. I’ve found that love creates a generosity that then leads to tolerance–of all sorts of things.I also love the point about shared vision/values. I’m not sure that when I got married that I knew my own values or vision, let alone my husband’s. Over the years, we’ve discovered how closely aligned we are, which I consider a huge blessing. I got lucky.As an entrepreneur for the last six years, I’ve had many collaborators/partners. The vision/values thing never fails to come up as a place that either separates us and causes us to part ways or ties us together and sees us through rough times. I’m much clearer now on my values and still, I discover through places of conflict or hurt or anger new values that I hadn’t been fully conscious of before.Thanks again for starting this conversation.

    1. fredwilson

      i am so pleased to see so many women commenting on this post. that’s unusual. maybe i need to write about stuff like this more often.

      1. chefbikram

        i just think women more naturally combine the personal with business. if you spend 10+ hours a day at something, why not make it more personal.

      2. kidmercury

        yes, we need some girls here. it’s like when you roll into a club, you can’t just have all dudes there, that’s no fun.

      3. Mark Essel

        Mixing up some personal anecdotes with social/tech business widens the audience. People (not just women) are probably a lot more comfortable publicly commenting on relationships than tricky trends or financial nuances (although I’m a big fan of those topics).

        1. ShanaC

          This is just a weird conversation for me. I like playing female with the female stuff on MakeupAlley. I do the gossip otherwise. I read Double X and shop Etsy with my friends. But seriously, at the high profile business/tech levels- the reason women don’t enter/leave in the first place- no mentorship. The hours are also really bad, especially when you have two in the business (actually I think your wife mentions this at one point in her blog- that neither of you are seeing your kids. I was looking at older recipes. If she ever wants to know how to make a non-dairy sweet noodle kugel…)Coming from a place where gender lines are more strictly enforced, it is not totally surprising that I found my nerdiness relatively later in life. I am chill with it for the most part. And I love the female coders I meet. But I look at them, and I know that when they get married say 5 years down the line, they are not going to tolerate the Google’s unlimited Naked Juice and Clif Bars to keep them going when children get in the picture if they are already discussing it now while single. Someone or something has to give. I’m not sure the fathers’ want to give either, but generally, it is far more socially acceptable for the women to move on. Either that, or hire help in the form of daycare or nursing.Further, knowing that the “superwoman” discussion is already on the plate of young 20 somethings, it is occosionally difficult to look around forums such as these and realize that parts of the more serious work are not being covered by women. It in turn makes finding mentorship difficult. (The ABA talks about it occasionally)In part though, I respect the gender line. Having a clear gender line, including sometimes in professions, does give strength to many individuals core identity.It is one of the reasons, in fact, that properties like Etsy work. Despite the fact that there are hurdles of mentorship to jump for men- for the women involved, they strengthen the core idenity of craft and a girl thing, even if anyone can craft. I admire websites and other mediated spaces that can perform the dual function of relating back to the identity of the core person.

      4. paramendra


  12. Louis P. Solomon

    This is good advice. I have followed it myself in all of my family and business dealings. Some times I wonder how my wife can put up with all my stories, repeated forever, but she has great tolerance. Since she is almost perfect the strain on my for having tolerances is much less.I treat all my business operations like a marriage. If I don’t like the people, trust them, and enjoy their intellectual and professional skills, I don’t make the deal. Same rules in a marriage.

  13. KareAnderson

    Julien”Love” is easier than marriage and usually assumed when writing about tolerance (rather than disgust when the marriage is doomed).A friend, a well-known mystery writer who was still struggling with her irritation w/her successful husband’s shtick threatened to write a book entitled “Why Marriage is Harder Than Murder.”

    1. fredwilson

      Great point about love being easier than marriage Kare

      1. Satish Mummareddy

        Love doesn’t have any commitment attached. Times get touch you can let go. Marriage is all about commitment to each other through good and bad times.Love is analogous to playing with your friends kids when they want to have a good time and returning them to their parents when they start crying, Marriage is raising your own kids when they keep you up all night from 0-3 months, their hissy fits from 1 – 6 years, and their eccentricities during their teen age years, dealing with their success and failures, their smashing your world view of life to teach you their own world view. ๐Ÿ™‚ And then still realizing that they matter to you more than anything else in the world.

        1. fredwilson

          Well said. I am just getting to the ‘smashing your world view’ part and it is disorienting

  14. Howard Mann

    Great advice.The older I get the more I find that almost all of the “rules” that make for success in life (and relationships) are exactly the same for enduring success in business.Happy Anniversary!

  15. daryn

    Congratulations on 22 years! The Gotham Gal and you seem to have created a wonderful family, and raised three terrific kids.I’m running about 18 years behind you on all fronts, and will keep this advice, along with the rest of the wisdom you’ve shared on avc over the years, close at heart.

  16. iPAS

    Thank you very much krub. I like .. “talk about hope & dream”.

  17. David Noรซl

    Great post, Fred. As always. Happy anniversary to you and the Gotham Gal.

  18. rajjr_tx

    First, let me congratulate you on your anniversary. 22 years is an uncommon achievement these days. This year is my 20th anniversary so I relate to much of what you’re saying.I have found that things that bothered me early on in my marriage are not even a concern. I think it was because I was still focused on ‘me’ during the early stages of my marriage. Now time has shown me that the ‘shared vision/goals’ and protecting the relationship are far more important and worthwhile than any individual persuit.These lessons have changed my daily business perspective as well. I KNOW that there are no problems that can’t be solved if we have open and honest communication, and the efforts of many far outpace my individual efforts.Great post.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. Maturity is all about moving beyond “me” to “us”

  19. kirklove

    Nicely said, Fred. And congrats to you at Gotham Gal. I admire how you two are fans of each other and talk about that openly on your respective blogs.I mean love, trust, honesty, and mutual respect are givens IMO. They have to be there. But, you also have to โ€œlikeโ€ each other, too. Itโ€™s like how your friend Bijan said about you two working so well together in a recent interview, โ€œWe generally like each other.โ€ Thatโ€™s the key. You have to โ€œlikeโ€ your partner. All of them. Good and bad. Shtick or no shtick. Find a person you like even when they are getting on your last nerve and youโ€™ve made the right choice.

    1. fredwilson


  20. Keenan

    Fred, this is one of the reasons I read your blog. You have a very natural and personal way of telling a story. There is a realness I appreciate.You are very good at inspiring thought. I appreciate that from people. I will be passing this on to my wife. We are celebrating fathers day weekend. It will make for timely discussion.Thanks man!

    1. fredwilson

      Happy fathers day keenan. I enjoy your frequent and thoughtful comment here

  21. Marilyn Byrd

    Happy anniversary to you and your bride. As someone who also works with entrepreneurs, your points are well taken. Start ups can go in many different directions (sometimes all at once). Grounding your relationships (either business or personal) in cultural fit and shared vision/values makes it much easier to stay focused and ride the rough waters. Thanks for a great post. Enjoy your day.

  22. Peter Fleckenstein

    Fred,Congratulations! Your spot on with the “shtick”! Having just celebrated 19 years of marriage with my beautiful wife Mary this past week, we both practice shtick every day.I’d like to suggest that much more than tolerance is at play here. In any successful relationship, personal or professional, allowing plays a far more influential and important role IMHO.For successful aligned relationships one must go beyond tolerating and allow the individual. Additionally, the person, must allow him or herself to focus on what it is they want in their own lives thus attracting people, events, and emotions that are good and conducive.My wife Mary, allows herself to put up with my shtick and vice versa because of our shared vision and values. We’re open and honest with each other due to the realization that it frees us from our tolerances of each other towards the achievement of our shared vision. In other words – tolerances are limiting, while allowing is unlimited. It works the same for professional relationships as well.Well, enough of the metaphysical. Happy Anniversary to you and Joanne! Thanks again for another great post!

    1. fredwilson

      Does ‘allowing’ mean allowing each other to be who they are?

      1. Peter Fleckenstein

        Yes. Taking it one step further, allowing is letting yourself to let the other just be.

  23. kenberger

    “compete on cultural fit and shared vision/values”– yep, that’s the only way I do it, for client prospects, hiring star people, as well as life’s relationships.The issue is it’s inherently NOT a scalable practice, so you have to pick your prospects wisely. And the issue with the picking part is that all the vetting and pre-qualifying in the world still lacks the key time component. Nonetheless, I probably spend more time vetting and qualifying then I do on all the other mechanics. My shtick is pretty shtuck!

    1. fredwilson


  24. Jason

    this makes me want you to seed me.

    1. fredwilson

      Well that’s good to hear.

  25. Harry DeMott

    Congrats. I’m about to leave for Long Island to see my parents – who are married 50 years today! Indeed you can learn a lot. I’ve managed 24 years with my wife (only 16 of them married – we met young) but there is always more to learn.

    1. fredwilson

      We met young too. It can work if you don’t get married to quickly. We waited six years and lived together for five of them

  26. marshal sandler

    There is an expression in the Talmud Which helps all relationship’s! ” We don’t see thing as they are we see things as we are !”

    1. fredwilson

      Wow. Rabbi to shtick to talmud. Were getting very jewish here all of a sudden ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. calabs

    There is great wisdom in this post. For those who find that tolerance doesn’t seem to be in their DNA, I wish only to mention a technique that’s been of great assistance to me learning this important skill: meditation. I don’t think it matters what tradition, or whether or not it’s linked to a religion, but meditating is a great way to make the mind more tolerant, patient, and loving.

    1. fredwilson

      I have many friends who swear by it. I tend to fall asleep when I try it

  28. Kontra

    Does the available data indicate whether venture investment is ‘a long term investment like marriage’ or a weekend date?

    1. fredwilson

      Five to seven year hold periods are average and I’ve got a bunch of deals I’ve been working on for more than a decade

  29. Guest

    Hi Fred, yep we are there too – married 22 years as of a month ago, lived together for 4 before that – through med school (his) and other things. I don’t think you left love out by mistake either (for those who commented). Love is a given, we are now talking about “my family”. This is my family. We have 3 teenagers, one who just started college this year, but we have been dealt some heavy blows. Blows such as (this was many year ago) losing a child, which statistically only 10% of couples recover from. Men and women deal with adversity in different ways, be it financialy, health related, or whatever. And schtick tolerance is a part of that for sure. You definitely have to learn to let the little things go, or ignore them, that’s just the way the person is. Shared values – critical. And even though I am Jewish and my husband is not – the fundamental values (kids first, family importance and values, don’t worry what people think, what things in life are controllable and what are not) are critical. Some are learned from each other over the years – not caring about what people think and that “at some point things are just beyond our control” are traits I admired in my husband when I married him and I’ve adopted them (though not as well as him) over the years. But I think there is one major point you left out – sometimes it’s just luck. There was no way I knew at 22 years old that my husband would be easy to live with. That later in life when I changed this direction or that, he would be supportive. You grow – but some people grow apart and some parallel. We’ve grown in a parallel way. But I attribute that to luck as much as anything else. You can tell I’m the Jew in the family ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      We are at the same place in life pretty much. We’ve got three teens and one headed to college this fallI agree with you about luck. I’ve had so much of it in my lifeYour loss of a child took my breath away for a second. Nothing is sadder in my book. Thank god that you and your husband and family have been able to move beyond it. Its great to hear that

  30. bach

    Fred,The part about Milton’s advice is ineresting as I’ve seen a lot of couples devoting their time to their chidren and totally forgetting about their marriage and their dreams.

    1. fredwilson

      Bad idea. You need to do both

  31. charliepinto

    I love this post! Thanks Fred

  32. Elie Seidman

    very wise

  33. Guest

    Very positive and thoughtful, as always, Fred.However, let’s not ignore the flip side of your analogy: 50% of marriages DO fail; irreparable incompatibilities DO exist. The statistics with startups are probably the same if not worse, and when VCs and entrepreneurs “divorce”, as with real divorce, the main victims are the children (the company).With respect to marriage, our legal system recognizes the children’s welfare as paramount and gives custody to the parent who is more likely to be caring and helpful, and not to the parent who has shown to be neglectful and abusive.Unfortunately, that’s not the case in business law: the party with the more shares wins custody and gets control, even if they have shown to be terrible “parents”. That’s wrong. Incompetent, negligent, ignorant and destructive VCs should not get to be in control, when things go sour with the entrepreneur, just because they have more shares, courtesy of other people’s money.There has to be a mechanism in such “divorce” situations, for the entrepreneurs to keep control, for the good of the business. It is their “baby”, they know best its needs, and they are the ones likely to provide more care and devotion.

    1. fredwilson

      The entrepreneurs shouldn’t sell control if they don’t think they can live with the investors in controlEntrepreneurs start with 100pcnt of their businessThis is something they control. Your points are good but its important to get cause and effect rightInvestors are putting capital at risk and they have the right to try to protect that capitalThe only way to address this is don’t sell control

      1. Guest

        Let’s stay with your analogy. I am sure in your 22-year marriage the GothamGal has had no problems leaving the kids with you on numerous occasions. However, there is another common example, we’ll call her GhettoGal, who marries Prince Charming, only to discover in a year or so in that he has a drinking problem, leaves the kids on the street while he’s drinking in the pub… leaves them with some crackwhores while he goes on a drinking binge, etc…If we tell GhettoGal: “nobody made you marry him, why did you have kids with him?”, well be right but not very helpful. What is helpful is a legal system that can intervene and assign custody to GhettoGal, for the benefit of the kids. And, thankfully, such system exists.Not so in business, though. Here’s what happened to me, I took money from this firm, OVP Venture Partners and had no problems with giving control, since all the right words were spoken. However, in a year they started messing with the business (NanoString Technologies), and only then did I became aware that they have been screwing around with everything for a decade or so: Their 1999 fund was $125M, they have only returned ~$20M of it to date. Their 2001 fund was $180M, and they have returned only ~$23M to date. So, you can imagine how I was “ZOMG, what have I done!!”…I raised hell with their Limited Partners and was able to save the company, however, such method is very crude and only works for the most blatant things. It doesn’t work for the finer things that need to be implemented. What is needed is a mechanism where I can stand in front of a judge and say “your honour, these people are ignorant and negligent, for the sake of the company AND their own investors (pension funds, college endowments, etc.) please give control to professionals who understand the business”. Unfortunately, there is no such mechanism…

        1. fredwilson

          I get it but no investor is gonna invest if they can have control they negotiated for as part of the investment taken away from them in a ‘divorce’Don’t take money from bad VCs. Do your diligence up front. One of the reasons I’ve been promoting blogging is there needs to be more transparency in the VC world. Entrepreneurs need to know who they are getting into business with

  34. peteski

    First off, congratulations. Me and my wife are just a couple years behind you. – 24 years and counting. I’d like to know how many commentors here are in the same boat and believe what you saybecause I couldn’t disagree with you more.I think what successful venture investment and successful long term relationships have in common is luck. Those who’ve made it will never say its all to chance – I mean who would buy a how-to book that declares, “Hey, it’s all the luck of the draw Buddy”? Those at the bottom, whether in finances or in relationships, KNOW it’s all about the breaks. And those of us who’ve gotten the breaks should have humility enough to say,”we’re just lucky”.

    1. fredwilson

      Luck is a big part of it. I’ve been awfully lucky. But luck also accrues to those that make their own luck

      1. thewalrus

        Great post Fred. As a long-time reader…..I really appreciate when you dive into these kind of topics in your blog. I have great respect for people that have the courage to express their values and ideals in their professional life. Idealism is often seen as weakness – I couldn’t disagree more – being true to yourself is the only competitive advantage that can never be copied :)….and I don’t even want to get started on the concept of luck. Just don’t believe in it. Luck is a choice, a relative perspective on life.”You know, I want to be a force for real good. In other words, I know that there are bad forces,forces put here that bring suffering to others and misery to the world, but I want to be the force which is truly for good” – John Coltrane

        1. fredwilson

          Coltrane was playing in the restaurant we had breakfast in on fathers day. It was a fathers day present to me!

  35. aarondelcohen

    Deep. Sent to my wife and parents.

    1. fredwilson

      Mine too

  36. ShanaC

    A mazal tov.As they say where I am from, you did build, “a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael”A short Mazal Tov Vort. Because You at least give me hope there is an out of the more loosened shidduch process, if I choose that path, or if I choose against it.In Bereshit Rabbah, 68:4, Rabbi Jose ben Chalaftah is in a discussion with a Roman noblewoman, about the influence of God in human life. He says to her in a conversation after she tries to marry off all her servants, that after the six days of creation it “sits and creates matches: ‘So-and-so’s daughter to So-and-so;’ ‘So-and-so’s wife to So-and-so;’ ‘So-and-so’s wealth to So-and-so.'”What is interesting is the point you make is also made by other Jewish sources. God delights itself in hearing Torah (Bereishit Rabbah 1). Considering the dictum that “The Torah is not in heaven,” God taking pleasure in such labors is a bit odd, until one leafs to the conclusion that the inherent power of a match is similar to the power that God takes on at Yom Kippur. (Remember, Jews pray for the book of destiny to be sealed in thier favor on Yom Kippur for the year.) One has to work hard and deserve the match. One should be a delight in God’s eyes.God must like the both you. But not inherently from the start of the match. As you can can see from the original source, this seems to be a constantly renewing process in some Talmudic Literature. Otherwise, why compare it to creation, an act of labor, as well as use money, income, as one of the items associated with destiny? Both of those items are definitively acts that God can revisit, and ones in Jewish literature associated with the Yearly cycles on Yom Kippur, among other ritual yearly cycles, such as Shmittah(Sabbatical Year Cycle) and Yovel(Jubilee Cycle).In the end, the association would imply that marriage is something one has to work on, and be passionate about, in the same sorts of ways one would be about one’s labor. The associations with joyful events, and events which promote tolerance of others (the forgiveness of loans during the Shmittah year, for example), is too noticeable to be let go as a passing coincidence. If one is not emotionally engaged in the marriage, one should expect it to fail. And therefore, as one could see from your post- emotional engagement in both work and marriage is the determining factor in God’s influence in your affairs.If you believe in Jewish Talmudist’s conception of God, that is.(OK I am borrowing small parts of this from a Yeshiva in Israel. You just saw my Jewish quotient go through the roof.)

  37. ksrikrishna

    Fred, firstly thank you for introducing the personal and a sense of the humane in (the VC) business. As my 18th wedding anniversary nears, and more importantly as the father of two teen girls and son of a self-made & successful dad, now with Parkinson’s your article hit home. The lesson of tolerating shtick, and placing the other person’s needs on par, if not ahead of your own, is hard enough to imbibe, let alone consistently practice. Thank you.

    1. fredwilson

      I’m still working on it. Its a never ending issue.That’s a tough deal with the parkinsons. I hope they can treat it in our lifetime.

  38. Dan Sweet

    This post really resonated with me. I’m coming up on four years with my wonderful wife and I know she has my shtick on mute pretty often. Its a good thing too. We are completely different in terms of personality but the shared values makes it all work. Congrats on 22 Fred!I think the same dynamic is what makes some of the best big companies so successful as well. This post inspired me to write something up on P&G as I will start work there next week. The shared values dynamic plays a big role in their success as well. The post is here:

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out

  39. markslater

    congrats to you and your wife. you stand all too alone in this day and age unfortunately.

  40. kidmercury

    you’re making me feel very young with this post boss, you been living with the same person for almost as long as i’ve been alive. your most impressive achievement for sure. (although for all you AVC readers out there that are not happily married like fred but rather are unhappily married, pls consider dropping that like a bad habit…rule #1 of investing is to cut your losses). perhaps i simply have a conservative bias in this regard, although when i am doing psychological profiles when interviewing people (i.e. new hires), i tend to view people in long-term, stable, monogamous relationships as being better positioned from a psychological perspective to accomplishing the objectives of the you know boss i am a full blown kook, and so one of my interests is numerology. the number 22 is a master number. here’s a link:… basic idea is this may be a volatile year with some added challenges/disruptions relative to the past ten years — of course for this reason it is also a great time to launch a new vision, or redefine your shared vision (for instance in contemporary society folks graduate college at 22, that is a time of both new challenges and an opportunity for a new vision). this is part of why the criminals who rule the world stick master numbers in so many of their crimes, i.e. 9/11, 7/7 london bombings, 3/11 bombings in madrid, jfk was taken out on 11/22, recent russia/georgia conflict started on 8/8…they are trying to time it when the public psyche is most malleable, so that they can then use their propaganda apparatus to get the social change they want. you can sort of do the same thing through your marriage this year (pls refrain from false flag attacks:)). at least that is one interpretation, if you find that entertaining or useful in a way.anyway, congrats on your anniversary boss!

    1. ShanaC

      Kid- Two things:I totally agree with you about the age thing. I felt very young, yet very hopeful when reading this. Why else sit down and do research to write abouta conception of Jewish mathcmaking and its relationship to day, among the many people I should email, I will email you about Kabballah its relationship to general Jewish knowledge and Zionism. I think you would find it fascinating more so than average people.

      1. kidmercury

        you know, kabballah has been on my list of things to learn more about for some time. one hindrance to learning more about it is that i know there is a lot of bad info about it, as spiritual stuff always attracts charlatans, because it’s easy to just make stuff up and get people to believe you if you have a certain type of charisma. so i’m definitely looking forward to your email!

    2. fredwilson

      This 22nd year is going to bring some challenges with our oldest moving out of our home and there are other issues that will cause the gotham gal and I to stress and strain. But I’m sure we’ll get through it with a lot of workI also take comfort that we went through our 22nd year together a few years back!

  41. Joseph Turian

    Your post resonated with me on several levels, as my partner Tiana and I approach our fourth anniversary together. We are domestic partners as well as business partners. Despite being non-traditional in many ways, we both come from parents who are still married after thirty years, and we both believe in pair-bonding for life.How can Tiana and I use our strong personal relationship as co-founders to our advantage when courting investors? To what extent do you believe there is implicit prejudice against us?

    1. fredwilson

      There is a bias against investing in husband and wife teams. It adds another area of risk to the deal. I’ve done it before but not where the husband and wife were equal operating partners in the business. I would encourage you to make one of you the clear leader. Its tough to do that but its the only advice I can give

      1. Joseph Turian

        Your point is good. In most all of our projects, someone is the primary driver. We don’t find that very tough at all.Here’s my story that summarizes what I feel is an important component of a long-term relationship.This doesn’t reflect how Tiana and I divide up our project, but is just a funny anecdote:Tiana and I were in Buttercup on West 72nd, eating our weekly—okay, daily—cupcake.As always, we simply alternated taking bites of a single cupcake, with the understanding that certain days one of us will desire the cupcake more. On those days that we BOTH really want the cupcake, we just share it without scrutiny (and perhaps order a second one).In the corner, we noticed a couple who also had a single cupcake. They had it on a plate, which I thought was strange; I usually can’t wait to get my single cupcake out of the wrapper, let alone have the time to put it on a plate. Very methodically, the man cut the cupcake in half, and then pushed the far side closer to his girlfriend. She began to complain: “But you got the bigger side!”Tiana and I still laugh at these two poor people, who we call The Cupcake Couple. When you are The Cupcake Couple, no one ever wins. “shtick tolerance” is part of a larger goal, namely mutual generosity.

  42. Emre Sokullu

    Thanks for sharing this. I applaud.

  43. brisbourne

    Another great post Fred, one of your best IMHO. You have a talent for bringing crystal clarity to the essence of complicated concepts.

  44. LoriJane Moscatello Burns

    good stuff thanks for putting it out there…

  45. Satish Mummareddy

    Just realized something funny after reading everyone’s comments. my wife and i have been good friends for 7 years, dated for 3 years and have been married for a year. And i was thinking of all the shtick of each other that we enjoy some days and are irritated at other times. And one of my shtick that she puts up with almost everyday morning after i read is “Priya, Fred Wilson says ……………………………….today” , “Priya, Fred has something interesting, come read it now. Im waiting for you to come. ๐Ÿ™‚ ………………….”.And yesterday morning, i was read the title of this post in bed and said “Priya, lets read this together” :)She smiles some days, she pretends to listen some days, she listens some days, she says I’m busy some days. But she still says if you are in NY, you should try to meet Fred. So, I guess she might stay married to me for another 21 years.:P

    1. fredwilson

      When are you in NYC next? You wife is a smart woman!

      1. Satish

        I’m planning on being in the NY/NJ area Thu night through sun to hang out with my in-laws. let me know if you are free.

        1. fredwilson

          Weekends are hard for me because I go out east in the summerMaybe friday? Send me an email pls

  46. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    What a great post on the importance of relationships! It’s wonderful to see this coming from a VC and your acknowledgement of what it takes to make things work in life and business. It’s so true about shared vision/values…how hard it can be to realize when half way through it’s apparent you don’t communicate on the save wave length or share the same vision/values when it comes to family, kids, finances, careers…probably why so many people end up divorced.I know I certainly have a shtick and the shtick changes over time depending where you are in the child rearing and career process… :-)Happy Father’s Day!

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks aruni for your frequent visits and comments. I hope this post brings more female voices like yours to this community

  47. kdst

    I been reading your blog for 6 months now and have taken a passive role.. as I have been doing the same with the 25 other VC blogs. I have been scrolling through to get a feel for the different personalities. This blog is the most unique one I have read and perhaps it is time to connect and chat about our biz venture as perhaps you have will have an open mind with it. I have put in the seed $$$ for it … and bet my house on the idea.. literally.. and am not loving having to get a VC partner who would be a stranger.. so have been scouting the right ones for almost a year… and this blog told me alot about your values. My email is [email protected], we have chatted once in the earlier days… but very briefly and I did not explain the biz. By the way I am Cdn:)

  48. Jon Michael Miles

    I prefer “Joyful Acceptance” to tolerance. It’s harder, and sometimes tolerance is all I can achieve on an given day – but I try to joyfully accept and embrace all of my wife – imperfections, flaws, along with good – as part her entirety.Nice post Fred.Date night is something they should teach in high school as part of a basic relationship class.

  49. Mark Essel

    Thanks for the share Fred, me and lovely fiance Michelle enjoyed Milton Pappas’ advice (we do date night once every two weeks, we’ll have to fix that). We talk about what drives us nutz during our day, and do our best to plan out longer term dreams (travel! travel! and travel!) <- that was for Michelle. Have a great weekend.

  50. Yule Heibel

    Congratulations on the anniversary, Fred and Joanne! My husband and I have been together (living together and then married) for even longer (by 5 years) than you, so here’s to sticking it out, and to tolerating the other person’s shtick.Some thoughts on like vs love… I agree with what some of the others wrote about the importance of *liking* one’s partner. I think this is really key, irrespective of how much you love them when you start out. There’s nothing you won’t risk for love (it’s risky business, by definition), but once a decade clicks over or you introduce children into your marriage, you better like your partner a lot, too. Actually, I think raising kids is a bit like risk management, so *liking* your partner kind of helps you keep it all together.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. We were best friends for a few years before getting ‘involved’Excellent advice for love and business

  51. Dan Weinreb

    My advice about the secret to a happy marriage: You’re going to have arguments; there’s no way to avoid that. The important thing is to learn how to resolve them. “Making up” is necessary but not sufficient; you have to get to the bottom of the issue. What did you disagree about? What’s a reasonable and fair solution? Why did it turn into a fight instead of a discussion? How can you work together in the future to minimize fights? Of course you have to do this after you have both cooled off, but it’s great if you can do it that very day, and never go to sleep with an unresolved argument hanging over your heads. In 23 years we have managed to do that, with only one or two times that we waited a day to resolve the problem. It’s work, but an investment very well worth making.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes indeed. The gotham gal is way into this rule to our marriage’s benefit

    2. Joseph Turian

      Getting to the bottom of the issue can be difficult.A lot of the time, the bottom of an issue is that one or both of you is just playing out a pattern that you have observed in your life, perhaps in the ways your parents interacted, or perhaps how you and an earlier girlfriend/boyfriend interacted.This cause can be difficult to identify because nothing logical is actually beneath the pattern. The pattern *is* the basis of the issue. If the pattern is an emotion (fury, sadness, etc.) it is easy to fall into the trap of arguing that the emotion is a rich and natural form of self-expression, rather than an empty repetition.So it is important to be mindful of the patterns that you and your partner fall into, and both try to hypothesize about where this pattern came from.

  52. jer979

    Well, mazal tov on the accomplishment! Beyond the advice, which is great, I think you once again show the value of blogging as a personal platform. When you share of yourself, you build connections.My parents say that the secret to marriage is “being able to hear the same stories over and over again and not go crazy.”Many more years….

    1. fredwilson

      Its my son’s stories I hear over and over again!

  53. Mrinal Desai

    Unfortunately, businesses and long-term relationships are driven by different ‘metrics’ (if one at all for the latter) in terms of measuring success.A genuine long-term relationship is independent of monetary ones and a business is all about those. What one puts first decides that nature of the relationship. I believe this is inherently why people dont trust a business or people in business.There needs more businesses who value customer/employee success/happiness/delight first to enable ‘collateral success’ – the incidental profitability of their business because of their passion and values.To exemplify the above, a teacher comes in to class and goes through the following set of questions:She starts with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, some small stones, some sand and water.Once the big rocks were in the bucket – she asked “Is it full?”All the students went “Yes”Then she put the small stones in around the big rocks and asked again if it was full.On hearing the expected “Yes” – she put the sand in and give it a shake to ask again – is it full?Moving on after another “Yes”, she poured the water into the bucket.Now – imagine starting with water (in a relationship)

  54. joshpeck

    A fine sentiment said well.

  55. Mike Su

    Great post – and also will be the first of your posts that I’ve ever forwarded to my wife ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      I’ve heard that a bunch on this one. Makes me feel great

  56. robinklein

    Love this post, Fred.I’ve been married 40 years! Actively backing 40 entrpepreneurs – with my son, Saul – and my wife’s constant and persistent support and encouragement.You are a great partner, too.

    1. fredwilson

      You’ve got a great life and a great family robin. I want to grow up and be like you!

  57. Nicolas Sauvage

    This is your best blog post ever, which says a lot. A lot to learn from you.

    1. fredwilson


  58. Chris Dodge

    Late comment, but I’d be curious to ask about how you build and maintain the other side of your business, namely your Limited Partners. Do similar criteria apply when you decide to accept investments – particularly regarding the values and dreams components that are important to you? Are there differences whether the LPs are Institutional or private investors?Thanks and happy belated Father’s Day.

    1. fredwilson

      We did not have the luxury of picking our investors when we raised USV 2004. We did end up with a terrific group of supportive and smart LPs. We got lucky

  59. dmreinke

    Love it, Fred. Been married for 13 years and plan on growing very old together. Whenever Michele and I make some implicit complaint about the other’s schtick getting old, our refrain back to the other is always, “Ya, but you married me!”

  60. Franchise Whale

    Full entrepreneurial disclosure before marriage can save years of heartache. Fred sums it up nicely here.

  61. Don Wenzer


  62. Don Wenzer

    Great insights on marriage and the idea of “shtick tolerance” of your spouse (even though the post is ultimately about long term relationships in the context of Venture Capital investing)

  63. anunigam

    Hi Fred,Great post and it is something I believe you have to do in marriage, but I wonder if that is what VCs always do in investing. I’ve heard stories that a certain very large search engine company had a tough time getting funding because VCs thought they were hard to work with, yet many now regret not investing in it. What are your thoughts to looking at the financial benefits for your LPs vs the relationship you have with the entrepreneurs? I think many a VC would put up with more if there is a bigger return on investment, right? Like marrying a prettier girl with many hangups for some other reward…Anu

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll take the entrepreneur that requires a lot of shtick tolerance over a pushover any day

  64. paramendra

    Thoughtful.PS. How do you explain Larry Ellison’s several marriages?