Life is full of breakups and few of them allow you to escape without pain or injury. We’ve all been through them. Some leave you feeling angry. Some leave you feeling sad. Some leave you feeling betrayed. Some leave you feeling relieved. Some leave you feeling like a fool. And those special breakups – the ones that have inspired art. Well, they leave you feeling it all. Raw. Like every ounce of your being is ultra-sensitive to everything it encounters. You can’t control the waves of emotions and you have no idea when a particular one will strike. It’s hard to be prepared.
I’ve found, as I’ve aged, that business relationships are much like personal ones. Especially for the self-employed. We meet someone we like, we start to think about them, we decide to get to know them a bit better. After a similar (if much less interesting) “dating” ritual we assess what we know. Do we click? Do I like who they are? Do I want to lasso my horse to theirs? If the courtship goes well, we allow ourselves to tie so much of who we are and what we do into this relationship. We give our trust and allocate our time into enhancing this relationship and making it a big part of our lives.
And then when the relationship goes bad, it can be disastrous. This recently happened to me. I met someone. I liked this person. We shared similar passions and dreams. We laughed together and planned for the future. He earned my respect and my trust and I felt I had earned his. We spent a great amount of time together. I was happy and excited about the future. He made my world a better place. And he valued me. Said he couldn’t make things work without me. Made big promises. Said I was the one. And like a school girl of 16, I believed him. I never stopped to consider that he could be a fraud. That the basis on which all of our dreams was built was a lie.
There were early warning signs. I saw them. But I chose to ignore them. We were opening a market. A beautiful small farm-to-table market in Bedford. He hired me to take his infant of an idea and grow it into adulthood. We were parents together. In the beginning, I realized that his idea of “free range parenting” (putting a bad sign on the door and some mediocre produce inside and expecting people to come) and my idea of extreme attention to detail, branding, marketing, product selection, etc. were a bit at odds but he seemed to reluctantly agree to my style of parenting. I didn’t understand in the beginning that his free-range parenting concept was born from a complete lack of funds to start a business. Now it seems so clear. But then he had gone out of his way to make me think he was financially secure – that the business was fully vested – that things were going to be good.
But then (as happens in so many relationships) he began to pull away. He seemed distant, distracted. He blamed it on personal issues, said I was imagining things. So I continued to move forward. Planning excitedly for the opening of our dream. I never made a single step without his approval I never had a meeting of which I did not make him fully aware. I respected his role in the process. I respected him.
Then it all began to unravel. One day the landlords stopped by the store. He hadn’t paid rent since February. When I approached him about this, he was dismissive. Telling me that the landlords just needed to learn to be patient. This troubled me. No, they didn’t need to learn to be patient. They owned the building. Then a less-than-$500 payment for product wouldn’t go though. Then he drug his feet when I would mention that we owed the web designer. Then my check wasn’t paid on time (and it was supposed to come from a payroll company). And when he finally did write it. It bounced… causing all sorts of devastation with my bank account. Devastation that we’re still dealing with now. I heard excuses, saw tears, even heard an apology. I agreed to give him time to solve his issues. But every day that I had been promised my check, became another day of excuses. I then had to fire the people I’d hired to work int he store. I had to deal with vendors who didn’t know what was happening. I had to take the heat for his incompetence.
And then the dam broke. Last Saturday after I sent a text asking for status on the now two-week-late check he called. Screaming, threatening, berating me. Not letting me speak. Accusing me of harassing him. Saying I was about to “see the man [he] really [was]” Saying he didn’t have to pay me because he had never turned in my paperwork. Calling me names that I won’t allow on my blog. Telling me that I needed to learn some patience. I had seen Jekyll and now I was dealing with Hyde. I promised him that he would not hear from me again. But that this past Monday at 5:00 was his absolute deadline. Of course it’s now Thursday. I’ve still not be paid for 4 weeks of work. And he is the kind of man who doesn’t find trouble with this. Now I have to get an attorney.
It’s really a shame. This was the perfect relationship for me. I was happy, excited, passionate. I worked as hard as I possibly could. I gave his dream my all and was left shattered. I’m now trying to pick up the pieces. Trying to move forward. I made friends and learned quite a bit in the process. I hope to use that to find a path to my own dream. I want to continue to grow and I have my own ideas about markets and such. Yes, I’m angry, sad, betrayed, relieved and I definitely feel like a fool. But I’m also determined and optimistic. I live for the moments when those emotions win out over the others. I’m thankful for the friends and acquaintances who are supporting me. I know it won’t be a disaster forever.
Thank you to those of you reading this who have stood by me. Thank you to my sweet amazing vendors who have been understanding. Thank you to those who have offered comfort or who have been angry with me and for me. And as one can often say after a particularly bad break-up… At least I got out early. At least I didn’t “marry” him and find out too late.