Finding Strength through Spousal Forum
For the past 13 years, I have been involved in EO through my husband, Derek, and his businesses. In this time, I have heard varying opinions about Spousal Forum. As the founder of the Harp Family Institute (HFI), a research-based consulting firm, I have spent a decade interviewing and surveying entrepreneurial couples. I have also participated in three Spousal Forums in three states. This exposure and my research has afforded me unique insight into the benefits that Spousal Forum can offer a marriage.
The Greatness of Gestalt
The most important tool I gained from Spousal Forum is Gestalt Language Protocol. Once I learned the behavior, I used it during conversations with my husband, and the results were amazing! Gestalt, paired with other critical communication tools I had learned, brought my relationship with Derek to a deeper level. During business discussions, I began to ask ahead of time whether he wanted my feedback or simply wanted a chance to express his thoughts. That was a huge breakthrough for us and has shaped the way we communicate on a daily basis. I have also learned from other spouses that when they use Gestalt with their entrepreneurs, the conversation is less likely to end in defensiveness.
Confidentiality is Essential
The “secrecy” of what transpires during Forum is the primary concern I hear from spouses who feel negatively about Forum. Many resent the need for secrecy. Some fear what their spouses are going to say about them if they join a Spousal Forum. From my experience, there is no need to fear. Neither Forum nor Spousal Forum is about criticizing our mates. Although the majority of topics are not about the marital relationship, each topic is highly personal and important to the individual sharing. That said, when we do share about our relationships, we realized our challenges were less personal and quite universal. We are all on the entrepreneurship roller-coaster.
Forum is Not about Making New Friends
During my workshops, I often bring up my diverse Spousal Forum experiences. One response I hear regularly is, “I don’t need any more friends.” While this may be true, Forum isn’t about making friends. Although it is important to like and respect your Forum mates, they don’t have to be your best friends in order to offer qualified insight. In fact, Forum brings together individuals whom you might not typically associate in a social fashion. I found myself genuinely surprised by the variety of experiences my Forum mates shared. They were eye-opening and really made a difference in my life.
Chapter Events Bring Clarity
Like all social gatherings, chapter events can be greatly enhanced when you attend with a group of people you know. Before I joined Spousal Forum, I wasn’t as interested in attending them. Now, I love having a chance to socialize with my peers. Even if I can’t attend, I don’t resent my husband’s time away, now that I have context. The business and his energy (which is contagious) directly benefit from these events. Data from HFI shows that entrepreneurial couples would love to increase their ability to travel. EO regional and Global events are a perfect way to satisfy that desire!
The Power of Forum Retreats
Resentment about EO can build when the only thing the spouse perceives is how much time it takes away from the family and business. Attending your own Forum retreats can reduce those feelings of frustration. I loved getting away from home without feeling guilty about leaving my husband and kids. Having an intimate knowledge of EO structure and practice not only increased my comfort and acceptance of EO, it helped me embrace the power EO can afford an individual and a couple.
Trisha Harp, M.S., C.P.C. (pictured) is a coach, speaker and EO spouse who owns and operates the Harp Family Institute, a consulting firm that focuses on researching entrepreneurs and spouses. Contact Trisha at