How to Make Working with Your Spouse … Well … Work

Just the thought of working with a spouse can make some peoples skin crawl. Sure there are couples out there that make it work, but there are probably just as many if not more that failed, along with the marriage, that we never hear about. Starting a business is tough enough without having to worry about friction generated within the marriage as a result of this endeavor.

There are things couples can do to put the odds in their favor, though. And preparation in the long run could make all the difference in the world. Forethought that could not only help out in the long term success of the business, but also in the marriage. 

Spouses who work together successfully often learn valuable lessons over time. The sooner they get some insight into what works (and what doesn’t), though, the better it’s going to be over the long haul. (Those tips can also benefit the marriage while helping their new entrepreneurial ventures become more successful.)

Create Boundaries in the Workplace

Sure, you have just one relationship, but when you start working with the person to whom you’re married, you suddenly bring into that relationship an entirely new set of rules and expectations. Some people work great with others and two partners may go toe-to-toe more often than there’s peace.

That might work well for some, but it’s going to create an undercurrent of frustration, animosity, and certainly a chasm in their personal relationship. That’s why it’s essential the couple establishes some boundaries at the workplace.

These boundaries should first and foremost lay the foundation for RESPECT. In other words, just because it’s a business related discussion and passions are high doesn’t mean they can treat each other like pariahs or servants. It doesn’t matter who takes the leading role in the company; there needs to be respect at all times.

The moment one partner crosses a well-established boundary line and disrespects the other is the moment a heart-to-heart discussion should be shared. Getting caught up in the heat of the moment and stress of everyday business is going to happen, but having established boundaries is vital to long-term success in the workplace and home life.

Create Balance in the Relationship

Once the work day is over, it’s time to hang up the business mind and shop talk. Go home. Avoid discussing even the most pressing business issues while out on a date or at the dinner table. Instead, focus on each other and your personal needs as a married couple.

Those who have a tendency to bring their work home with them, especially while sharing office space with their spouse, are asking for trouble. That’s because there’s suddenly no separation between the two. Work life is often rife with tension and stress and when that follows the two home, the only thing that happens is they now have no escape.

Before long, the arguments will become more intense, the silence longer, and distance grows. The marriage needs its own space, its own safety and comfort zones, and that’s where balance becomes crucial.

Share a Common Goal

Let’s make one thing absolutely clear: not all goals will be achievable at first and not all goals will be equal. The wife may have a clear goal for their business venture and the husband something completely different. No one necessarily needs to give up their goals but rather they should seek common ground.

For example, if the husband envisions growing this business to a certain size and then selling (in about five years) so they can retire and travel but the wife is seeking something more long-term to feel rewarded and fulfilled throughout her life, something needs to ‘give.’

A common goal could then be to grow the company to a certain size and then address things in five, 10, and again in 15 years to determine if their respective goals have now merged closer together. It’s easy to assume you know what you’ll want all those years from now, but so often attitudes change, belief systems alter, and goals shift.

Talk about short and long-term goals together and determine common ground. Even if it feels as though you’re both worlds apart, there will be common ground somewhere. If not, then this joint business venture just might be for you both.

Communicate Well and Often

Nothing is more important to any relationship than communication. While respect is one of the fundamental keys to good communication, it all starts with understanding each other’s communication skills and preferences.

Some people communication better with their words, in person. Others rely on hand gestures and body language. Some interpret inflection and tone of voice more than focusing on the actual comments or statements.

By the time two people have fallen in love and realize they want to spend the rest of their lives together, they’ve developed some decent communication skills between them, but it’s never perfect. Introduce the stress of entrepreneurial adventures and suddenly the subtle things that could be overlooked easily become a nuisance, then an annoyance, and then a frustration.

It may be practical for some couples to create cues for one spouse to tell the other, ‘Hey, hold on. I’m getting frustrated by the way you’re talking to me right now. Let’s step back a moment.

Some might call these ‘safe words.’ They can work in the bedroom as well as the boardroom and they’re intended to keep anyone from getting hurt.

Finally, Remember … Marriage Comes FIRST

There is absolutely no excuse to ignore this simple fact. Sure, you could end up making millions with this business venture together, but if the pressure of that success and stress of keeping it moving forward tears you both apart, then what was the point? At the end of your journey in this life, what’s going to be more valuable to you (while lying in a bed hooked up to machines and struggling with each breath)? Your money? Or the relationships you built through the years?

There’s a reason you two got married. Building a family together offers enough struggles to overcome. When you introduce the pressure of building a business together, it will add more stress (it’s not a question of if, but when).

You may both be driven to succeed, but your marriage will be the most rewarding success you’ll ever achieve. Keep focused on that simple fact as you move forward.


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