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Working with your spouse…. protecting your marriage

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Living and working together can often have a very positive impact on a marriage. Building something together can be a great adventure for your relationship and can be a very rewarding experience. But like any adventure, it always has the opportunity to turn sour if not planned and executed well. It is therefore important for any couple working together to understand that working and living together will bring its challenges and to address these proactively. Your marriage should always come first, and the impact of your working arrangement should be regularly monitored to ensure that your marriage does not suffer because of it.

Couples who work together often find it very difficult to “switch off” from work. It is therefore important for a couple to regularly and intentionally connect with each other on other levels as well. A practical way to do this is to create a “no work” zone or timeslot in your diaries in which you don’t talk about work. This will force you to explore other areas of commonality and will enrich the way you relate to each other outside of work.

Furthermore, it is often difficult for partners to relate to each other as a boss or employee. This is especially difficult if roles and expectations are not clearly defined. The key here is communication, respect and empathy. If both parties are able to talk about their expectations, experiences and feelings, couples will find it easier to maintain respect for each other. It is also important to assign separate roles (and stick to those roles) to limit conflict opportunities at work.

Because we often marry our opposites, working together could be a really good thing from a business perspective. I often see couples where one partner is very logical, analytical and driven and the other partner is creative, spontaneous and relaxed. From a business perspective this could be a wonderfully complementary combination. Again, the key here is for each partner to respect and value the unique contributions of their partner at home and in the business.

Working together with your spouse could hold in various benefits ranging from more flexible work schedules to a deepened connection, but unfortunately it sometimes could also lead to increased tension, conflict, criticism and resentment. Here are some more practical tips to consider to ensure that your journey together as working partners is an uplifting one:

  • Create a “work zone”. When you enter this zone, you know you need to put your “work hat” on. If possible, try not to have your office at home, as this makes it extremely difficult to clearly draw the line between work and family matters.
  • Have a conflict resolution strategy for conflicts at work and for conflicts at home. These would probably look different, so ensure that you are proactive about the optimal way to deal with conflict in either setting.
  • Focus on each other’s strengths and build your business around these.
  • Set clear financial boundaries. Money often becomes the source of conflict when partners work together, so discuss these boundaries up front.
  • Regularly schedule time together away from work. Find other things to talk about and investigate other adventures that you could explore together.
  • Put the relationship first. Research has shown that people who experience deep connection with others tend to report feelings of happiness more often. So if you want to be happy, cherish the relationships in your life.
  • Where possible, try to maintain separate work spaces.
  • Include more impartial skills as part of your work team. Hire consultants, or non-family employees who are able to provide a more neutral input.
  • Grow together professionally. Sharing a growth experience can lead to a feeling of deep connection. So, start a training course together or set goals for areas in which you would like to grow and encourage each other in those areas.
  • Most importantly, keep the communication open and regular. Create the safety to express your feelings, experiences and needs towards each other. And always maintain respect and empathy towards each other professionally and personally.

 

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