Working Relationships with Spouses Can Be a Challenge




For a long time, couples heeded the call to keep their business and personal space separate. It was one thing to go to bed without a little somethin-somethin because you failed to put the dishes that were in the sink into the dishwasher, but now the likelihood of seeing any action for at least a week because the call you forgot to make has cost the two of you thousands of dollars — well, now your business has gotten personal.

More and more couples are venturing back into the space of working together, either in part-time home-based ventures or full-time scenarios or by agreeing to “take on” responsibility for aspects of each other’s businesses as a way to save the expense of hiring someone else to do the job. All of these scenarios are challenging and can prove to be highly rewarding on a lot of levels. Some prove to be relationship killers when not handled wisely.

When the economy hit the skids, my private practice grew by more than 20 percent. Money tends to bring out the very best and most challenging in all of us. Blend that together with your personal life and you can see, or maybe have even experienced, how quickly your connection with your significant other can suddenly lose significance. Not surprisingly, many couples who lost their jobs or who were forced to downsize started working together as a way to make ends meet or to provide an additional revenue stream. Now their relationships were not only maximizing the chances to earn extra dollars but also increasing the level of anxiety in their private lives.

Knowing what is at risk, I am providing five rules that I want you to consider if you opt to choose this path or if you are already there and are now considering the best way to collect on your significant other’s life insurance policy without going to jail.

Living together and working together: 5 rules

  1. Set crystal-clear boundaries. Most couples enter into ventures without boundaries. They do this in their personal lives; it’s not a surprise to see it happen in business as well. You really need to set up clear boundaries of what you will and won’t do and what you are expecting from your partner. We need to get out of the assume business and put it all down on paper so there won’t be any surprises.
  2. Know your roles. You make the calls and I close the deals. You handle the day-to-day, and I do big-picture planning. I’ll balance the books while you prospect. Be honest with yourself and your partner about what each of you does best, and then go ahead and do it. Knowing your roles keeps each of you from venturing into territory that won’t serve the higher good and will only end up pissing each other off.
  3. Decide on your money plan from day one. First money in up to X amount goes back into the company. Are you each drawing a salary or an agreed-on commission? Do you each get to take money out whenever you need it and deposit into your respective private accounts, or does it all go into a joint account? There are a number of these types of questions that require your attention to prevent your own personal WW III from occurring.
  4. Set up specific times to meet to discuss issues as they come up, rather than putting them off and either fanning the flames of discontent or simply adding the issues to the pool of resentment to explode at a later date. Consider this step in your personal life as well. Communication executed without the need for violence can usually enrich any relationship.
  5. Leave your work at work, even when you work from home. I left this one for last because it’s often easier said than done. This is the tricky one — the one that will demand a great deal of commitment on both of your parts. It is ridiculously easy to fall off this wagon. You’re both watching American Idol, and he turns and says, “Did you ever get back to …” In an instant you are both back in your day! Decide when you want to shut down the computer and turn off the crackberries. You must, must, must create space for your relationship to flourish. There are no hard-and-fast rules for what this has to look like as long as you carve out the space for the two of you. And if you need some solo time in order for you to reconnect with your partner, then make sure you take that too.

None of this is impossible to navigate. And just as you may consider a Coach or Therapist to support you in your personal relationship, consider hiring a business coach to hold the two of you accountable and keep you on track. Don’t hire one and expect him or her to handle both functions. Many times people say they can’t afford the expense. I say, Can your relationship or business afford not to?