Till death (or work) do us part
Working with your spouse brings its own unique challenges. This article will help your relationship survive the entrepreneur journey.
So you and your spouse have flown the corporate coup and have become soloists (or perhaps duoists?). Good for you! Each and every day you get to work next to your one-and-only on building your empire. Living the dream!
Well, at least for the first couple of weeks. Then the fights begin …
Who forgot to pay the invoice? Whose fault is it that we lost that client? Why isn’t dinner cooked?
When the pressures of work, life and relationships combine, things can get heated quickly. A work argument can quickly escalate and have a lasting impact on your personal life. Similarly, personal issues between you and your spouse can have huge effect on the business decisions you make.
"When the pressures of work and life combine, things can get heated quickly."
So how do you make working with your spouse work?
Here are five things my partner and I have done to create a more harmonious environment for both work and personal life.
1. Set responsibilities
“I didn’t know that was my job! It’s not my fault.”
This one is hugely important. Whose job is it to deal with incoming customer questions? Who packs the orders? Who keeps the accounts up-to-date? Who makes the final decision on the website design?
Spend ten minutes writing down every task you can think of in your business. Then talk with your spouse and decide who is responsible for each item. You can always swap tasks around if things aren’t working. And if both people aren’t particularly enthused about a task, try sharing it.
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Having clear responsibilities makes everyone happier and helps avoid unnecessary arguments.
2. Set expectations
“Hang on a second (sweetheart), I didn’t approve that toilet break!”
One of the key benefits to working on your own business is you get to set the working hours. But guess what? In this business there are two rule makers. This means you and your spouse need to discuss and come to an agreement on expectations. This may include things like working hours and work output.
3. Set ‘no-work’ times
“If I have to tell you to get your laptop out of the bedroom one more time…”
You wouldn’t run a very successful business if you were always chatting to friends on social media. In the same way, you can’t maintain a healthy relationship if you’re always bringing work into it.
You and your spouse need downtime. Time to remember that you’re not just colleagues. You need to get away from work. It shouldn’t be the sole focus of every conversation. Try setting some rules like no talking about work while eating dinner. You could also try to go for a daily walk with your spouse where you don’t mention work.
You both also need dedicated time away from your business – that thing called a ‘holiday’. If you can get away for two weeks, fantastic. If the business is still new and it’s impossible for you to be away for more than a few days, fine, take the weekend off. Go to the beach, go fishing or even hang around the home and do absolutely nothing for two days. Just as long as it’s a 100% no work zone.
“That’s the worst idea I’ve heard all week! How much am I paying you?”
All the best aspects of workplace (and indeed normal) societal interactions should apply to you and your spouse. Be respectful, be honest, listen, and appreciate. All the stuff we were taught as kids. You and your spouse will interact differently to how you and the rest of the world interact. Your relationship is unique. This does not, however give you permission to be uniquely disrespectful.
Try treating your spouse as if he/she were a (non-related) boss, co-worker or manager in a normal business for a day and see if that impacts you both in some way. You might find you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ more and are less hasty to criticise without justification.
5. Time apart
“Oh look, it’s you again…”
Sometimes you just know. You’ve had enough. You need to interact with other people. Don’t feel guilty or bad about this. We’re programmed to interact with a community of people every day, not just one person.
Spend a day working from a cafe or friend’s place. Perhaps look for (or create) a co-working space in your area. Who knows, you may just find that you can’t wait to get home; absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?
What is one thing you’ve learned that you consider essential for maintaining your relationship while working with your spouse?