Back when I was a teenager, I dreamed of creating an exciting business with my future husband and visualised growing it together on a daily basis. I wanted a partnership where my spouse and I could pool all our talents and skills together to build something we can be proud of.
My dream came true in that hubby and I have worked together for 8 years in our own co-created businesses.
What I’ve discovered is that it’s not always easy working with your spouse and it can be unbearable when a couple experiences tough times in business or in their personal lives.
We experienced this in our first business, which we had to sell in 2010 due to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), losing 6 years of hard work. However, we recovered from the GFC, got back on our feet and started our second company on a firmer foundation.
Lessons learned from our first company are now implemented into our current second enterprise, specifically on successfully working side-by-side and maintaining a happy marriage at the same time.
So, here are our 7 ways to work successfully with your spouse and still like each other at the end of the day:
1. Respect Each Other’s Boundaries
The one crucial element needed to make a couple who work together be successful is: RESPECT!
- Respect for each other’s role in the business.
- Respect for each other’s opinions and decisions in the workplace.
- Respect for each other’s knowledge base, skills and talents.
- Respect for your spouse’s need to catch up on work over the weekend.
Without this one single element of respect, a couple in a relationship working together may eventually resent one another, which will most likely end in a failure to co-operate.
2. Agree to Stick Together Through the Hard Times
If you and your spouse are starting a business or are already working together, you have to make a solid agreement that you will stick together through the hard times.
In business, you are guaranteed to go through highs and lows; funds rolling in and bank accounts drying up.
It is just the nature of the beast!
If you cannot handle that there will be challenging times or that your business idea may fail altogether, you have to rethink being in business as a couple.
Celebrate the times you experience successes at work but don’t abandon each other when you go through failures.
3. Have a Strict Rule Between Business and Pleasure
Hubby and I are very strict with how we handle business and pleasure.
When we are in the office, we talk and treat each other like we are purely business partners or colleagues. We will make an appointment if we want to have a meeting to talk business.
Back at home, our business suits are put away and we switch back to being a romantic loving couple. We never ever mix business and pleasure.
4. United Publicly then Speak Privately Afterwards
How you handle disagreements at home should be very different to how you handle them at work.
You have all the freedom to express your opinions or disagreements in the comfort of your home, preferably away from your children if you have any.
However at work, if you disagree with your spouse, it is always best to express your opinions in a professional manner; especially in the presence of employees, colleagues or business associates.
If you feel upset about a professional decision your spouse made or an action they took, we found the ideal way is to speak to each other in private and never disagree in anger through raised voices or yelling. It’s imperative to remain professional at all times, even with your spouse.
5. Have a Phase off Transition Between Work and Home
After finishing work, my husband and I will have a quick meeting about the day and to plan our schedules for tomorrow. Sometimes, we will continue our business conversation in the car.
We call this our ‘phasing off transition’ – where we phase off the work day and then come home to be a family. This transition allows us to close off any unfinished work-related topics before home time.
6. Strictly No Work-Related Talk Before and After Close of Business Day
The minute we arrive home from work, there is absolutely no talk about business or anything related to work. We completely switch off to become husband and wife, and to focus on our family.
We extend this to the morning where we strictly do not discuss work-related topics after we wake up or over breakfast or in the car on the way to the office.
Business talk resumes when we step back into the workplace and closes when our work day finishes.
After a while, this routine becomes a habit and your mind subconsciously switches on and off before and after work.
7. Maintain Different Identities at Work Where Possible
Where possible, try and have different identities at work so that you can maintain your own professional individuality.
For example, I have taken on my husband’s surname as my own, hyphenated with my maiden name. However, in a professional setting I use my maiden surname so that we can be known as business partners first, and then husband and wife second.
We feel that having our own identity gives us that sense of distinctiveness from each other.
It is not an easy road to work together as a couple yet still maintain a romantic relationship. However, it is possible and also enjoyable.
Being strict with separating your home life from work on a daily basis is key to keeping both parts of your relationship a happy one. Try not to talk about work before the start of your business day and after the end of it.
It’s so important to understand that there will be plenty of hard times in business, but you have to agree that you will stick together through successes and failures; through thick and thin.
And the most important rule of all, is to respect one another at work and at home. Having this crucial element in place will see your working relationship reach new heights and ultimately, achieving your career goals as a couple.
“We are not a team because we work together. We are a team because we respect, trust and care for each other,” Vala Afshar, Entrepreneur.
NOTE: Although I share of ways to work well with your spouse, these tips also apply to any other personal relationship as well.