As if working with others wasn’t hard enough, working with your spouse sometimes proves to be harder. You live together, work together, and do almost everything else together – it’s the perfect recipe for a heated argument. Is there a way to live and work together without letting your relationship, and your careers, come crashing down?
Before you start building expectations of your partner, yourself, and your relationship, it’s important to focus on what you know about each other first. Sometimes, men expect to perform the more technical tasks, but what if the wife is better at fixing or installing new hardware? Conversely, some women might assume that they’ll take on more nurturing roles, but what if it’s the husband who’s good at helping irate clients to calm down?
What will make things work is not how you fit yourself into certain cookie-cutter roles or preconceived notions of what you should do, but how you both create roles that you actually can do. These roles will accommodate your respective skills and interests, rather than forcing you to take on tasks that you’re not comfortable with.
Business and money.
Although competition can be healthy, it might prove to be destructive to compete with your partner. It might be especially tough if you’re working in the same field or niche, yet you keep separate businesses. After all, how do you reconcile that you’re a team at the end of the day if you spend your work hours competing with each other? What usually helps is to each have side projects which are completely different, or to work together occassionally. This way, you’re not directly competing all the time.
If you work under the same business name, it’s important that you manage separate aspects of the business. For example, my partner does the accounting, as well as research on possible ventures we might be interested in. I, on the other hand, handle client communications and most of the marketing. This kind of job distribution allows us to work in the same business without interfering in each other’s work.
Money is said to be the number one reason why couples argue. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t risk talking about money. In fact, honesty and openness is especially important for couples who own a business together. Establishing some money rules to begin with will allow you to discuss your business finances more objectively.
Discussing boundaries should be done as early as possible, especially if you’ll be working as a team for some projects. Without discussing boundaries, it’s much easier to get into a fight. What you intended as a kind suggestion could easily be perceived by your partner as scrutiny or micro-managing.
The first step in defining your boundaries is to each have a dedicated workspace. This ensures that you both get privacy, as well as the freedom to do what you want with your work hours. Having separate spaces will allow you both to work without having to deal with your different working habits.
In a previous article here at WWD, Pamela Poole talked about respect for ‘The Bubble’ – that mental zone you’re in when you’re completely immersed in your work. My partner and I know from experience that it can be annoying when we’re interrupted while we’re in ‘the bubble’. To prevent this from happening, it helps to actively look for visual cues to see if your partner is open to interruptions or not. A shut door might be a good enough sign, or it could be something more subtle like the focused look on your partner’s face, or their typing speed.
Making the relationship and the business grow.
It’s also important to make the time and effort for your relationship without all the business. If you’re mostly discussing invoices and cold calls, the business might be growing but your relationship risks being stagnant. You should be a couple first, and business partners second. Acknowledging this will give both of you the feeling of security knowing that if the business fails, your relationship still lives.
Do you and your partner telework together? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?