When our spouse or life partner is also our business partner, tensions can reach a boiling point both at the office and at home. Conflict can arise over authority and power, sensitivity to feedback, work/life schedules and responsibilities, and much more.
Successfully working together while keeping your love alive requires a lot of healthy communicating and the ability to balance different roles. Be sure to take the quick “Attitude Reconstruction Survey” in Tip #9, which can help with difficult emotions that pop up. Meantime, you can become a master juggler with these strategies:
1. Set up a time to discuss work and personal goals.
Have a meeting to talk, listen, and agree on your goals regarding both work and nonwork life. Write them down for future reference and review them often so the two of you stay on the same page. This way you can support and challenge each other effectively and foster a cohesive team to actualize those goals.
2. Schedule regular “check-in” meetings.
Have separate regularly scheduled meetings, both about your work and about your personal relationship. In both areas, stick to specific topics and deal with one set of issues at a time (work only or home only). Meet about work at work; meet about home at home. Write out a specific agenda that allots time to share progress, offer constructive feedback, voice concerns, and come up with solutions.
3. Know and agree on your workplace roles.
In your workplace roles, set, organize, and delegate specific work responsibilities. That way, each of you understands the upcoming workload and who will do what. Then attend to your own tasks—and refrain from offering your two cents about what doesn’t fall into your job description.
4. Establish a “partnership” attitude at home.
At home, hold regular meetings to discuss domestic responsibilities such as cleaning, cooking, childcare, household maintenance, car upkeep, and bills—who does what, and when. It’s important to arrive at a division of labor that feels fair for both partners. Revisit these agreements on an ongoing basis and adjust as necessary.
5. Give regular appreciations.
At the end of every meeting (and between meetings, too), be sure to appreciate each other’s efforts and recent accomplishments. Most of us do this automatically for employees, but often forget to do this with our partners. Appreciations are important because they foster love, connection, and teamwork.
6. Set a policy about bringing work home.
When you must work at home, establish a place in your home that’s only for work, such as a guest room or home office. Decide together when it’s acceptable to discuss work or to work at home. During relationship/home time, if one partner accidentally brings up work, have a pre-established signal that means “not here, not now” for that discussion or task, and you must agree to stop. Set clear times when work will be put aside, you will be 100% present, and the focus will be on the relationship/family.
7. Have an action plan for exceptions.
When it’s necessary to work overtime or at home, both partners must agree on an action plan, including time frames. For example, together decide about how late you’ll work this evening, what you will do about the planned dinner with friends, who will spend time with a visiting relative, or which one of you will go to a parent-teacher conference.
8. Put high-quality attention on your home life.
In order for your personal relationship to thrive, you’ve got to be able to shift gears. This means planning and doing enjoyable activities together or with family and friends, as well as setting time to pursue your own interests. Together time includes regular time for intimacy, scheduling a date night, or if possible, taking an occasional weekend away.
9. Learn to deal with emotions constructively.
It’s natural for you and your partner to experience a lot of emotions in your job and at home because you are two different people with different personalities. Bad attitudes and feelings that cause the most difficulty all spring from three core emotions: anger, sadness, or fear. Pay attention to your emotions—don’t simply push them aside. You and your partner can learn constructive ways to release those emotions so they don’t interfere with your work and damage your romantic life. Take a quick survey here to discover which of these three emotions and which destructive attitudes dominate your character, and then try the coping strategies designed to address them.
Not blurring home with work usually involves breaking a very old habit. At first, it will take discipline, because both of you want the business to succeed and both know how much there is to do. At those times, remind yourself how important it is for you to live a balanced life. Work is work and home is home. Both need loving care and good communication to create the present and future of your dreams.