by Malini Bhatia
Being in a marriage and being business partners are two of the most intense types of relationships you can have. Both require time and energy, both need strong communication and compromise to thrive, and both face many conflicts and challenges on the path to long-term success. Navigating one on its own is hard enough.
So what happens when you’re married to your business partner?
Let’s look at the bright side first. Only certain types of people want to be entrepreneurs, so for that mindset to occupy both halves of a marriage means that there are already a lot of overlapping traits. Enthusiasm, work ethic, creativity, and all the other wonderful traits of entrepreneurs are now on an equal playing field in the marriage. At the same time, both sides understand the challenges inherent to entrepreneurship, such as all-hours phone calls and fluctuating cash flow. While this is part of the adventure and can be a galvanizing force in the relationship, it also doubles the stakes of every decision.
Playing this dual role of spouse and business partner then means that every element is amplified and ripples out even further. No marriage is free of conflict and no entrepreneurship is totally smooth, so there’s no guidebook to achieving complete bliss on both sides. However, some practical words of wisdom can help minimize the bumps in the road and help both partners maintain some perspective. Here are four tips for anyone sharing their marriage and business with the same person:
#1: Keep your work-life balance
Entrepreneurship can be an all-consuming endeavor. The phone can ring in the middle of the night or during regular work hours. “Working late” can mean working all night or just taking a quick email break. Problems can arise from both partners using this approach to their day. It is simply not a sustainable pace for a marriage. That makes it extra important to ensure a work-life balance. It may be impossible to schedule regular down-time for the two of you. That doesn’t mean that you can’t plan ahead for schedule lulls in order to go on vacations. In addition, when there are moments of quiet, be sure to shut off completely: no phones, no emails, no business talk. It’s important to have this time away from the office, both mentally and physically.
#2: Divide up responsibilities
Entrepreneurs are natural go-getters. You give them a list of things to do and chances are they are already planning on how to achieve them. This is one of the benefits of entrepreneurs being in a marriage. On the domestic side of things, the smart approach is to divide up duties in ways that suit your strength. By applying your entrepreneurial and go-getter skills to the business of marriage, it allows you both to thrive while strengthening your relationship. Perhaps most importantly, it ensures that neither one of you will feel overwhelmed by the to-do list at home and instead feel like equal halves of a team.
#3: Stay in touch
In a fast-paced start-up world, it’s very easy to lose track of time, communication, and even your partner — whether it’s about business or your marriage. The best way to avoid this is to make plans and goals together, then schedule times to regularly check in on them. As entrepreneurs and business owners, this should feel like a natural extension of your approach, and you’ll be surprised that using modern scheduling tools and communication tools (cloud calendars, instant messaging, etc.) can get you in sync — and the more in sync you are, the less you’ll feel disconnected.
#4: Maintain respect
In any intimate relationship, arguments and conflict are inevitable. This is even more so when the dual-role of spouse and business partner are involved. Perhaps the most important thing for both partners to remember is the importance of maintaining respect. All of the usual communication rules apply: listen to your partner, don’t yell, acknowledge their feelings, and keep an open mind. Any show of disrespect on either the business or marital sides of the ledger will bleed into the other, possibly propagating toxicity into an already intense state. Maintain respect for each other, express your feelings properly, and remember that in the end, you’re in it together.
The Value of Your Relationship
When you mix business with pleasure, the stakes suddenly get bigger. Add in practical family elements such as children, mortgages, vacations, etc. and everything is multiplied many times over. However, remember the value of your relationship. The four tips above require time and energy; they are an investment. Because you are in this together, though, that means that the rewards are even greater. Give unconditional support to each other through thick and thin, remember that honesty and compromise apply in both marriage and business, and the journey together will be better than you ever imagined.
Malini Bhatia is the Founder & CEO of Marriage.com, an online hub for advice from vetted experts on all things marriage. Her passion for supporting people through the journey of building and sustaining positive, healthy relationships, combined with her business acumen, inspired the creation of Marriage.com. She has past experience in the PR and communications industries and has worked with companies in the tech, healthcare and non-profit sectors.