Mixing business with your romantic partner can seem like a bad idea. But it does not have to be — it can support the growth and maturity of the relationship as you work towards common achievements. I will not sugarcoat the truth — it is hard and probably not for everyone. It can either make or break a marriage. It boils down to the couple and their foundation in the union. As a married couple of 7 years and running WriteHaus Asia together for the last five years, we appreciate the effort it takes to make both a success.
When we started WriteHaus Asia, it was a significant transition — we had to consider financial commitments and how this would impact our marriage. We decided to take the plunge. There are upsides and downsides to mixing business with love, and we decided to share tips that help our journey. It is a work in progress as we learn more about each other every day. Keep reading if you are thinking of starting a business with your significant other!
1. Keep Communication Lines Open
Running a business as a couple is a steep learning curve; initially, we had to juggle many different roles. Most importantly, we had to assure our clients of the hard work and quality we produce. Every new project tested our resolve and marriage. It was an introduction to our marriage from a different lens. As individuals with distinct personalities, we had differing opinions about work matters. We are both very strong-headed, so it is quite literally a challenge to make a call when we have differing opinions.
His extroverted ways and my ambivert nature had to find a balance, and the question is how? This may seem like a cliché — but communicating our thoughts, frustrations, anger, sadness became important. Expressing our feelings is a cornerstone of what was to be. Define the role you are speaking from — as a business partner or spouse? Often the roles do cross because we spend every waking minute together — so it is good to find a sweet spot that helps separate the two.
- Set boundaries — give each other space to think and work — particularly with the current work from home arrangement, work and home lines can blur very quickly.
- Show interest when your spouse is talking to you — what are their pain points, and how can you support them in those areas? Listening is one thing, but listening to care and take action is another — your spouse can sense that.
- Avoid interchanging roles when at home or work — try to leave work matters at work and personal issues at home (it is hard, but let’s all try!)
2. Respect Each Other
We assume that you have immediate respect for each other as a married couple, but it is essential to steep it in understanding. It is exciting to start a business together, and the dynamics will be full of energy and optimism. Throw in the pressures and stress of marriage and work, troubles will brew, and conflicts will arise. It is important to stop and recognise if you treat each other with consideration.
Ask yourself if you feel cared for, loved and appreciated. Suppose you are constantly criticising each other and letting your ego get in the way of matters — it is a red flag not just for the business but the marriage too. For instance, if you argued at home about a private matter the night before, do not let it bleed into your workday. Leave it at home. As colleagues, talk and share opinions, even if you don’t necessarily agree with each other all the time. It must be a level playing field. If you are constantly brushed aside, and your SO is not contributing the way you want them to the business and family life, it is time to chat. The trick is to share with respect and agree with compromise. Keep the bigger picture of your marriage and work goals in mind. A business partnership is like a marriage, too; it won’t thrive in a place of disrespect.
- Be honest with each other— sometimes we keep things to protect our loved ones for fear of hurting their feelings. But it is worse to suffer in silence when you feel that some things are not falling into place. Openly share how you think; keep things respectful while things get heated.
- Define your roles — respect is earned by understanding your roles and contributions.
- Treat each other as professionals — when you run a business together, professional and personal life merges into one; when at work, treat your spouse as you would any other colleague.
3. Show Empathy
Empathy creates the foundation for learning, understanding and respect. It is the tool that helps mitigate all the hurdles you have to cross as a married couple running a business. It supports learning about each other — each day is an opportunity to discover each other’s strengths and quirks. All the work you do problem-solving, tackling challenges, overcoming failures, and celebrating victories are all ways to support your growth as a couple. As individuals, we evolve each day with every new experience, so as a couple, it is vital to appreciate and learn about each other’s evolution and cheer each other’s progress!
- Be Mindful — lookout for signs that show your spouse may be struggling with a work or personal issue. Ask them, don’t wait until they open up to you. Doing so shows them that you care about them. If they tell you they need time, respect that time to share when they are ready.
- Celebrate each other’s successes — take pride in the little things, each time you achieve a milestone, take a moment to think about how far you have come to achieve that together.
- Be wholly present— work can take hold of our lives, and the marriage can take on a secondary role. But remember that is what brought you together. So, take every moment with importance. No matter the situation, if your spouse needs your attention, give them the time to share.
4. Be YOU
When you see your spouse at home and work, you feel your identity taken over by your marriage. There is an unseen transition, where you tend to go along with things that the other does, just because it is easier. Keep some activities to yourself to remind you of who you are. Forge time and space for yourself, whatever that means — take the time to read or watch tv, and work out alone. Each day, this personal time should become essential— be it 30 minutes or an hour, it gives you both time to unwind and get out of each other’s hair for a while.
- Understand your needs — what do you feel like doing? What needs to happen to recharge yourself to tackle the day better? Do that!
- Create a support system outside of your marriage — have family and friends you can trust and confide in. This way, you gain different perspectives, and it does not take a considerable toll on your marriage and business.
- Say NO — when you don’t feel like doing something that your spouse wants — say NO. It is easier to avoid conflict, but if it does not sit well with you, say NO and explain it to your spouse. They must understand what makes you feel that way.
5. Have the Hard Conversations
Problems can occur when couples fail to have hard conversations. Hard conversations can help identify vulnerabilities as an individual and a team. It is hard to acknowledge your weaknesses to someone you love and care about; you may fear that they will see and judge you differently — but bear in mind that this is also the person that can likely help you through your struggles.
While this is similar to point one — it goes beyond your everyday conversations. It is important to talk about issues bubbling that you refuse to see and address. Left unaddressed, these issues can hurt your marriage and business. Hard conversations enable you to go to the heart of the matter instead of glossing over it. Tips:
- Recognise the signs — when you start having arguments all the time, give each the silent treatment or simply stop having conversations, it is time to have a good talk.
- Don’t be defensive — your spouse may address matters that involve you, and when they do that, it is not the time to play defence. Instead, it is time to hear how your words or actions may have affected them and work to change.
- Active Listening — pay careful attention to words and non-verbal language when your spouse addresses difficult conversations.
When you pour your heart and soul into something you care about — tensions are bound to arise, but with anything with persistence, perseverance and patience, you can get there!