How to Work (Professionally) with Your Spouse & Survive

Marriage is hard. Working with your spouse in a professional capacity does not make this any easier – it simply makes it hard more often. Next January, my husband and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage and we have enjoyed being small business owners for the last two years. Going into business together was not an easy decision. My husband and I are the epitome of “opposites attract”. Last week, we couldn’t even agree on an air freshener scent for our lobby! I’d love to have the end result of our professional working relationship alongside our marriage look like that of Chip and Joanna Gaines, but I constantly remind myself, they can hit “edit” whenever they don’t see eye to eye with one another. Here are a few things we have discovered (probably from accident more so than intentional):

This is something that ALL of us struggle with, and when you work with your spouse, this becomes even more of a challenge. We learned early that our kids don’t come first in our marriage. As harsh as that sounds, we, as individuals, come first, then us as a couple, then the kids, and now the business. We have found that when we are not fulfilled as individuals we cannot be happy in our marriage, and that typically dictates the patience we have as parents which in turn, either makes our careers feel like an obligation instead of a welcomed challenge. When any of these priorities are upset, it is difficult to find a “center”. We are constantly working to balance self, marriage, kids, and work—this is constant and never ending, because often if you quit balancing, you fall.

Identify common goals
As with any business, goals are essential to success, and planning is an intricate part to accomplish these goals. Each of us has a unique skill set  to offer our business. Whether it is marketing, accounting, human resources, filing, sweeping the warehouse, we are all working towards a common goal. We respect our roles and that of others in our company and love to schedule our “executive meetings” for a Friday late afternoon or early evening with a glass of wine (craft beer for him) and a charcuterie board on our back patio. Our agendas include work accomplishments and challenges, needs, shipments, and next week’s activities—including at home.

Understand individual needs
Wearing shorts to work, long lunches with friends, and workouts during the workday are perks of being a business owner that makes my husband happy. In return, he understands my need to surrounded by an environment that generates creativity, and clear and colorful visual aids of sales projections and inventory. In any relationship, communication is crucial and articulating expectations in the workplace and at home are no exception.

So when I hear, “I could never work with my spouse,” I am here to tell you that it is possible, without a camera crew—and like anything else in life—it may not be easy, but it is rewarding.

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