Coaching couples has always been a passion for me. I am in awe to see them work together to achieve both individual and partnered goals, or work on overcoming obstacles as a unit. When couples are also entrepreneurs, or partnered in their businesses, a new dynamic unfolds. Still a great journey to be part of, but a uniqueness arises: understanding how to keep the business relationship separate from the marriage relationship. It can be challenging. After all, you are emotionally invested in your business and your marriage. So, how should couples who work together also function in their marriage (or as business partners)? What happens when you are personally upset with each other, or disagree on a business decision? Both can impact each other, how you behave and process working together while being married.
When I coach couples who work together, we co-create action plans and strategies to make sure both relationships are treated optimally and in harmony. Here are some strategies that a few of my clients and I came up with during their sessions. I choose some of the key points from 3 couples who either work in a joint business, or they each had their own, but the spouse was very involved:
Have rules of engagement for business. When It comes to your professional relationship with your spouse, keep the mindset that everything you do pertaining to the company is business. Make sure you both are clear what the rules of engagment are and commit to following them.
Have a written partnership agreement in place. Just as you would create an agreement with a non-spouse partner, employee, or consultant, you should also have a business agreement in place with your spouse when you work together. The agreement should outline responsibilities and how duties will be handled by each of you, non-compete clauses, and any expectation as you would with any other partner or employee.
Keep pain-points separate. If there is a source of contention when handling business and you discuss this with your spouse-business parnter, you don’t bring up things that happen in the marriage that is a pain-point. Similarly, you can agree that any pain-points pertaining to the business is not discussed when you are working out a martial concern.
Use appropriate language. Speak to each other with apropriate language and respect. Know your spouses love language and business language and develop the ability to know when to use which. Love language is reserved for the marriage, and business language is reserved for the business.
I vs. You. Remember to also use “I feel” statement vs. “you are” statements. For example:
I feel that my ideas were dismissed during the meeting today (this is less accusatory).
You dismissed my ideas during the meeting today. (this statement might make your spouse/partner feel defensive).
Use active listening. Don’t just hear what your spouse is saying, process what he or she is saying and repeat it back. For example, paraphrase what your spouse stated, or frame what you heard to show you understood. This applies both within the marriage and within the business.
Apply compassion and mindfulness. Accept that confrontation and disagreements will happen, in both your marriage and your business. Look for ways to avoid them. For instance, validate your spouse’s feelings verses trying to justify yours, even when you don’t agree. Show respect, compassion, and empathy with each other.
Every couple is different. So, you may come up with your own agreements and terms for engagement in the marriage and in the business. But, the bullet-point concepts can give you a foundation for discussion. Tailor them to your needs or create unique ones. The idea is to develop strategies that allow you to work together, while keeping activities for the business and marriage emotionally separate.
Coach Dawn Reid helps women solo-entrepreneurs create SMART-R™ goals and work-life-self harmony, while growing profitable businesses. Coach Dawn will partner with you so that you can identify how to find solutions and resources to overcome your obstacles. She also trains aspiring coaches or works with talent management teams on developing core coaching competencies to help prepare them for a rewarding coaching career. To learn more, visit: www.reidreadycoaching.com.
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