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5 Secrets To Working With Your Spouse

5 Secrets To Working With Your Spouse

Whether the idea of working with your spouse thrills or terrifies you, you’re on the right track.

Creating and building together is one of the greatest joys in a relationship, but it can also be wildly damaging to your bond and your bank account if you don’t have a good strategy for managing your dual roles in each other’s lives.

My husband, Warren, and I have been living, working, and traveling together continuously since 2010. Over this time, we’ve discovered 5 secrets that keep both our business and our love life in the black.

Set Expectations

When we first started working together publishing a website and writing a book, our roles were not clear-cut and we had similar, but not aligned, goals. Of course, we didn’t realize it at the time, but it soon became evident as we worked on different priorities and duplicated efforts.

When we finally had the conversation about what in the heck we were really doing, it was like a light bulb came on.

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“You thought we were doing what?”

“Why would you expect me to do that?”

When your goals and roles are not clear cut, your result will be just as fuzzy as your plan. Take the time to map out exactly what you want for your business and lifestyle and how you each need to work to make it happen so you’re both on the same page and working from the same game plan.

Describe the end goal and how you see your business unfolding and make sure you are in agreement. You might be surprised to find you’re not even in the same ballpark!

You’ll save a lot of time and money, not to mention fights along the way.

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Assign Separate Roles (and Stop Hovering)

No one likes a nag. If you trust your partner enough to go into business together, then you have to trust that he or she will get the job done. Constantly asking for updates, giving advice, and second-guessing will only cause resentment and slow your progress.

Assigning specific roles within your business will allow each person to ‘own’ their duties. Each person has a responsibility, and you stop duplicating efforts.

You also stop wasting energy on ‘checking up’ with the other person, which is easy to do when you’re in a holding pattern with a new business, frustrated over your own workload, or just stressed out about how things are progressing. It’s always easier to nag your partner than face the real issues, but that’s also a habit that will doom your business (and maybe even your relationship).

The key is to know your role and stick with it. You’ve got a business to get off the ground, and it takes 100% attention from each person on their responsibilities to make it successful. Leave the second-guessing and nagging to amateurs.

Assume the Best Intent

If you are the type to bring up all your past hurts every time you have a fight with your romantic partner, working together can be tricky. He or she is not out to get you, especially if they’ve chosen to merge money and effort to go into business together, and when you get melodramatic like that you’re only hurting your business.

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Imagine screaming at a corporate co-worker that she’s always trying to sabotage you because she forgot to tell you about a meeting. Or rolling your eyes in the office and telling a colleague that you have to do everything around here.

If you can’t imagine treating former colleagues that way, don’t even think about doing it to the business partner you love.

Always assume your partner has good intentions and work from there. Mistakes will happen and you will deal with them, but remember who you are coming home to at the end of the day.

You can’t complain about the jerk at work if he or she’s the same person sleeping next to you at night.

Get an Office Manager (Even a Non-human One)

When you’re 50/50 partners, it’s sometimes hard to tell each other what to do or call each other out when something goes wrong. You need to manage your workload, clients, and business development without sacrificing your romantic partnership.

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A third party is an excellent way to keep your communication from turning into a, “You’re not the boss of me!” kind of exchange.

One tool we really like is Nimble, which allows us to track our deals, activities, and contacts. We can also assign activities to each other when we’re working on a collaborative project. You can also use websites like Basecamp from 37 Signals, or Wrike for the same thing.

It’s sometimes easier to have assignments come through as a task from your computer instead of a verbal request from your mate, and when you’re both busy trying to get this business off the ground it is really easy to let those things fall through the cracks. With an online system to manage what you’re doing, you can avoid a lot of forgetfulness and fighting.

Turn It Off

It’s easy to let your new project take over your life. And in the beginning, it might even be necessary. But over time it’s important to flip off the lights from work and enjoy your personal life. Otherwise you’ll turn into co-workers who just happen to live together.

Give yourself mandatory days off or a mutual ‘quitting time’ so you can enjoy meals and activities together. See your friends, or go for a walk. It’s really easy to work all day and night and forgo a social life, healthy food, exercise, and even sex when you’re in startup mode (and sometimes well beyond it).

You started your business together to create something for your future, to spend time with the person you love, and because you believe in each other.

Don’t ever forget that, and you’ll have relationship and a business that’s always in the black.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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