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Can a Marriage Double as a Business Partnership and Survive?

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Can a Marriage Double as a Business Partnership and Survive?

About five years ago we had a business coach who got us to each take a DISC personality test. I’ll never forget the day he gave us the results.

Sitting across the desk from him, our newborn baby girl in the pram beside me, I watched him laugh and shake his head. “I have no idea how you two are still married, let alone working together. But here you are!” He was talking to two High D’s. Dominate, confident, risk taking leaders who were not only creating a life together but building multiple businesses together also.

We met at work in our early twenties and quickly became friends. Although we didn’t start building a life together until years later, it felt comfortable to return to working together. But as comfortable as it was, it wasn’t easy. And ten years later it’s still not easy. We’ve had more downs than ups. Failed more times than succeeded and fought more than I ever thought was possible in a happy marriage. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

We’re not tied to living in a certain area or place. As I’m writing this, my husband is doing the school run and then off to playgroup with our youngest child. And although still under the pressures and stresses of life, we’re happy.

But it takes work. Being in business with your spouse or partner adds an extra level of complication, and if you’re not mindful of your relationship, you could see everything very quickly start to unravel.

So here are a few things we’ve learned along the way to becoming successfully married business partners:

1. Empathy.

A lot of our early fights were a battle of who was doing it tougher. Who had more stress or whose job was harder? It wasn’t until we did a role swap experiment, literally put ourselves into the other’s position, that we could begin to understand each other’s feelings.

Once we could see and feel where the other was coming from, we were better able to lend support and shoulder some of the burdens.

2. Communication.

I used to be one of those people who when asked what was wrong, would spit out a “Nothing” while stomping around the house or office in a huff. But this lack of communication is key in making just about any issue a hundred times worse than it actually is.

We had to learn to give each other space to speak freely about what was bothering us. Ask questions instead of making assumptions. Then we were able to work as a team to quickly resolve any problems and start moving forward.

3. Your life.

We’ve had a lot of people give us advice over the years about how to have a happy marriage while working together. It’s ranged from simply don’t do it, to have mandatory date nights, to switch off at 5 pm and don’t talk about work.

Almost none of that advice works for us. In fact, trying to make some of those things work for us added even more pressure. You need to find your own rhythm as a family and when you do it may not look like what everyone tells you it should. But if you’re happy and it’s working, it’s right.

I not only think that a marriage or domestic partnership can double as a business partnership and survive, I think if you’re mindful of each other, it can thrive. Running your own business is all about making your own rules, so get started designing the one big life you want to be living!

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  • Bronwyn
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    Like you Lee, my wonderful husband Ian and I have been both business and life partners. We’ve started and grown several businesses and raised our two children. In fact, I can’t imaging living any other way. Perhaps our level of comfort with living and working together comes from our parents. Both sets of parents were in business together as well, as were the majority of our grandparents. Maybe we just don’t know any other way! I’d be interested to hear if you and Richard come from similar backgrounds.

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