On The Job Training: Challenges & Benefits of Working with Your Spouse

Working together as husband and wife is not only appealing but a “#relationship goal” for most couples. Working with your spouse has both its challenges and benefits and is true “on the job training.” You are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, believing that everything will be smooth sailing. However, the nostalgia of working with your spouse quickly changes when met with your first adversity.  My husband and I own two businesses together that challenge us on a professional and personal level. I discussed with him some of the challenges we face as business partners and some of the benefits. Here are a few of the common themes:


Learning when to turn off business and switch to personal.

I have spoken with several couples who constantly face this particular issue. If you are trying to start a business or grow a business, learning when to turn it off is challenging. It is a constant battle between the drive to be successful and the need to nourish your marriage. This will be an ongoing issue if you don’t set boundaries. A tactic that my husband and I use is setting a shut off time at night and during meals. We started one business prior to getting married and the other after we were married. Both required an enormous amount of time and we were not prepared for how it affected our relationship. We found ourselves talking to one another about business and missing the key details about our married life. We had to make a change because the frustrations of daily business was spilling over into our regular lives. Setting the shut off time was clutch in restoring peace in my household.

Balancing business responsibilities between both parties.

Like any partnership, including a marriage, there will be times that one partner will be doing more than the other. This is the natural flow of a partnership. When my husband and I started our first business it was during season and he missed the entire start up process. From construction to grand opening, it was a tough journey with only one person in the daily grind. I was forced to put my legal career on the back burner and fully commit to the new business. We didn’t expect it to be so difficult to release control over what we had worked so hard to build. I also didn’t realize it would be so challenging to allow him to help me once he returned after the season. I spent so much time putting systems in place and I had to make a conscious effort to allow him to be a part of the process. He also had to understand that although I was doing most of the work, that didn’t mean I was his employee. We are still in the process of learning how to balance the responsibilities but for the most part I deal with the employees and logistics, and he handles the marketing and sales.

Blurred lines between business and personal relationship.

Dealing with blurred lines between our business and personal relationship is one of the biggest challenges we face. If you are passionate about your businesses, at times you will allow the issues to affect how you treat one another. Being upset with your spouse over a decision concerning employees shouldn’t equal a night on the couch. Admittedly, when we first opened our restaurant I found myself treating my husband more like a colleague than a spouse even when discussing personal matters. I didn’t know how to turn off business mode. This was a huge issue that needed to be rectified. We established a check system. Any time we feel like we are overstepping boundaries, we quickly check one another and remember to not take the “checking” personal.

Working with someone you genuinely trust.

Although there are some challenges to working with your spouse, the benefits outweigh the trials. Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, and surety of a person or thing. If you trust someone, you have a certain level of confidence that they will remain loyal and will not betray you. We started our first business before we were officially husband and wife, actually before we were engaged. Our decision to move forward before saying “I do” was met with harsh criticism and scrutiny. We were both questioned about the security of creating such a “permanent” professional relationship by our family and friends while the status of our personal relationship was in question. We both knew that even if we never got married, we respected and trusted one another professionally so we didn’t see any issues with co-owning a business. We genuinely trust one another which not only helps in the decision-making process but also with financial management.

Both parties have a vested interest and are working towards a common goal of improving the family.

In business it is difficult to find someone who shares your vision. You will have those individuals who are supportive of your idea or concept but when the time comes to act, their enthusiasm is lack luster. In contrast, your spouse has a vested interest in your success. Your success equals success for the family as well. If you and your spouse have a common goal of a profitable business, it not only benefits the business but also the family unit.

Balance of strengths and weaknesses.

Most often your business relationship with someone mirrors your personal relationship. As I stated above it is very difficult to create clear lines between the business issues and the personal issues. However, if you have a healthy personal relationship it is easier to have a successful business partnership. The very things that make a successful marriage or relationship are also critical aspects to a successful business partnership such as: communication, respect, trust, positive conflict resolution, and compatible financial values. These attributes can easily translate to your business relationship and result in a happier home.

The key to a successful partnership is sharing the vision and a willingness to compromise. Yes, there are challenges to working with your spouse but it is worth it. It is an opportunity to work towards a common goal and to strengthen your bond. I encourage couples, if you have a chance to work with your spouse, take advantage of it even if it is a small project. I’m positive you will achieve more working together than as individuals.

For more information on business development or for business advice, contact me at tpatterson@definitivesportsrepresentation.com

Tenisha Patterson Brown, Esq.

Forever Fierce, Fabulous & Flawless