Five Things to Keep Your Relationship Thriving when Co-Founding with Your Spouse

Co-founding with your spouse can be a challenge, but with a game plan it can be a winning combination!

Having co-founded not just one, but two businesses with my husband, many people ask, “What’s it like running a business with your spouse?”

The short answer: It’s definitely a wild ride.

The long answer: It’s best to keep guidelines in place to make it work. Here are some things that have not only kept us sane, but helped us thrive both professionally and intimately.

1. Make Clear Work-Personal Life Boundaries

This is one of, if not the most important aspect of co-founding with a spouse. It’s very easy to let your two worlds — professional and personal -intermingle. When you do, it can create chaos in both. You may find yourself having a date and only talking about work and work can become the dominant connection for both of you.

Instead, make sure to keep some strict guidelines about work time vs. personal time. This can be done if you follow the same etiquette you would with other colleagues. You probably wouldn’t feel comfortable barraging your colleagues or employees with work stuff during their personal time, so don’t do it to your spouse, either. *Note: this is easily said, but not so easily practiced.

In addition to not “talking shop”, another aspect of creating boundaries is to make sure feelings from one sphere of life don’t spill into the other. Did you have a fight about your spouse forgetting an important household task? Don’t take “revenge” by piling extra work on him or her. Leave work problems at work and home problems at home. *Note: I still struggle with this.

2. Don’t Take It Personal

The way we interpret conversations between our spouse and a colleague is often different. Most of us tend to be more sensitive to the things our spouse will say — and we tend to hold on to it longer, possibly looking for deeper meaning.

Whether it’s constructive criticism, differing opinions, or a heated conversation, most of our feelings are hurt faster by a spouse than a colleague. That’s simply because you care about each other on a deeper level, but remember this isn’t your personal life: it’s professional one.

It’s important to remember the wise words of the Godfather: It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.

3. Who’s in Charge

Though most startups function in a sort of “all hands on deck” kind of operation, and everyone should be willing to do any task possible need be, it’s still important to know who is in charge of what. Use an organizational tool such as Asana to be sure you never find yourselves in a situation where it’s unclear who is responsible for a certain task.

4. Recognize and Respect Different Working Styles

Everyone has a different way of working — and most of the time these differences can be advantageous if harnessed correctly. As for me and my partner, I’m the “ideas” person. I have an idea, and I want to act on it fast before the momentum fades. This style of work can be great for quick responses, creativity, and getting task-oriented work done.

My partner, however, is more methodical and likes processes. The advantage is he can work through bureaucracy, forms, accounting and many long term business activities that are essential, but bore the life out of me.

Both of our working styles are important for different aspects of our business. Find your working styles, and if they’re different, don’t let them collide; utilize and make the most out of both.

5. Find Time Away from Each Other

When you co-found with your spouse, you work, sleep, play and possibly parent together. That’s a lot of togetherness even for the most compatible people. Even if you love being together, it’s important to have a few things to call your own. Whether it’s a yoga class, annual solo vacations, a book club, “guy/gal” night outs, or even grocery shopping — carve out your own space. Time apart makes for much sweeter time together.