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How To Work With Your Spouse

"You what? Work with your husband? And you work out of your house? Are you serious?!" I've been asked these questions countless times over the past 12 years since my husband, Ken, and I started LikeWear out of our house. These questions are almost always followed (once the asker has been able to close their mouth from the incredulity of the idea) with the statement, "My husband and I could NEVER be in business together. It just wouldn't work. And neither would our marriage."

Sometimes I'm even surprised at how Ken and I have been able to work together and that our marriage seems to be stronger because of it. But, it definitely HAS NOT been easy. No sir-ee. Working with your spouse introduces all kinds of additional financial pressures and responsibilities on top of those that already exist with maintaining a household and raising children. It takes a lot of time, money and work to get a new business going -- and even more to maintain it and keep it going and growing.

Probably the hardest part of working together has been separating work and personal life. The lines are always blurred. Although I think we both do a pretty good job of keeping that work vs. family line in focus, there's always room for improvement. It’s sometimes hard to ever have an end to the work day (or a regular start to the work day as we often are working on promotions and projects early in the morning before the school day even begins). There is always more to do than the two of us can physically accomplish so I know why we gravitate towards trying to get some stuff done at night or early in the morning. As such, it's often a conscious, planned effort to pull away and focus on our kids, our outside interests and even ourselves.

So, just how do we make it work? What advice would I give to other couples looking to work together?

  • First and probably foremost, if you don't have a strong relationship and/or don't truly enjoy being with each other, don't go into business together. The issues and stresses of running a business together are often too much for a marriage/relationship to handle. That said, if you do have a stable base upon which to build, the combined focus and connection you share for the business can actually increase your bond.
  • Time management is critical. But, try to be respectful of what's important (both personally and professionally) to your spouse. What's significant to you may be very different than what's significant to him/her.
  • In addition to being committed to each other, make sure you are both equally committed to the business. In other words, you both REALLY have to believe in it and be prepared to share the business and family workload. Equally. That includes housework and homework.
  • Do your best to separate business and personal life when you can. Both are very important and need dedicated time -- particularly if you have kids. It may help to "schedule" personal time if you never seem to be able to get around to taking time off. And definitely don't forget those date nights!
  • Remember that you are "co-workers" (at least during office hours) and it's not always appropriate to treat each other as significant others -- particularly if you have other employees working with you. I'm referring to personal displays of affection as well as personal jabs or insults that don't have a place in a work context.
  • When things get tough (and they will), try to remind each other of all you have been able to accomplish as opposed to all that still needs to be done. Being supportive means being there for each other. Everyone can't operate at 110% all of the time, so help to gather each other's slack as needed.
  • Admittedly, working with your husband or wife is not a typical scenario. And it’s not always easy. But I feel lucky that I love what I do and who I do it with. I wouldn’t change a thing.