Important Lessons I’ve Learned From Working With My Spouse

Important Lessons I’ve Learned From Working With My Spouse

Brooke Cagle

“Really? You guys actually work together?”

“OMG, I could NEVER do that!”

“AWE, that’s sweet, but NOOOOO THANKS. I’d go nuts!”.

Yes, we’ve heard this and much more over the years. About seven years ago, my wife and I decided to take the plunge and start working together. We were much smaller at the time with less to manage so we had time to adapt and learn the ropes. This is important.

Our business was starting to accelerate, and we needed all hands on deck. Being that we’re both entrepreneurial, it seemed like the natural thing to do. Perhaps that’s a requirement. It’s interesting to hear all the feedback since most people are shocked that we’ve lasted this long. Once you’ve crossed over into the world of supporting your family solely on the success of your business, you’re either going thrive or die. It’s tough, no question, but with a strong foundation and strict rules, it can work, and contrary to what some may think, it can be a fantastic adventure.

Running a business, in general, is a high workload, primarily when working with your spouse, but once you’ve made that transition and the safety net is gone, it’s hard to go back. Eventually, you become numb to the pain, and the stress of supporting the family becomes easier to manage. It requires an unnatural amount of optimism and faith in the future of the business and in your marriage. Some couples would crumble under the weight of the pressure, so before you start, take a hard look at your situation and ask, “Is our marriage strong enough for this?” It’s hard. Like, really hard; but if you can weather the rough seas and believe in yourselves, you may just discover something fantastic.

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There will be days and nights where you’re so stressed that fighting becomes difficult to avoid. We’ve been at it for seven years, and my youngest son doesn’t know any different. For a young child, heated debates between parents, even if limited to business matters, are impossible to distinguish. They will think you’re fighting with each other, so it’s essential to lay the ground rules early and never break them. Hold each other accountable to these rules once you’ve set them up.

Here are some ground rules:

1. Treat it like a regular job. Find separation at home. If you work from home, perhaps one of you could go and work out of the house from time to time. If you need to have a meeting to discuss business, schedule it like a meeting you would have with any other employee. Keep a schedule, keep your distance unless the situation requires it. Just act normal.

2. Stay Active. There are the usual things that all entrepreneurs should be doing regardless of who you’re working with – sleep well, exercise, journal, meditate, etc… Keep doing those things and motivate each other. This is important for mental health and clarity.

3. Keep strict boundaries around work vs. personal conversations. Define specific hours during each day that you will NOT discuss work, no matter what. Keep it separate. Set meeting times with each other – again, this is what you would do with a typical employee. Keep on a schedule and resist the urge to break it at all costs.

4. When you take off – TAKE. OFF. No work, no talking about work, no talking about people that you work with, nothing. Keep each other in check. Just like any regular job, sometimes it’s nice to come home and talk about the issues of the day. Avoid it at all costs. Keep it separate.

5. Go easy on yourselves. Give yourself some slack. Don’t beat yourselves up when you feel like you’re not giving enough to each other or your kids. This can become overwhelming, but remember, work is work. If you had a “normal” job, you would probably be in the same boat. When we worked for companies, we would come home and talk about our days. It’s different when you both work together, so try to be careful not to let discussions drift into work topics.

6. Never forget that when you remove the business stress, you can still look at each other with the same love and compassion as when you started. Remember that this is the couple that exists underneath the business life you’ve adopted.

Is it difficult? Yes. Is it possible to maintain a healthy work/life balance? Sometimes. Is it exhilarating? YES! Is it worth it? Yes, but it does need to be managed carefully. Love each other, and persevere through rough times. It will get better. It always does. Have faith in yourselves. Always remember who you really are.

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