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Overcoming the Burdens that Running a Small Business Places on a Marriage

Operating a small business together as a married couple can be a great way to spend time together while strengthening the financial security of the family.  However, owning a small business and toiling long hours in furtherance of the company and then going home to spend the remainder of the day with each other is not without its stress, especially if there is pressure and tension at work.  If parties do not know how to manage these business issues, the strain can degrade the foundation of the personal relationship.  It is important to evaluate the work and home situation and come up with a plan to make both the professional and personal relationship work.

Here are some basic suggestions to help manage the burdens and ensure that the positives of jointly owning and running a business outweigh the negatives:

  • Before starting a company, make sure you work well in an intense environment – Starting and running a business requires long hours and significant personal commitment.  Although a couple may be compatible personally, the strain of a small business may bring out the worst in their personalities, leading to conflict.  Sitting down and discussing potential sources strife can guide whether a joint business is a good idea at the outset.
  • Establish clear roles – Usually, partners in a marriage have different, yet complementary, skills and passions.  Being clear about the responsibilities of each party will avoid conflicts and help the business as well.   If boundaries have not been established, then the workplace can become an ongoing fight for control and dominance.
  • Create a plan for resolving disputes – Although it will not always be possible to follow established guidelines for settling disagreements, creating policy will give couples a tool to step back from the emotional reaction and approach the resolution process from a business perspective.  This can be as simple as agreeing to sit down separately to list the pros and cons of each person’s suggestions and then agreeing to a reasonable discussion to having a professional mediator designated for significant disputes.
  • Determine basic business hours – Knowing that the plan for each day is to start work by 8:00 in the morning and wrap it up by 6:00 in the evening will create a basic timeline for the day.  Of course, depending on the business, these hours will vary, but having a general plan will enable both parties to leave work and spend time together as a couple.
  • Do not bring business issues home – This is going to be impossible sometimes, but generally, wrapping up business matters before going home together will help to preserve a rewarding family life.  There needs to be a separation and distinction between personal and professional time.  If it is not possible to avoid business entirely at home, impose a work-free zone, even if that is simply the bedroom.
  • Plan time away from each other – Even the best of relationships can become strained if both parties are always together.  Spending time apart can be the best way to maintain a successful marriage.  This may mean scheduling time for each person to go to the gym, take a class, or even walk the dog at the park.

Owning and operating a business can be a rewarding experience for many couples.  In order to be sure that the enterprise does not become too much of a burden on the marriage, it is important to establish policies that help separate the different parts of a couple’s life.

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