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How to Work with Your Spouse Without Filing for Divorce

Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
Staff writer
business.com Staff
Updated Sep 21, 2022

If running a business with your spouse is on the horizon, here's what you need to know about navigating entrepreneurship without killing each other.

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If roughly 20% of all startups fail within the first year and nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, does that mean starting a business with your spouse is doomed from the start? Maybe, but maybe not. There are many advantages to starting a business with your partner, such as spending more time together, and achieving success and defeat as a team. On the other hand, working together can also result in a lack of personal space and cause business disagreements that spill over into your personal relationship. The worst-case scenario may even mean divorce. 

But if you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship with your significant other, here are nine tips for overcoming the challenges you’ll likely run into on the way. With any luck, both your marriage and your business will be a rousing success.

1. Understand each other’s business style and preferences.

Every professional has their own work style and preferences, and it’s important to understand your and your partner’s respective business styles from the get-go. For example, one person may prefer to wake up early and tackle their biggest work challenges right away, whereas the other may tend to start the day slowly with their easiest tasks and then move on to bigger challenges later on.

Another business aspect where your styles may differ is decision-making. While you may make business decisions solely on facts, your spouse might have a more intuitive approach. You could be impulsive when it comes to decision-making, and your partner might want to carefully evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way when it comes to business styles, but competing or conflicting preferences can pose a challenge if left unaddressed. Identify your styles early on and then cater your work arrangements around them so your efforts blend together seamlessly.

2. Establish boundaries early on.

Boundaries are an essential part of any relationship, and business partnerships are no exception. You should each make a list of nonnegotiables and discuss them. These can be boundaries about the business, work hours, business relationship, handling money, expenses, expectations and physical boundaries. Set clear parameters early on. Once you agree on them, take responsibility for adhering to them and hold yourself accountable. Boundaries can change over time, so be sure to reassess each of your needs as your business grows.

3. Utilize each other’s strengths.

Everyone is good at something, and there’s a good chance you and your partner excel at different things. If that’s the case, “divide and conquer” can be a useful motto to live by. Identify what each of you is inherently good at and play to your individual strengths. For example, if one of you is naturally better with numbers, that person can take on most of the financial tracking of the business. The partner who is more creative might want to spearhead your company’s digital marketing strategy. The key here is finding a balance so each of you can meaningfully contribute your qualities.

FYIFYI: Just because you’re in a business partnership doesn’t mean your share of the work will always be 50%. Working relationships are like romantic relationships in the sense that one of you might have to pick up the slack sometimes, and that’s OK.

4. Accept each other’s weaknesses.

Just like strengths, everyone has weaknesses. Initiating a successful business takes many different skills. As much as you may hate to admit it, there are some business aspects you won’t be great at. Take the time to identify your and your partner’s individual weaknesses so you’re prepared to navigate them as they arise.

Instead of condemning the other person for their weaknesses, learn how to work around them. For example, if one of your weaknesses is your spouse’s strength, great! They can handle what you can’t. However, if you and your significant other have the same weakness, you might consider hiring someone or outsourcing the task to a third party. [Learn how to create a successful hiring process.]

5. Communicate effectively and respectfully to one another.

As with any relationship, communication is key. This might sound obvious, but how you communicate with your partner about your business can significantly impact both your personal and professional relationship. It can be hard to separate your personal feelings from your business conversations, but always lead with compassion and respect when communicating with your spouse.

Remember to listen to them, even if you disagree on how to solve an issue or complete a task. When running into conflict, express your ideas calmly and use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Focus on finding solutions instead of blaming each other for the problem. This is especially important to keep in mind when running a family business, since the outcome of your communication can impact your entire family.

6. Understand you might have to give in sometimes.

Compromising isn’t always a bad thing, as there are going to be times when you and your partner disagree on some aspect of your business. Whether it’s something as minor as what to post on your brand’s social media account or something as major as how to spend your revenue. Some level of conflict can be beneficial for spurring innovation, but it all depends on how you manage it.

When you and your significant other see business matters differently, it’s important that you take time to listen to their point of view. Sometimes you will be right, and sometimes you will be wrong. What’s more, sometimes neither of your ideas will necessarily be wrong – just different. In this case, it’s necessary to accept that sometimes you might just have to give in on the disagreement.

Did you know?Did you know? If you and your partner are disagreeing about company expenses, there are ways to drastically cut business costs.

7. Remember you’re on the same team.

You’re going to run into challenges when starting your business, and it’s important to remember you and your partner are on the same team. Although there may be friction at times, you both share the same purpose and goals for your enterprise (at least we hope you do). When times get tough, it can help to simply take a deep breath and walk away from the problem for a minute, and once you’ve both calmed down you can work together to find a solution. You will experience the highs and lows of entrepreneurship together – that’s right, together.

8. Schedule time together away from the business.

Speaking of togetherness, working with your spouse every day and then discussing the business with them at home every night can quickly cause you both to burn out. It may be tempting to talk about your business 24/7, but this is where those boundaries you set come into play. Set aside time to prioritize your personal relationship, identifying hours where you can be together without talking about work. Maybe this means you have a “don’t talk about work after dinner” policy, or you schedule a special date night each month. Regardless of what you decide, it’s crucial to remember all the reasons you married each other that have nothing to do with running a business.

TipTip: Still unsure what kind of company you and your spouse should launch? Check out these cheap business ideas so you can get off the ground with $500 or less.

9. Schedule time apart.

It’s just as important you each take time to yourself as it is to connect outside of work. You need time away from the business and time away from each other. It can be overwhelming spending every waking moment with your spouse – especially if you rarely saw each other before the birth of your business. Schedule some personal time where you can relax without your partner. This can be time you spend alone or with friends, as long as you are apart from your significant other. 

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and sometimes that distance is necessary to help you clear your mind and hit the reset button, allowing you to come back to building a successful business while keeping your relationship far from divorce. The last thing you want is to have to dissolve your partnership … and your marriage.

Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
business.com Staff
Skye Schooley is a staff writer at business.com and Business News Daily, where she has written more than 200 articles on B2B-focused topics including human resources operations, management leadership, and business technology. In addition to researching and analyzing products that help business owners launch and grow their business, Skye writes on topics aimed at building better professional culture, like protecting employee privacy, managing human capital, improving communication, and fostering workplace diversity and culture.