Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Rules of Working With Your Significant Other

We all know that a marriage can be hard work. No matter how much you love each other and stay committed to the relationship, every day stress and sudden catastrophes can test even the strongest marriage. If you decide to start a business with your spouse, then you've just tripled your marriage's stress load.

My husband is my book designer and right now he's pushing hard to meet the deadline to launch What You Need to Know to Be a Pro. I am technically his boss since I'm the publisher, so I have to keep us on track to meet that deadline. I'm the one cracking the whip, demanding to know when the book will be finished, and how soon before I can send it to Jane for a final copy edit, and then the printer. I have to keep the pressure up on my wonderful, driven, perfectionist husband/designer, or the deadline will never be met. But I'm a little worried that this project is causing resentment between the two of us.

How do you keep the business pressures of meeting deadlines and staying under budget from crashing into your relationship with your spouse?

People who work on a team in any type of business will have personality conflicts and different motivations. What is good enough for one person will not be good enough for the next. Each team has to define its rules to determine what is acceptable behavior and how conflicts will be solved.

The same applies when that team is made up of your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, life partner, or even that person you're really interested in but haven't slept with yet. You are building a team, so be clear on the rules.

The Rules of Working With You Significant Other:

1) Do not personalize the work. If he misses the deadline, it has nothing to do with how he feels about you, and therefore nothing to do with the relationship.

2) Be very clear about what your expectations are of each other while working together. These will be different from how you do things in your relationship. Don't assume since he goes along with whatever you want in the relationship he will do the same when you're working together on a project.

3) Keep the relationship baggage out of the work. If he takes too long on one part of a project and keeps you waiting, don't think about how he's never on time to pick you up or how often you have to wait for him to get ready. What happened on your last two dates has nothing to do with the work at hand.

4) By that same note, keep the work baggage out of the relationship. If the work is piling up and he says you didn't give him enough time to complete the project, don't carry your frustration about that through your day, thereby increasing the odds that you'll get in a fight about who forgot to buy milk. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are mad about the project, not the milk.

5) Communication is VITAL. This applies within a relationship AND work. You have to keep talking and hammering out ideas or the work will become bogged down with false starts and missed information. He/She can't read your mind in the relationship, so how on earth can they read your mind when your working together.

I'm sure there are more, but these are the five that popped into my mind. Send me a comment with your own ideas about keeping a relationship from imploding when you work together. I'm sure plenty of people are experiencing this balancing act right now.


Jane Mackay said...

The only thing I would add is to tell your partner frequently and genuinely how much you appreciate his/her work, and him/her as a partner in life. Name specific elements, if appropriate -- and this is good to do periodically anyway, since a general 'oh you're marvelous' can begin to lose sincerity after a while.

terena said...

Excellent point, Jane.