My wife and I are not business partners. I wouldn't be able to imagine having to work side-by-side with her at my office to come home then and, still, be together! I'm blessed to have my space.
However, I could also see the tremendous opportunity to have my wife as a partner in the business. Like the Bible says, two is better than one.
My study of boundaries in business partnerships wouldn't be complete without addressing that some of my readers are in business with their significant other.
What I do know that translates across all romantic relationships is that COMMUNICATION is the most important element to success.
Statistics show that poor communication is the leading cause of break-up and divorce, and it’s the top reason couples seek therapy. I haven't done official research, but I can only infer, then, that the leading cause of business shutdown of couples in business together is...poor communication.
And as I've been studying, poor communication boils down to an inability to assert boundaries.
When couples in business together can’t assert their boundaries explicitly, they end up resorting to more conflict-prone methods of communication, like sarcasm and passive-aggressiveness.
Husbands and wives working an entrepreneurial venture together often avoid making direct requests in the business relationship out of fear of pushing the other one away. However, this fear is entirely baseless. Studies show that couples in relationship therapy who learn to make clear, direct requests usually show a reduction in the intensity and frequency of arguments.
The Bible says
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)
Here's a beautiful picture of the value of communication. Words have value, and they must be spoken. They are meaningful when spoken at the right time.
Unfortunately, just the opposite is true for sarcasm and passive-aggressive talk. Not only will they hinder the partnership, but they may even destroy opportunities for advancement and success of the business as a whole.
The key message is that you have a golden opportunity to set proper boundaries by clearly communicating your needs and your expectations for the future of the business to your romantic partner.
Don't be surprised just how receptive your significant other is too honest and direct communication and how willing they are to meet most of your needs in the business.
Ideally, setting clear boundaries and expectations will be one of the first things before starting the business venture together. By being honest and upfront about roles and responsibilities, how you expect to be treated in front of the employees, and what you want to get out of the business, you’ll both be spared a great deal of heartache and wasted time in the long run.
Unfortunately, many of us prefer to avoid these tricky conversations with our husbands and wives. Most of us never discuss our expectations around things like money, time spent working in the business, vacation time, and the management of people. My wife and I can't be in business together (yet) because we would want completely incompatible things from the business.
Right off the bat, conflict-prone topics that should be dealt with before starting the business include how you intend to share finances, how you’ll divide up admin responsibilities, and what your stance is on taking on debt by using credit cards.
If you're already in the middle of the business partnership and are just now bringing this conversation up, it’s time to suck it up and have the difficult conversation. You might find it uncomfortable, but uncomfortable conversations save business partnerships. And based on conflicts you've already had, you should already know where boundaries and expectations need to be discussed.
The good news is that by inserting a bit of distance and separateness into the business relationship, you may even find that boundaries breathe some fresh romance into your love life.