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Working with Your Spouse: Thrive Together and Be Happy

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Thrive Together and Be Happy

“Dig deep and you will find the most compelling argument for working together: Happiness”.[1] “Manny great accomplishments can only be achieved by working together”.[2] These are a couple of famous quotes from authours who have created works on the importance of partnership and how, if done well you can thrive together and be happy.

What I am going to discuss is seven strategies to ensure that you will excel when working with your spouse. Manny of the most successful people in history have had to learn how to work with their spouse successfully in one way or another. I am going to specifically discuss working together in a small business where you are both active full time. I have a great deal of personal experience in this area having had both my Father, In-laws as well as myself work full time with our spouse. Working with a partner, especially when that partner is your spouse, can be one of the hardest or the most rewarding experience in your life. The key is having the knowledge of how to thrive together and be happy. From what I have seen there are seven strategies to ensure you excel when working together.

Thriving Together

Share A Clear Common Goal

To begin with, ensure that you share a goal. It helps to make this a long-term goal, such as something that you would like to accomplish together in five year. The goal should also be specific and measurable, such as growing to $200,000 in annual net profit by September of 2018. Having a common long-term goal allows you both not to be focused on the day-to-day ups and down but rather on how you are approaching the goal in the bigger picture. An analogy I like to use is that of a boat. When you look at the side of the boat it may seem turbulent and that it is not really going anywhere. When you look at the shoreline, or the long term, the journey seems much less turbulent. 

I have personally found that it can often be difficult to maintain this long term focus. It can take a great deal of mental energy. I have also found that it is well worth the energy because the alternative, riding the constant highs and lows of small business, can lead to burn out.   

Have Clearly Defined Responsibilities

Clearly defined responsibilities are critical. You must know between the two of you who is responsible for each of the activities that needs to be completed for the business to operate. The roles that need to be looked after vary depending on the type of business. Based on famous book The E Myth Revisited, the general aspects of a business that need to be looked after include finance, marketing, people management, lead generation, lead conversion and lead fulfillment[3]. You will want to begin with these general business aspects and work to be more specific in the responsibilities that you should each have in your specific business.

The clear definition of responsibilities ensures that you do not get in each others way or debate how various aspects should be run. You both have the opportunity to excel in the aspects of the business that you are best at and do not have to worry about the aspects that you are not as good at.

Brag About Each Other

Ensure that you brag about each other. What I mean by this is that you actively praise your spouse to other people. Tell your family how your spouse was amazing is handling a certain situation or how they are excelling in sales. Few things will build partnership like this.

In addition to bragging about each other, thank each other for the hard work you put in on a regular basis. In most small business you both spend your time giving your energy to your customers and employees both it is important to save some energy for each other in the form of a “thank you”. What we all crave more than anything is to be appreciated.

I find that this activity can be fun and can promote positive competition of who can provide more encouragement to the other. This also helps to ensure that you both stay positive, which I will discuss next.

Keep A Positive Orientation

As many know, there are always two ways to look at a situation. You can look at situations as either “a glass half full” or “a glass half empty”. When your partner does something that you feel is not productive or does not make sense, begin with the “glass half full” approach. When you are wondering why they did something a certain way assume they must have had the best of intentions and that either you do not understand what they did or that they made an honest mistake. Thinking this way, although it may take some practice to master, will reduce the time you spend in disagreement and allow you to build a closer partnership. The alternative, where you make a comment or complain to your partner, will surly result in an argument.

What has worked for my Wife and I is encouraging each other to be child like. We will make jokes and play simple games that you wold play as a child to help keep positivity and relieve tension. After all when were you the least stressed in your life? For most it was as a child. 

Embrace Your Differences

Personality differences are an important part of why you are a great team together. Conscious awareness of these differences is the best way to manage them. There are numerous personality tests available. The two best test, in my experience, are the Myer-Briggs test and the DiSC personality profile[5]. Myers-Briggs provides four categories and for each category you will be one of two types. This looks at aspects such as how you make decisions and how social you like to be[4].

The DiSC personality profile takes a different perspective by classifying you on how you approach situations. In an example-using DiSC you may be a “D” meaning you are very direct and dominant and when upset will be very direct. Your spouse may, on the other hand, be an “i” which means that they are very socially oriented and when upset may just stop speaking to you. Having awareness of these unique personality aspects is helpful in working together effectively.

My Wife and I have very different personality styles. This has been a cause for conflict on various occasions. In taking time to better understand each other's personality style we have, in most cases, been able to keep the conflict positive by laughing about how different we can be in certain aspects.

Thriving together

Keep a Unified Presence

Always support each other. This applies to when you are dealing with customers, employees and even other family and friends. A unified presence means, despite whether you agree with an action your spouse has taken, you defend it as though it was your own action. You do not question the reasoning behind the action except in discussion in private. This is important in building a strong team dynamic rather than acting as individuals.

Have Fun

Just as in the opening with the quote from Michael Eisner, “Happiness” is the goal. The most important rule is to have fun and enjoy what you do. As a small business owner you get to have a positive influence on many people’s lives. When you run a small business with your spouse you get to share in this experience. Also, take time for little things that you enjoy together, you will not only be glad you did but you will be more successful as well.

When I was early in my career I received some excellent advice from the CEO of the company I was working for. He said "things will be tough along your journey but in looking back I wish I had taken more time to enjoy the journey and not taken myself so seriously". I live by this advice and am far better for it.

What to Do Today

Now that you have the six rules to life by to work effectively with your spouse it is time to start putting them into practice. Begin by having you spouse read this article. Next, focus on improving one of these rules per week going forward. Work together to thrive and, most of all, be happy and have fun.



Jul 9, 2014 2:26pm
Great article. A lot of really good tips. Thanks!
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  1. Michael Eisner Working Together- Why Great Partnerships Succeed. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.
  2. Rodd Wagner How to Make the Most of your Partnerships at Work. New York: Gallup Press, 2009.
  3. Michael Gerber The E Myth Revisited- Why Most Small Business Fail and What to do About it. New York: HarperBusiness, 1995.
  4. "My MBTI Personality Type." The Myers & Briggs Foundation. 27/06/2014 <Web >
  5. "DiSC Overview." DiSC Profile- What is DiSC?. 27/06/2014 <Web >

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