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Can You Succeed at Marriage and Business … with the Same Partner?

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When two lovers think about their future, they often imagine the home they will live in, the family they will build and their future dreams and aspirations. But for some couples, this vision includes entrepreneurship. Being married can be challenging enough. So how can two people handle the ups and downs of marital life and build a business together at the same time? That was the question put to business and relationship experts in a recent article. Stewart Friedman, a professor of management at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Kathy Marshack, a business psychologist who works directly with husband/wife professional teams, give some advice on how to make a success out of both ventures.

Friedman believes that husband/wife teams have a big advantage over non-married business partners. The fact that they trust each other and can often predict each other’s moves can be very beneficial to a business. It is also rewarding to share in the joys of success with your spouse. But it is essential for couples to talk through their plans before they begin their business. When both spouses are working for the same company, the financial and emotional burden can be overwhelming. Separating work from home life can be difficult, too, especially if couples tag-team and work opposite shifts. Friedman suggests setting clear boundaries for professional and personal responsibilities.

Marshack agrees with Friedman and believes that setting clear boundaries is not only essential, but has been the trend for married business partners over the decades. In her research, the majority of successful partnerships have laid out specific roles at home and at work for each spouse. This not only eliminates potential power struggles; it also allows each spouse the opportunity to excel in the area that complements their strengths. Friedman and Marshack recommend that couples not only assign roles, but also designate couple time, apart from professional time, in order to be able to maintain intimacy and closeness. Also, Friedman suggests couples rely on outside sources for input and assistance rather than limiting themselves to their own judgments and opinions. Whether it is for professional or personal differences, getting outside input can be invaluable. “Couples might benefit from coaching to sort through this, and a counselor or an advisor usually helps you figure out both your business and your family goals and roles,” said Friedman

From the altar to IPO: The highs and lows of married business partners. (n.d.): n. pag.Knowledge@Wharton. Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, 30 Jan. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=3177

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  • jameson February 9th, 2013 at 4:37 AM #1

    Well my parents have made it work for almost 30 years, being married and owning a small business together.
    I won’t say that there haven’t been times when they have probably felt like killing each other because I am sure that they have.
    But you know what?
    Somehow they have always been able to make it work, so I think that that alone says a great deal about them as a couple and how they have been able to make it all work out.

  • Phil. February 9th, 2013 at 11:50 AM #2

    Yikes! No- I love my wife but I need to have a little separation from her sometimes. Having a business together would take away any chance of that ever happening!

  • gary February 10th, 2013 at 9:22 AM #3

    I like to keep work and home isolated from each other. Coming back home to see my colleague or business partner? No thanks.

    Also I think working in a professional environment with your spouse removes that mystery part from your partner very quickly and does not let you enjoy intimacy as much, because after all you’ve seen them in a work setting and know all about them. Somehow it just doesn’t feel right.

  • PrestonW February 11th, 2013 at 3:59 AM #4

    I know that for some of you this sounds like h*** but let me tell you- my wife is my most sound business partner! She and I have had a business together for five years and working with her has been one of the ver best work experiences that I have ever had. And I hope that she feels the same. It has been fulfilling for us to work together as a couple and a business team to grow something like our company from the ground up, to know that each of our strengths that we have brough to the table have taken us a long way and that together we are creating something very special. I will not lie and tell you that there are not days when we are sick of each other by the time we head home, but not any more than any other couple I don’t think. And the really cool thing is that we look at this as our creation that we have worked so hard on together and that makes us so much more certain of how much we love and care about one another.

  • Robyn February 11th, 2013 at 3:12 PM #5

    I’d love to have a business with my husband. The fact that we are both from the same work field would help too. And moreover we are the best people to understand and anticipate each other after all these years of marriage, so why not?!

  • Jordan February 11th, 2013 at 3:16 PM #6

    It worked great for us for seventeen years. We sold the business and are starting another one – Together. You can read about our perspective on our blog marriedwithbusinessblog.com .

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