Working with your spouse has some real benefits: You have a shared mission and passion. You get to see one another all the time. You can support the thriving of one another's careers.

But when your day-to-day interactions are filled with spreadsheets and sales pitches and tough business decisions, your relationship could easily fall down the priority list.

Marriage-family therapist Chris Bruno sees this happen all the time, especially when spouses run a company together. "Everything they're doing in the relationship with one another is for the business. The marriage has been put on the back burner," he explained. "When they finally realize they don't want to just be business partners, there's no love left."

The challenge for significant others who are also co-preneurs is to establish clear dividing lines between their identities as colleagues and as spouses. This is done by creating time and space outside of work in which your interactions are defined by your affection for and connection to one another.

And what if you're not feeling particularly affectionate toward your partner? Scientists have found that if you act first, your emotions can follow.

Relationship expert Michele Weiner Davis explains, "There is a reciprocal relationship between what you do, think, and feel and your body chemistry. Since your mind and body are inextricably interconnected, a chance in your actions can alter how you think, feel, and act."

Even small gestures of love can make a big difference. Each time you give your significant other a compliment, or take their hand, or buy their favorite snack, you are fanning the flames of romance and intimacy.

Marriage expert John Gottman encourages all couples to give each other at least one six-second kiss a day, which he calls a kiss "with potential."

Here are some strategies for you and your spouse to create space to enjoy one another as a couple, and to use that space well:

1. Designate work-free physical spaces for both of you.

As much as possible, limit work--and all talk of work--to specific places. When you leave the office, assume that your workday has ended and family time has begun. If you need visual cues to remind you that your and your significant other are off the clock, try putting away any gadgets or work files or changing out of your work clothes. If you absolutely must discuss work at home, try to keep it outside the bedroom, which should be reserved for more intimate forms of connection.

2. Set aside time for regular dates, and use that time to build intimacy.

Every marriage therapist recommends one-on-one time for the health of a relationship. But  not all dates are created equal, especially if you have a tendency to turn it into a work meeting. Prior to going out, mutually agree on limits on shoptalk, phone calls, and emails during the date. Then plan for activities that promote deeper interactions, such as "The 36 Questions that Lead to Love."

3. Commit to doing one thing a day to show your affection to one another.

For your relationship to thrive, your spouse needs to know that you think about her regularly. Going out of your way to do one small kindness for him will signal that, even through all your daily stresses, he is still your number one. If you aren't sure what to do for your spouse, ask her directly for a list of actions that will help her feel loved.

The good news is that romance can be a choice. If you choose to create space and time to focus on each other, and you intentionally try to show your spouse affection, your love for one another will be nurtured on an ongoing basis. Then, no matter what happens with the business or your working relationship, you can still count on one another as life partners.

Published on: Oct 26, 2018