An entrepreneurial couple I know engages in an unusual practice each time one of them is about to join a new start-up: They invite the founders over for dinner with their family, which includes two young children.
They want their future colleagues to know their spouse and children. "We want to let them see who they're getting, that we come as a package," the couple explained to me.
Studies have shown that this sort of practice is both wise and extremely practical. It turns out that if your spouse dislikes your friends--even if it's only one friend--that will likely have a negative impact on your marriage.
Tension with your social circles can lead to conflict in your romantic relationship. Your significant other may judge you by the company you keep; he or she could also be threatened by or jealous of your friends.
Disagreements over friends are so serious that they could increase your risk of divorce. (One study found this to be true of white couples but not African-American couples.)
Whether you think of business partners as personal friends, they are individuals that you trust highly, work closely with, and spend a lot of time with. If your significant other neither likes nor trusts your closest co-workers, then two major areas of your life are going to be in constant tension and cause significant stress for you.
Perhaps you'll feel like you can't talk about work with your spouse. Or that your business partner isn't able to sympathize with challenges you're having at home.
Animosity between the two might even affect your ability to work effectively, especially if your significant other wants to undercut or even force out your business partner.
Social scientists agree that if you and your spouse share common friends, then your chances of marital happiness are much better.
If there is some level of respect and appreciation between your spouse and business partner, you can leverage the wisdom and encouragement of each relationship for the benefit of the other.
If you have a family emergency or challenge, your business partner will more likely be supportive. If you have a crisis at work, your spouse can help problem-solve more thoughtfully and empathetically.
If these two key people in your life don't like one another, or perhaps don't even know one another, here are some ways to begin building that connection:
1. Make sure to talk to each about the other's qualities and strengths, not just their shortcomings.
It can be tempting to only complain about our significant others to co-workers, and vice versa. But you could be inadvertently poisoning them against one another. If you take the time to praise and show respect for someone, your spouse or business partner will likely follow your lead and begin to appreciate that person as well.
2. Facilitate occasional face-to-face interactions between your spouse and business partner.
When it comes to relationship building, no technology or forum can replace in-person time. Invite your spouse and business partner (and his or her significant other) to dinner or drinks together. Make an effort not to talk about work, but instead connect on a purely personal basis. Even just a one-hour investment once or twice a year can make a huge difference in helping them understand one another.
3. Help your significant other feel more secure in your relationship.
Tensions between your spouse and friends are exacerbated when your spouse feels insecure. This will make him or her more prone to jealousy or resentment toward your business partner.
Small gestures of care and affection can go a long way in a relationship. Make sure your partner knows that you see him and recognize his needs. Show your love and commitment to her through words of affirmation, acts of service, and quality time spent together.
Maybe we all need to start having our colleagues over to dinner. It's only to your benefit to encourage mutual respect between your significant other and business partner.