Have you ever worked -- or tried working -- with your significant other? I'm sure that for some, the very idea sends shivers up their spine. Maintaining a proper work-life balance is hard enough without bringing your partner into the mix.
In 2007, my husband and I made a decision to move from our home outside Boston onto a 47-foot sailboat in Mexico. As if we weren't already spending enough time together, we also both decided to join the founding crew of a new company. As one of the most popularly cited reasons for joining startups and founding companies is to have the flexibility to spend more time with your family, it made a strange sort of sense. We went a bit overboard with that, though.
During our years working together, especially in such close proximity, we picked up some skills that can help other couples that are thinking of navigating the same waters. Here are just a few:
1. Divide and Conquer
An easy trap to fall into within a relationship is if you start competing with each other on the same tasks. As this can lead you down some truly negative-- and unproductive-- paths, a much better way to handle things is to identify each others' individual strengths and divvy up tasks accordingly.
2. Have Your Own Space
While on our boat, my husband and I carved out separate sections -- in different cabins, with doors we could close -- that we used as our workspace. This gave us an extra layer of professionalism during work hours.
While you ostensibly love your partner, there are probably going to be times when you don't like them very much. Or, maybe you like working with the music blaring, and they're a headphones-only type of person. No matter what, you're going to need a place to call your own.
3. Work is Work
One of the more difficult things I personally encountered working with my spouse was when I'd be in the middle of an important meeting and he'd say "I agree, honey," or something similar by accident.
No matter how tempting or seemingly relevant, it is never a good idea to bring personal nicknames, anecdotes, or the like into a work context. It instantly makes you both lose credibility -- but more likely the woman will bear the brunt of it permanently.
4. Switch Off
With email keeping us plugged in to work 24/7 already, it can be difficult to stop thinking or talking about work. If you're not careful, it will be all you talk about.
Whether or not you commute to an office, take some time immediately after your combined workday to decompress before "coming home." Listen to a podcast, go for a walk or do something different from work that doesn't involve each other, and then begin your evening together.
5. Date Night
When you're busy building a company, you may tell yourself that you don't have time for anything but work. You might even say that you're working hard now so that someday you can take time off.
However, one of the most important things you can do for your relationship is to spend quality time with your partner. If you're missing out on that time now, you may never get it back. For the continued health of your relationship, schedule time for just the two of you once a week, where work is not involved in any way.
Startups are tricky business; it's much better to have someone on your side as you go through it. With these tips you'll make sure they stay there.