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Every year, millions of couples take on the challenge of starting a business together. For some, it is the best decision they ever made. Not only do they get to spend more time together, they get to pursue their passion side-by-side with their best friend. But for others, it becomes a constant source of contention, where the stress and struggle eventually become so inflated that the business and sadly, the relationship, implode.
So what is the difference between the couples that make it and the couples that break up? Why do some succeed while others do not?
The stresses with starting a business are inevitable — the financial risk, the long periods of uncertainty, the seemingly endless list of tasks to accomplish. It’s all par for the course when you’re building a business from the ground up. That’s why you must have structure and strategy, not only with your business, but with your partner. By implementing your own working system, which includes rules, rituals and shared working habits, you and your partner can create a healthy work relationship, and ultimately, a happy personal relationship.
To help you better understand how to navigate this process, here are 5 tips to strengthen your business and your romance:
BUILD A STRESS MANAGEMENT PLAN
Your ability to manage the stress that comes with starting your own business is even more important when your life partner is your business partner.
When someone experiences a stressful situation, the body sounds an alarm and quickly transfers control from the rational brain over to the emotional brain, which is also known as the amygdala. The amygdala can be a bit dramatic, making bad things worse, and worse things catastrophic. So when the day-to-day setbacks or typical pressures of starting a business occur, the amygdala thinks the sky is falling. All rational thoughts go out the window, and the emotional nonsense that has gripped our brains can lead us to say or do some hurtful things.
This is why you and your spouse need to develop a stress management plan that includes approaches that elicit a relaxation response (deep abdominal breathing, visualization, yoga), ways of reframing and discussing irrational thoughts (a detailed communication plan), or a designated timeout period so that if a situation becomes too intense, you both take a 15-minute walk on your own then come back to resume communication.
LET THE BEDROOM BE A BEDROOM
The bedroom should be seen as a resting place, where you only do two things that start with the letter “s”. And no, I’m not talking about “strategize” or “send emails.” When we do anything other than that in the bedroom — work on our laptops while in bed, send emails from our smartphones, bring work talk into pillow talk — we condition our brains to think that the bedroom is meant for those things. According to a Harvard sleep study, we begin to disassociate the bedroom with the idea of peace and passion.
Discussing work issues or doing work in the bedroom can also have physiological effects that impact the health of our relationship.These types of activities are both stress-stimulating that cause the body to release cortisol, which is associated with increased alertness. This means it will be difficult to fall asleep, and even more difficult to fall into a deep sleep. Lack of sleep means you won’t be your best the next day.
When you work together, it’s easy to make the bedroom a surrogate office. Just remember, as harmless as this may seem, it actually can wreak havoc on the intimacy of your relationship. So do personal and your business relationship a favor, whatever you need to do for or discuss about work, just let it rest until the morning.
KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL
When you work alongside your spouse, it’s easy to fall into the trap of treating your “colleague” with less than professional standards. But just because you are comfortable with your partner doesn’t mean civility should take a back seat.
Keep in mind that you are starting a business, so use your business etiquette. This includes:
• saying “please” and “thank you”
• not pointing at your partner with your index finger
• not interrupting or over-talking each other
• being mindful of your language
• not taking personal calls during work sessions
• giving your undivided attention when your partner is speaking
Keeping your relationship professional does not need to mean being cold and distant. It simply means being mindful. By treating your spouse with respect, you will create a happier, healthier work environment, and ultimately, a happier and healthier home.
For most couples starting a business together, it means transforming your home into your office. Your kitchen becomes your break room, your dining room table becomes your conference room, and everywhere in between becomes brainstorm central. After a while, it may start to feel like you’re living at the office, because, well…you sort of are.
To avoid the groundhog’s day scenario that working at home can create, select a day every week that you and your partner relocate to somewhere outside your home to work. Not only will you help break the monotony, it may just help you be more productive.
By changing your environment, even just for one day, you can help stimulate creativity and inspiration. You are exposing yourself to new surroundings, new people, and new energy. This means that you will find a new perspective, make new connections, and receive new inputs — all of which can help foster the birth of new ideas.
Going off-site also creates a new tradition for you and your partner that you can look forward to each week. It becomes “your thing” together, where, for instance, you take turns choosing the off-site location. And this sense of camaraderie and teamwork will ultimately enhance and empower your bond, making you better life partners as well as business partners.
PAY EACH OTHER COMPLIMENTS
Every day, make it a point to recognize each other’s strengths. If your partner puts a significant amount of effort into a task or does something well, do not let it go unnoticed. Even if the day has been stressful and unproductive, instead of dwelling on the negatives, redirect the focus to what did go well. There may be days where this means telling your partner something as simple as: “I’m so impressed by how resilient your are.” Just be sure to be sincere. Paying a compliment that seems contrived can actually work against you.
This advice should also be applied to your relationship in social settings. Compliments shouldn’t start and stop when you are alone with your partner. In fact, it is just as important to tout each other’s strengths when you are in public. This lets your partner know that you not only recognize their attributes, but are proud of them, which gives them a sense of pride in themselves and the relationship.
Compliments show appreciation, which allow your partner to feel valued. And when you feel valued, you feel more committed to your work, and ultimately, your relationship.
There is no way around it — starting a business with your spouse can be difficult. But it can also provide great rewards, and not just financially speaking.
Going into business with your spouse can give you and your partner opportunities you may not get otherwise. You have the chance to come together over a shared belief, work under the same mission, and strive towards the same goal. It’s not just time you will be sharing, it’s passion. And through this passion, you become closer and more connected. Essentially, you are enhancing your commitment to each other by your commitment to your business.
So take the time to develop structure and strategies, not just with your business, but with your business partner, and learn how to make working with your spouse work to your advantage. It may just be the best thing to ever happen to your professional and personal life.