My wife Hannah and I are a great team. We run our own business together, serve together at our church, and split most household chores evenly. We are truly better together. Something about the way our personalities, gifts and talents weave together forms something stronger, and more capable than either of us individually.
We are constantly communicating with each other over any number of things; shoots we’re working on, client meetings that need to be scheduled and every little detail that needs following up on to run a successful business. It takes a lot of time, and good communication patterns to pull it off.
If we aren’t careful however, the business could quickly become all we talk about morning, noon, and night. Much like parents have to remain vigilant to talk about things other than their kids, small business owners have to fight the temptation to make life revolve around the business. Far too many sacrifice relationships, personal health and family at the altar of a success. They lose themselves in their work, and talk shop around the clock. It takes a lot of work, patience and solid communication patterns to build a business while fighting for a good marriage.
I recently sat down with Hannah to talk about it all. Communication plays such a pivotal role in the health and strength of all our relationships, especially marriage. I wanted to better understand exactly what our communication patterns are, and get her take on what we do that helps us maintain balance. I also wanted to hear exactly where we need to improve.
The major theme of our conversation was that communication was as vital to the health of our marriage as water is to the body—it’s a must. “One of the biggest reasons relationships don’t succeed,” Hannah said, “is the lack of communication.” Failing to communicate about any number of things creates not just tension but division. It allows two people to live in separate worlds, doing there own thing. “It is vital,” Hannah continued, “that husband and wife communicate on a daily basis, not just staying on the surface, but what’s on their hearts, minds, worries, fears, future goals and dreams.” Discussing the weather, and the score of the game isn’t enough—you’ve got to dive deeper. Talk about everything going on in your world—what’s got you worried or excited, what’s driving you crazy, and what you’re looking forward to.
“I think this is something,” Hannah said, “we do really well now, but haven’t always.” We make time each week to have deeper, heart-level conversations, but we haven’t always. Early in our marriage, I worked long hours, and spent most of my day driving to and from the office. Each night I’d work on our business—doing the books, client meetings, etc.—and on the weekends we’d shoot a wedding. Our schedule never stopped, it was always go, go, go, and I thought we were communicating well enough.
Most of our conversations revolved around work, and our business—we had little time to talk about other things. At least, that’s what I thought. In reality, I wasn’t being intentional or creating time for deeper conversations by asking good questions. I was on cruise control. Fast forward a few years, and we’ve landed on a pretty good rhythm. “I enjoy,” Hannah shared, “that we go on at least one walk a day with our pups and just have that ½ hour of quality talk time.” It doesn’t have to be long, but finding time to talk about deeper things breaths life into your marriage. We use this time to talk about everything. When asked what she found most helpful and exciting about them, Hannah mentioned “Future goals, where we are in our business, finances, how we can serve each other each week, fears, excitements about having a baby.”
Conversation #1: Money
Everyone has a different story and history regarding finances. Some have handled things extremely well and others haven’t. Either way, finances are one of the handful of topics you can’t avoid talking about. The stakes are too high. One little mistake can land everyone in trouble. That’s why Hannah and I take a look at our budget every week. “This is an awesome way,” Hannah said, “for us to know what our week will look like. Date night out or in? Where are we doing great and where can we do better? I am thankful for a husband who is organized and always on top of our finances, even when I am not.”
Every Monday, I sit down and update our budget. At some point that day, I’ll share how we are doing with Hannah. We talk about what areas are on track, and what areas we need to keep an eye on. “Don’t be afraid,” Hannah said, “of these conversations. Lean into them, learn from past mistakes and have weekly chats to keep short accounts. Being a team means being honest and open especially in the tough conversations.” We’ve found that talking about finances on a regular basis, keeps us on the same page, and avoids that big blow up fight about being way over budget.
Conversation #2: Calendar
Early each week, Hannah and I sit down to go over what’s on the calendar for the coming week. “It helps us know,” Hannah said, “what’s going on in the other person’s world and how we can serve and pray for one another. It allows us to always be on the same page and align expectations.” Our weekly schedule conversations give us each insight into how we can care for the other. If I know Hannah has a ton of photo shoots in the coming week, I’ll know that it would serve her well for me to take care of the dog stuff and have dinner started before she gets home. If she has important meetings or just a full schedule, I’ll know how I can be praying for her. Talk about your schedules, sync your calendars, and discuss what you’ve got going on.
Conversation #3: Expectations
While finances and schedules might be once a week conversations, we have a series of ongoing talks throughout the week about expectations. These are some of the most important one to two minute discussions we have each day. “We all have expectations,” Hannah explains, “about what our day will look like whether we know it or not.” Everyone has an expectation about everything. “It can be as simple,” Hannah continued, “as asking what each other’s expectation is for dinner one night.” Expectations don’t have to be these big, ambiguous things. It’s usually the little one’s that cause the biggest trouble. “Simply talking about what you expect,” Hannah said “reduces the likelihood of frustration.” You may find that you had differing expectations about certain things, that if left uncommunicated could lead to conflict. Get those things out on the table, in a casual manner so you can get on the same page. Develop the habit of regularly asking one another what your expectations are.
How are we doing?
I asked Hannah how she would grade our communication. “An 8.” Hannah said, “We could always do better.” That’s a point worth discussing—there’s always room for improvement. No matter how hard you work, or how much time you’ve been together, you can do better. None of us will ever reach the mountaintop on this one, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Go for a walk, curl up on the couch with a blanket and some soft music playing or have a private dinner just the two of you. Talk about all the things going on in your world, share your hopes and fears. Hopefully there will be areas you can celebrate. “We do great, Hannah shares, “discussing future goals, business plans and day to day expectations.” Relish those victories. Inevitably there will also be stuff to work on. “We could continue,” Hannah said, “working on taking the next step in talking about how we are doing relationally and spiritually.”
Don’t get down when things like this pop up. Lean in and work on them. In the end, be excited that you’re working together and heading in a new and better direction.