How To Work With Your Spouse Without Killing Each Other

Several years ago, a friend asked my wife Hannah to capture her wedding day. Little did we know the vast impact this simple ask would have on our lives. Great things often reside on the other side of the opportunities that appear to fall in your lap. "I've always been an artist (not a writer),” Hannah says. “ever since I could hold a pencil in my hands. But the moment I shot my very first wedding I knew I had found my passion. The fast pace of the day, the anticipation & excitement, the true genuine joy that surrounds every single person, the details from the flowers to the borrowed veil from grandma. I was instantly in love.” Cottonwood Road Photography hasn’t been the same since that beautiful day. What had begun as Hannah’s photography business, was now ours.

Since then we’ve worked hand in hand to build a successful business. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. You work day in and day out with your spouse, or you want to. Working with your spouse might be a dream come true on many fronts, but you’ve got to be careful. If you take your eye off the ball, for even a second, it could ruin your marriage. Building a business isn’t worth it if you have to sacrifice the health of your marriage to get it. Your kids won’t thank you if to reaching the top of the mountain blows up your family. I don’t want that to be you anymore than you do. What follows are the five secrets Hannah and I keep in our back pocket as we navigate life and work as team Hagaman.

Daily Abide With Christ

“I am the vine,” Jesus said, “you are the branches. Whoever abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The key to working with your spouse, is remaining connected to Jesus. He is the source of everything you’re going to do well at your job, without ruining your marriage. The ability to extend grace, love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and remain self controlled when you feel like losing it, flow from your connection to Christ.

Abiding with Christ consists of obeying God’s word. “All scripture,” Paul said, “is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Being intimately acquainted with the word of God is used to accomplish some pretty amazing things in your life. Spend time with it regularly. Marinate your heart in the Bible to such an extent that it flavors everything you do and say. When you do this, it will go well with you.

Establish Healthy Boundaries

Instead of coming home after a long day at the office, you are now sharing that day with your spouse. All day long you’re bouncing ideas off each other, asking questions of one another and working diligently to get your work done. If you aren’t careful, your business will begin to dominate every other area of your lives and marriage. It will be the thing you talk about over dinner or when you go out for date night. It will consume you both and destroy the most valuable human relationship you have.

This happens for two reasons:

  1. Failure to set clear boundaries

  2. Placing too great a value on how hard you work

It seems he drum beat of our culture is hard work. While not a bad thing in and of itself, if taken to an extreme its toxic. Entrepreneurs and business leaders brag about how busy they are, and how many hours they work. Just ask your best friend how it’s going and he’ll reply with some platitude about being swamped, running ragged or things being crazy. To an objective third party it sounds out of control and they’d be right to say so. Working around the clock nonstop isn’t good and it certainly isn’t necessary. Studies over the last several years, have even shown that it might be counterproductive and even harmful. So don’t do it. Resist the urge to define how serious you are about what your building by the number of hours you clock.

Set healthy and strict boundaries around your time and schedule. Create rules for yourself and stick to them. Give yourselves a set work schedule, and don’t talk shop outside these times. Will there be times when this is impossible? Of course, but those times should be the exception not the rule. You’re already trying to do too much, because you’re overcommitted. Don’t worry about that too much right now, everyone else is in the same boat. However, you haven’t worked your tail off to end up in the same boat as everyone else. No, you want to get out of that boat entirely because judging from the national divorce statistics, everyone else has terrible marriages. Flip the script and begin setting healthy boundaries around your work and schedule. It just might save your marriage.

Know Your Role & Help Your Spouse Fulfill Theirs

Building a successful business with your spouse, takes more than setting good boundaries, it requires you to focus on what you do best. You and your spouse aren’t wired exactly the same. You might be good at numbers, and spreadsheets might make you sing, while your spouse might throw up a little just thinking about either. You each bring different skill sets to the table and that’s a good thing. Play to your strengths. Align roles in such a way that you each get to focus the bulk of your time on doing what you excel at. There will be task and responsibilities that just have to be done, even though neither of you are especially gifted at them. That’s just part of life and you get that. The rest of your time however, needs to focus on what only you can do. Ask yourself, what can only I do? What can I take off my spouse’s plate, that will allow them to focus on something only they can do? If you start thinking how you can each free the other up do what they’re best at, you’ll be on the path to not just a successful business but a great marriage as well.

Have At Least One Meeting A Week

Meetings have received a bad rap the last several years, mostly because people do them wrong. They fail to set an agenda, have the meeting before the meeting and keep the reasons for meetings to important matters. The majority of meetings, have become a complete waste of everyone’s time. Time after all is the most precious resource you have. You don’t want to waste even one second of it. Not every meeting however, is a waste. Sometimes they can serve to keep the wheels of progress turning.

Schedule time with your spouse to have a conversation about what you’ve got going on, what’s going well, and what isn’t. It can be as informal and flexible as you decide, but it should have the goal of keeping you on the same page and setting you up to love and serve one another well. Come up with a hand full of questions to ask each other on a weekly basis, and guard that time like a momma bear guarding her cubs. Don’t let other things keep you two from connecting and syncing up your worlds weekly, the consequences could be deadly. If you need a little help coming up with questions, here are a few to get you started.  

Don’t Forget To Dream Together

“In dreams,” Albus Dumbledore said, “we enter a world that’s entirely our own.” Dreaming is as intricate a part of building your business together as invoicing your clients. Don’t think so? Try to go a week or two without dreaming about your life or business. You can’t do it. Dreams are the fuel that feed the fire within. They carry you to new heights and propel you onwards. “I don’t have dreams. I have goals.” You might say. But what is a goal other than the measurable and time-bound expression of a dream. Goals are how you turn dreams into reality. If you’re not dreaming, it won’t be long until you’re drowning. You can’t work weeks and months on end, without a dream fueling it. So go for walk, schedule a dinner or get out of town with your spouse and dream a little.