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Can Your Honey Be Your Business Partner?

Aug 17, 2007
Many couples first met on the job, are involved in family businesses, or find themselves considering working together on something they both love. One of the basics behind success in such ventures is whether they can make it past the hurdle of competing with each other.

First, some personal history. Probably due to very similar personalities, my wife, Pam, and I have almost always been involved in some such joint venture. After marriage we became the volunteer caretakers at a church camp. Then we jointly enrolled in seminary. We were co-pastors for four years. I always like to say that our marriage "survived" those years.

Back then we didn't have the maturity to know what true cooperation and intimacy was. Whatever she could do I felt I had to do just as well or better. Whatever decision she made I would need to add my critique to. The "shop-talk" at home rarely was put aside. You can imagine what happened to the romance in our marriage!

We got smart at that point and took separate jobs and began separate training in our clinical disciplines. Then the opportunity to work together came around again. For the last ten years we've co-directed the Samaritan Counseling & Education Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

At first, I was worried the same old competition would occur. What a pleasant surprise to find that some level of maturity had set in! It was now clear to me that my wife is the perfect "out front" person with true qualities for group organization and leadership.

I was just fine being the "behind-the-scenes" clinician that sat in my office hour after hour seeing clients. She provided the flash and dazzle, while I was the steady presence cranking out therapy and caring for the staff. In other words, we each knew our respective strengths and were emotionally adjusted to being who we were. A few years had made a lot of difference!

And what about now, ten years later? We're still running the Center, but we also have our own developing businesses on the side. I, of course, have this newsletter, and Pam always proof reads it for me (along with editorial comment!), and she has an equine therapy and education business that I support with many hands-on hours of harnessing horses, moving them from place to place, along with feeding and watering duties.

Competition Vs. Emotional Intimacy

Business together can be a wonderfully unifying couple activity. This is why multi-level-marketing companies always want to make the business a family affair. However, the whole enterprise can founder on the rock of competition.

Competition is fine in its place, such as with business competitors or on the sporting field. But it will kill the emotional intimacy between two lovers. Competition sets up a "win-lose" paradigm. Someone must lose in order for someone to win.

Emotional Intimacy requires vulnerability. If we are vulnerable, it is safe to share ourselves with the other. It is safe to be open with feelings, thoughts, dreams and asperations. Once we start to compete (any kind of argument or heated disagreement), it is no longer safe and our emotional life will shut down.

Most of us first came together because we wanted to be wanted. We wanted another person to want to know us deeply and to appreciate what they found. Unless we are careful, being in business together can kill the very thing that brought us together.

What I have found in my work with couples, is that making decisions by consensus is what almost always works. Competition doesn't, consensus does. This means making decisions only when both partners can agree. It is inefficient and time consuming, but it is what works.

If you find yourself in ongoing competitive struggles, resolve to get help and to work it through. My experience with my wife suggests it is well worth it. Plus, I find that my work as a counselor with couples in business is some of the most rewarding time I put in.

Are You And Your Honey Going To Be Good Business Partners?

Probably not right away. It takes practice and experience. But this is no reason not to try it. Anything worth doing requires a significant learning curve. How will you ever know if you don't try it?

One place to try it out with a low entrance fee is to start an online business together. Try an online newsletter, a web site that sells one or many items, or perhaps buying and selling on ebay. See what can interest you both, and see what you can learn about working together on it.


Your project together doesn't have to be a business. Pam and I spent three years hiking the Colorado Trail together. That's 470 miles from Denver to Durango! How many people can say they've walked from Denver to Durango? Not many. But we have, and it was a great couple building time for the two of us.

So, your project may be business, and it may not be. But the value of an endeavor together, with the personal growth that comes from it, can and probably will, catapult your relationship to new levels of energy, closeness, and maturity.
About the Author
Steve Roberts, "The Couples Guy," is an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist who shares tips and real life relationship secrets from over 20 years of practice. Get Insight and Wisdom for your Relationships at: www.WhatWorksForCouples.com
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