Traps For Life Partners Who Work Together
You may think that it would be
wonderful to be in business with your spouse, but the truth is that when
life partners become business partners, unspoken assumptions can cause
Neither couple I describe knows
the other couple, but their stories are strikingly similar.
Craig and Warren are both recently retired executives.
Craig’s wife, Marcy, owns and operates a website design firm. Warren’s
wife, Sharon, owns an exclusive gift shop. Both businesses are successful
and each woman finds business ownership personally satisfying and
rewarding. Both women requested couples coaching for similar reasons.
Their husbands were interfering in their businesses.
Craig and Marcy were newlyweds. It was a long-distance
romance, and they both were delighted when his retirement allowed them to
be together. His unspoken plan was to help her with her business so that
she could work less, and they could spend more time together. Her plan,
also unspoken, was to continue to develop her business in order to sell it
in a few years and fund her own retirement.
Craig enthusiastically earned his certification in web
design. He found the new information fun and refreshing after years of
heavy corporate responsibility. Marcy was delighted that he was busy and
happy until he started to help her with her work. She found his
suggestions insulting. It was her business, she was the expert, she
supervised many designers and negotiated profitable contracts. Now he, a
novice, was trying to tell her what to do!
Warren and Sharon did talk to each other about their plans
and goals. Warren felt that his expertise could be put to good use in
Sharon’s business. He convinced her, against her “better judgment,”
that expanding the business would create long-term benefits for both of
them. She decided to go along with his ideas.
They made plans together, expanded their capacity, hired
several new employees, and Warren started pressuring everyone to be more
productive. Sharon began to hate going to work. She had loved the personal
contact with her customers, but now she spent most of her time managing
employees and trying to keep Warren calm.
Both women knew they were angry about their husbands’
interference but neither could communicate about it effectively. Each was
trying to balance keeping the peace, supporting her husband and taking
care of herself and her business. Each time a woman tried to discuss her
own discomfort, her husband would logically explain that he was only
trying to help her.
During our sessions we uncovered the hidden assumptions
and discussed them. When each man discovered the cause of his spouse’s
feelings he was astonished to learn about the negative effects of
genuinely trying to help his wife.
Neither of the men had thought much about how he was going to find a meaningful way to fill his time after retirement, and simply picked up what was convenient—his wife’s business. As the women learned to protect their own boundaries, a new conversation emerged. Each man needed to explore his own options for finding his own fulfilling activities.
|Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., is an internationally known executive coach, psychotherapist, and author. For more Secrets for Turning Difficult Conversations into Amazing Opportunities for Cooperation and Success: www.DareToSayIt.com email firstname.lastname@example.org|