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'Til Business Do Us Part

Can you handle working at home with your spouse? Our Homebased Psychology Expert, Azriela Jaffe, explains how homebased couples can work happily ever after.

Making love in the afternoons. Enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee together in the morning. Taking a moment for a brief hug or an "atta boy." Closing up shop at 4 p.m. so both mom and dad can watch 6-year-old Jane in her first dance recital. Shopping together at Staples and saving money by sharing office supplies. These are the romantic images one can conjure up when thinking about couples working at home.

But an alternate reality can also be true: A fight the couple engaged in the night before about an upcoming family get-together spills over to the breakfast table. There will be no refreshing and healing break as each leaves for the office. They have to tackle a business project at 9 a.m.-together.

The trip to Staples doesn't go so well. She wants to spend $150 more than he does on business stationery and computer software. By the end of the shopping expedition, she's calling him "cheap," and he's accusing her of being irresponsible with money.

Or, for the married entrepreneurs who work together at home but in separate businesses: Instead of giving each other a "high five" when one accomplishes a goal, the relationship is rippled with jealousy and competitiveness which diminishes any celebration of each other's successes. Instead of "Good job," the unsaid exclamation might be, "Yeah, so? I could have done that, too, if I had more time. But I'm doing most of the work around here taking care of kids and cleaning the house. If you pitched in more, I'd be able to score as well!"

Which scenario is most likely to occur when a couple works closely together at home, either in the same business or in different businesses? I'm not hedging when I say both are equally possible. Success or failure as a couple working from home depends on a number of factors: individual personalities, the couple's communication skills, how happy and in love they are when they begin working from home, individual needs for space and togetherness, how well-suited each individual is to homebased entrepreneurship, and how financially successful the business or businesses are.

Unfortunately, even a couple perfectly matched for working from home can run into difficulty when enduring the pressures of a business failure or a life-cycle crisis. Conversely, a couple who ordinarily wouldn't work well together may surprise themselves and bond in the course of fighting against difficulty. Regardless of each couple's temperament and conflict-resolving skills, one thing seems to be universally true for all couples: Within each relationship, there must be some individuation. The world may view you as a "we," an inseparable business partnership or a spousal relationship strengthened by sharing space and resources in separate businesses. Either way, you must find some distance from the other. How much depends on your individual temperaments.

But how do you get physical and emotional space when you're in such close proximity?

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