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Ask the Relationship Expert: 'I Resent That My Partner Lets Important Tasks Fall Through the Cracks'

Is this entrepreneur's husband just forgetful, or are his lapses indicative of a bigger problem?

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What happens when running a business gets in the way of your romantic relationship, or vice versa? In this weekly column, relationship expert Marla N. Mattenson responds to entrepreneurs with love dilemmas -- because the hidden power of successful businesses are the stable, loving relationships behind the scenes.

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Dear Marla,

My husband and I are in business together, and he often forgets to do basic business tasks such as returning emails. I don't think I should have to remind him to accomplish the things that he's agreed to do. It's getting to the point where I'm so frustrated it's just easier to do everything myself, but then I feel resentful. How can we get clear on follow-through?


Frustrated and Resentful

Dear Frustrated,

In any business relationship you want to be able to rely upon your partner to do what he has agreed to do. For obvious reasons, it can get more complicated when that business partner is also your husband. I want to congratulate you for reaching out for help and being so aware of your emotions.

Related: Ask the Relationship Expert: 'Sometimes I'm More Passionate About My Business Than My Partner'

When tasks fall through the cracks in a business, the cause can be a number of things. Maybe the business has grown to the point where it's time to hire an assistant, more employees or a project manager. Maybe your husband doesn't want to be in his current role, or in the business at all. Failing to return emails in a timely manner could be because he was genuinely forgetful or it wasn't high on his priority list -- or it could be revealing something much deeper. Let's get curious and ask yourself a couple of questions:

1. Are your business roles clearly defined? If the roles are not defined enough -- that is, he's responsible for A, B and C, and you're responsible for X, Y and Z -- then the workplace can feel overwhelming when you're both attempting the same tasks without clear communication. It could also be the case that he doesn't want to be responsible for these tasks, so he's unintentionally (subconsciously) not fulfilling them. For the business, this looks unprofessional. And as you've noted, if you just do it yourself, because it's easier than arguing about it, the resulting resentment is not good for your relationship. So clearly defined roles are key.

Related: Ask the Relationship Expert: 'I Lied to My Girlfriend and She Found Out'

2. Have you asked your husband if he enjoys his role in the company? This question will lead into a deeper conversation around his true desires if you allow it. And it's an important question for both of you to revisit quarterly. In a very calm moment when you're not working, put any resentment aside and feel your openness to listen to him. Say something like this: "I really want to have a conversation about our roles the business because it seems as though certain tasks are falling through the cracks. As a result I'm feeling really frustrated, and I'd like to figure out how we can solve this together so we can both feel more inspired in the business. Please answer honestly as I really want to know how you feel ... are you enjoying your role in our company?"

Related: Ask the Relationship Expert: 'As an Entrepreneur, I Earn Much More Than My Husband -- and It Bothers Him'

If he's able to share honestly with you that he doesn't enjoy his role, this opens a new line of communication to talk about what roles he would enjoy. Truly listen to what he says, without interrupting or challenging him. Remember, you want to know how he really feels. If this opens a deeper truth and he wants to leave the company altogether, you can discuss an exit strategy that works for both of you, including training the person who will take on his role.

It's also helpful to take notes, so that you can reflect back to him what you heard. If he's able to be honest with you, you should both have the information you need to come up with solutions that can repair the business -- and at the same time get your relationship back on track. This could be the most loving conversation you've ever had together.

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