How Counseling Can Help Entrepreneurs Working With a Spouse

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

My husband and I have been running businesses together since we went to law school. We sold our first company to Intuit in 2005. Still feeling the entrepreneurial bug, we built a second company that we still run today. Together we raised four children and built a multimillion-dollar business — a success story, yes, but not without challenges at home and in the office.

While not everyone welcomes the idea of ​​getting professional counseling, from my point of view — and personal experience — counseling can help in ways you didn’t think possible. For example, in a recent survey by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), nearly 90% of clients in marriage counseling reported an improvement in their emotional health, and most noted an improvement at work and in the couple’s relationship.

Related: The Science Behind Working With Your Partner

Here are a few takeaways from my experience with professional counseling:

Building strength: Counseling not only strengthened our marriage, but also made our business relationship stronger by showing us how to communicate more effectively and focus on each other’s feelings instead of the facts. If you’re not sure you’re communicating enough, communicate too much just to be sure.

Learn the user manual: Just like you need an owner’s manual to operate a washing machine, you need to learn your partner’s personal “operator’s manual” (i.e. what drives them, what makes them happy or sad, what causes frustration, etc.).

Don’t assume you know your partner better than anyone just because you’re married or in a relationship. Instead, do some homework and have each partner create a personalized user guide. Write an outline of how you like to work, share responsibilities, collaborate, communicate and receive feedback. It may sound like a trigger for a fight, but getting to know yourself and your partner better can be a fun exercise. (A personal user guide is also a great way to learn about new hires in your company!)

Learn to listen: Most people listen to what is being said while preparing an answer in their head, which means they are not really listening. Counseling taught us to use”mirroring techniques‘, which means putting yourself in the shoes of the other person to try to understand what they are feeling and how they are communicating their feelings. Everyone wants to feel recognized and validated; empathy is the best way to show that you are listening.

The three Fs: Another effective technique we’ve learned in counseling, the “three Rs,” is especially helpful when you need to broach a sensitive subject. While most know to be careful when approaching a sensitive subject, emotions often spiral out of control and constructive discussion becomes a huge argument. The tendency to blame can wreak havoc in work and personal relationships.

Related: The simple magic of working with your partner

You can be assertive, make sure you are heard, and engage in healthy confrontation using the three Fs: 1) fact, 2) feeling, and 3) honest request.

  1. Fact: First think about what can be agreed. State the problem objectively and without judgment. Whether a report deadline was missed or a child was not picked up from a football game, state the fact of the problem without using the words “you forgot” or “you didn’t do this.”
  2. Feeling: Then assertively state the impact of the error. Since this part expresses a feeling, you should use the word “I”, but without blaming. For example, “Now I have to work overtime to submit the document” or “I have to pick up Jane from football.”
  3. Fair request: Finally it’s time to communicate the need – a specific, reasonable, fair request. “Can we set up a system to remind us of deadlines?” or “Can we have set days to pick up kids from games?”

Table of Contents

Find the right advisor

All counselors are not created equal and you may not immediately fall in line with the first one you meet. To find a good match, approach finding an advisor as you would hiring a new employee.

First, make sure the counselor has the same values ​​as you and your partner – the same basic belief system. Also, look for a counselor with experience helping couples with marital problems and running a business. After meeting with the counselor, talk to your partner about how they feel about the person. You may feel like the person is a good fit for you, but therapy will most likely fail if your partner doesn’t.

Related: What You Need to Make Business With Your Spouse Work

The biggest mistake many couples make is to view counseling as a way to show your partner that you are right and that the counselor will convince your partner to agree with you. Instead, counseling is designed to help couples understand and resolve conflict to improve their business and home relationships. And it provides couples with the right tools to communicate and manage conflict in a healthy way.

Working couples need to agree that their relationship comes first and learn to value and prioritize their marriage. Doing business with a partner should be a unifying experience, where a good understanding of each other’s work enables both to offer valuable advice and support. And when — inevitably — reuniting tactics are needed, counseling can get you back on track.

Related Posts