Couples in business - keeping it together

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Hamish Brown is a psychodramatist and registered psychotherapist who works in private practice seeing couples and individuals. He is also a founding member of Phoenix Facilitation, a business that provides facilitation, mediation and process consulting services to organisations. He talks to Gill South about couples going into buisness.

How do couples run and set up businesses and their relationships still survive?

The central concerns of intimate relationships and working relationships are different. However the things that make intimate relationships work, are good to have in working relationships and the things that make working relationships work are nice to have in intimate relationships.

Intimate relationships are centrally about trust. Genuine intimacy requires trust.

When trust is present we can allow ourselves to be emotionally open and we can allow the other to come close to us. When we are open and our trust is well placed, we will feel visible, valued and satisfied. Our creative expression flourishes and we feel potent.

Interestingly organisations thrive when the people that make them up trust each other enough to be open, because this enables people to feel valued and satisfied and in turn they become creative and vital.

Intimate relationships can become richer when the people involved share some sense of common vision and purpose. The creative expression that goes into fulfilling this vision enriches the relationship.

Do you advise couples to keep work and home separate when running their own business?

The idea of keeping work and home separate is unlikely to actually ever really happen.

While the context for the relationship changes when a couple goes home, the basic emotional forces that make up the experience of the relationship are the same. Some couples might find the change in context sufficient to change their experience of each other.

However it would be a rare couple indeed that did not need to acknowledge some difficulty during the day as a means of transitioning into being together in the evening. In the positive sense, when creativity and vitality are present at work they are very likely to enter the bedroom. After all seeing our partner as creative and vital is very attractive.

What sorts of pressures do couples come under when setting up and running a business together?

Trust and openness require communication. Being able to express ourselves so that we feel understood and being able to listen so the other feels satisfied in their expression are skills that build good relationships at home and work. However when things go wrong, relationships that have multiple reasons for existing are more complex and this complexity makes communication trickier.

How do you know that your personalities will go well in running a business together?

Good relationships are made not born. Every relationship goes through periods of change and the capacities to keep making a positive relationship are tested and developed at these times.

Couples that will do OK running a business together are probably those that are realistic about this fact and willing to do the work required when things get difficult. Couples that assume that their heightened experience of intimacy is natural or automatic may get into difficulties when things get complicated.

What sort of help should couples seek if things start going wrong either at home or at work?

Couples therapy is probably the thing most likely to assist them work out the relationship wrinkles at home and at work. Sometimes if the issues are to do with work performance, a business coach may have the skills to help.

Finding someone with both skill sets is quite likely to be best. Some therapeutic approaches, for example psychodrama, have sophisticated tools for addressing issues that arise in the social system as well as assisting with personal or relationship change. These methods are best suited to addressing the complexities present in relationships that exist across several different social contexts.

Are there any rituals that can help keep work and home life separate?

It is very likely that couples who make working together productive, will find ways that work for them to address the complexity that this inevitably brings. I expect that the capacity to address the issues is far more important than the actual solutions that a particular couple creates.

It is also likely that a failed couple/working relationship is due to an inability to address some issue that arises. Over time I have seen couples who make working together and being a couple a success; couples that give up working together because they want the intimate relationship to thrive; and couples who give up being a couple but keep working together productively.

For those SME owners watching their salaried friends head off for a quick break in the sun over the school holidays, how do you have businesses which allow you to get away for some R & R during the year. Do you have someone who can run the business for you while you are away? Email me, GIll South, at the link below.

- NZ Herald

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