By Megan Llorente
My partner sat me down one day. He was excited because his mother was finally giving up the reins on the childcare centre she had been running for almost 30 years. It was time for him to take over.
At the time, I was nursing and caring for our 4-month old daughter full-time. I was already exhausted but I looked forward to the prospect of learning a new industry, especially childcare since we were new parents. Overnight we suddenly went from being responsible for one child to 75 children.
While my partner worked 12 hour days renovating the centre and a new home for us, I took over the management, operations and admin. Although I had some entrepreneurial experience, I wasn’t fully prepared for what it would mean to take on a seasoned business, and especially not prepared for the additional relationship challenges it would bring.
So what’s it really like to run a business with your significant other? Well, let me first share what that tumultuous first year was like for us:
1. We would fight and argue a lot
Our relationship already had the occasional argument. Now add a business on top of it and we were suddenly arguing about far more than we used to. We argued about business decisions, who should take on which task, how to handle difficult situations, what to focus on next, financing and much more. We picked apart each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and we did it ruthlessly because we knew each other deeper than any other.
Then when we were done arguing about the business or had just given up the fight, we would pick at each other on the home front. Who should do the dishes? Who’s going to change the next diaper? Why is it that you always get a break and I don’t? I could go on and on.
It would be easy to let these arguments break us apart. But the reality is that it’s impossible to agree on everything. We had to get adept quickly at navigating challenging conversations to stay afloat. We especially had to find a way to move past blame to stay focused on what mattered.
Takeaway: Arguments are inevitable. Build your resilience for having tough discussions at all hours of the day — without taking it personally.
2. There were times when we didn’t want to talk to each other at all
When you’re working in a traditional setting, there is usually a minimum level of decorum and professionalism. For example, it would be very rare for you to blatantly ignore your boss or coworker if they asked you something.
Well, the rulebook for professional etiquette went entirely out the window when my significant other became my business partner. There would be moments when we would fight dirty and drag our relationship through the mud because we were pushed to the brink of frustration.
Then came the stonewalling. One of us would conclude that we would never see eye-to-eye on a business decision and then completely shut down. Eventually, we would open back up again and concede or compromise on some front. After all, the business kept on moving whether we liked it or not.
Takeaway: When you won’t see eye-to-eye, concession or compromise is better than a standstill. You want to keep the business rolling, not stagnant.
3. Our relationship was pushed to the edge of the cliff at least once
I had at least one moment when I wasn’t truly sure I could do it anymore. I doubted whether I could continue in the business or the relationship or both. Being an entrepreneur is already a pressure-cooker, then when a relationship is part of the mix, it is that much more stressful.
There was no way to prevent this decision point. It was inevitable. And yet, it was my choice: did I want to stick through it or should I throw in the towel? There was no right or wrong. Thankfully I chose to work through it even though it wasn’t easy.
Takeaway: You can choose to persevere when your relationship gets pushed to the brink. It will always be your choice.