How to Work with Your Spouse...Without Killing Each Other - Travis Robertson

How to Work with Your Spouse…Without Killing Each Other

Do you work with your spouse? Are there days you want to kill each other? I get it. That 24/7, 365 time together is a lot for anyone and can become a burden on both your life and your business. Learn how to work effectively together in a way that will allow you to become successful, have respect for one another, and build an incredible life and business!

How to Work With Your Spouse Without Killing Each Other

Now, today we’ve got a really special topic and that’s this, “How do you work with your spouse without killing each other?”  Let’s be honest, a lot of you work together in teams and partnerships with your spouse or sometimes even with family members.  At times, you want to strangle each other because you can get on each others nerves and you are with each other 24/7 365.  I’ve been there.

My wife and I start this business together years ago and were together 24/7 and 365 and have been married now for, coming up on, 17 years. We did this in a way where we actually had a tremendous amount of respect for each other.  We loved working together. Though Lisa is no longer involved in the business, she was for a very long time and, believe me, there were days where we wanted to kill each other.  For the most part, however, it was a really wonderful experience and I’d like to share with you what we did.

I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and ask “Travis, how did you do it?  How did you work together for so long, so closely together, and be with each other all the time and not want to strangle each other?” So, what I want to do is share with you. If you’re thinking about getting into this business and doing it with a spouse, or you’re thinking about, “should my spouse come work with me? Will we like each other when it’s all done?  Will we still be married when we’re all done?”  I want to kind of guide you through some keys to working effectively with your spouse, without killing each other.

7 Keys to Working Effectively with Your Spouse

You need to create and share a common vision for business and life.

Now, it sounds basic, but you would be surprised at how often people don’t have this conversation.  Sit down with each other before you do this and say, “What are we trying to achieve in the business?”, “What are we trying to achieve in our lives?” and, “Are we in sync with this? Are we on the same page?”  If you’re not on the same page with this, it’s a terrible idea to go into business together or work together.  You’re just gonna have friction all the time, going to be constantly battling because one of you is going to want to go one direction while the other will want to go another direction, and you’re going be feeling like, “Why are we fighting each other all the time?  This isn’t healthy.  This isn’t fun.  I don’t like you anymore and we’re done.”

So, we don’t want to end in divorce. We want to actually end in the direction of working towards something and having something.  The only way you can do that is to have a common vision for your business and for your life.

You need to learn to separate your business roles from your personal roles.

One of the things my wife and I were very, very good at was having our home roles and our business roles.  We understood that there is a separation. So, when we are at the office, I’m the CEO and she is the COO; she is not the wife and I’m not the husband.  These are our roles in the the business.  This is my role in the business.  If we don’t understand that, if we don’t learn to separate our husband and wife roles from our CEO/COO roles, all it is going to be is friction. This is because, when we come to the office, she can’t pull me aside and be like “dear, this is what I think we need to do.”  It doesn’t work that way.  I need to be the CEO and “you need to listen to what I say, the buck stops here and, at the end of the day, I’m going to respect you.  I’m going to listen to what you have to say.”  This is a business agreement or a business relationship that you are entering into.  When I enter the office, I put on the CEO hat and, when I get home, I take off the CEO hat and put on the husband hat.  We need to relate very, very differently and so we have to separate and respect that.

What is very challenging for a lot of people is, when at home, they have a very particular style and way that they are used to interacting and this cannot be brought to the office.

You have to be able to respect the CEO,which one of you will have to be, and you need to respect them at the office as you would any normal CEO of another company company you would be working in.  So, you want to respect those roles both at home and at the office.

You need to create a process for enforcing those boundaries.

I can’t tell you how many times in this beginning, as we were starting to figure out how do we do this, we had problems.  One of the challenges we ran into was when Lisa would maybe say something in front of the team that was really more of a wife response than a COO response, or I would say something that was more of a husband response than a CEO response.  We had to have a process for pulling each other aside and then saying how the way something was handled can’t happen.  “We can’t do that because this is at the office.  The team can’t see us interact that way.  You can’t question me the same way you would if we were at home as you did, there, at the office.”

We had to create a process allowing for  separation where we could call each other on it.  It was hard and difficult at times, but I promise you this, set it up and it will make it so much easier to learn how to do it, to enforce it, and to navigate those  murky waters, and really come out the other side stronger and better for it.

Make sure you manage both your personal and your business finances together

Know this, the number one source of stress, or divorce, or angst in a relationship is finances. Right there!  Finances are the number one source of strife, divorce or, stress in a marriage.  So, if you both don’t know what is going on with your finances, both personally and professionally, it’s just going to create a world of frustration, anger, resentment, and bitterness.  You do not want that.

Look, we all know that there is one of you who is the anal, retentive accountant in the group and then the tornado-looking-for-a- place-to-land.  I’m the tornado-looking-for-a-place-to-land.  I don’t like getting down to the weeds of our finances, but my wife is the anal, retentive accountant type and is really good at this.  I am not, but we had to figure out a way to work together on this so  we were on the same page and we can move the stress and frustration that can come with finances from the equation.

Find ways to disconnect from business and reconnect with each other.

This is so critical guys.  You have got to find ways to actually separate yourselves from the business because, when you are working in the business together and then you go home, what do you think is talked about all the time? My wife and I are guilty of this.  We love what we do. I love what I do.  I’m so passionate about this business, as is she even though she is no longer involved in it.  So what do we talk a lot about?  The business, but there has to be key times where we say we are going to go away.  We are going to get away so we are going on a vacation.  Whatever it is, we are going to disconnect for a period of time and, at least, for the first day or two, we are not allowed to talk about the business.  We can talk about anything else, but we have got to find a way to disconnect from the business and reconnect with each other.

If you don’t do that and you are just go, go, go business all the time, all day, everyday, it is going to burn you out.  It is going to wear you out and you are going to feel like you are great business partners but are not great life partners.  You have to have both of those parts of the equation so make sure you are disconnecting from the business, finding that time, scheduling that time to reconnect, and having that romance.

Schedule the Romance

You have got to schedule the romance, guys.  I know it sounds “not sexy” to schedule the romance, but you have got to schedule it in.  You need that time with each other to connect because, if you do not connect, there will not be any romance.  You have to make sure and do that!

You need to extend each other a tremendous amount of grace.

You need a tremendous amount of grace through this whole process and must always remember this, you are on the same team;  you are on the same page.

We had days where we wanted to strangle each other and one of the things we did is, we had a saying in our family, in our relationship, where when we got really frustrated with it, we would say, “Time out.  We are on the same team here, and we want the same things.  We have the same vision for our life and for the business.  We want that same outcome.  So, yeah it’s frustrating, yeah it is challenging today, but tomorrow is a new day.  Tomorrow is a new opportunity and we are going to figure this out. We are going to get on the same page so that we realize we are on the same team.  We are moving towards the same goal and the same outcome.  We may have a different way we want to get there, but I love you.  You love me. We’re on the same team.  Let’s figure this out.  Let’s calm down.”

I promise you this: you use these keys, whether it is your spouse or another family member,  this is something you can do with just about anybody you want to connect with in the workplace (with the exception that you may not find time to reconnect on a romantic level with another other family member, I hope not).


Hopefully that helps you.  I get asked about this all the time at conferences and live events we do because people see me interact with my wife and ask, “how did you do it?” With 16, 17 years of marriage, this is how we do it. I promise you, do that and you are going to have an incredible relationship and an incredible business.  Take care guys.

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Jeanne C. Olson Reply

Well done! Very critical points; and there are many husband and wife teams in real estate. You may be the first to ever touch on this subject, which is a very important one! Another tip….you must agree to disagree. Sometimes too much energy is spent trying to prove a point, when in most cases your spouse has a different opinion and no convincing will change that. It’s OK to have a difference of opinion on things. Nothing’s wrong with that.

Chivonne Rutman Reply

Great Video! Ryan and I get asked a lot how we don’t kill each other, ha! We try hard at these steps, but working even more on #6 this year not talking about work all the time! (so hard when you enjoy it)

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