“A few of the reasons you go into business with your spouse is because you have a common goal, you get to meet each other’s colleagues, and you get to celebrate each other’s successes as well as the organization’s success,” says Margie Blanchard, Ph.D.

Margie has earned a reputation worldwide as a motivational speaker, an accomplished management consultant and trainer, and as a best-selling author alongside her husband and co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies®, Ken Blanchard.

How to Blend–Not Balance–Your Relationship with Work

In the spirit of Peter Drucker asserting how important structure can be, Margie says it can be beneficial for couples to find ways to add structure to their lifestyle, too. Examples include having separate workspaces, separate assistants, and even setting aside time for date nights.

It isn’t that adding structure will mean that work is treated separately than other areas of your life that you share. In fact, Margie says blending marriage, family, and the business is what works for her and Ken, rather than trying to separate any areas of their lives.

For example, Margie and Ken bring in a consultant each year to meet with the family involved with the business to talk about family issues, career, and more.

“We have done that since 1994, and nobody has ever missed a meeting. I think it has provided a structure for us to talk about some of the things with a consultant there. Our marriage and our family is more important than our business, but they do blend together. You can’t just turn yourself off when you walk in the door at home,” she says.

“I often think that working together is more of a blending challenge than it is a balance challenge. How do you blend the concern you have for your work and the concern you have for family? Then you have to figure out strategies for dealing with conflict or strategies for dealing with really tough times.”

Successful Ways to Deal with Conflict In Your Relationship

That kind of built-in structure can help partners deal with conflict. If Ken and Margie have an issue, they’ve learned an effective strategy is to write a letter to each other, explaining their position on the issue, and what they really want to do or believe about it. Then they exchange the letters, read them, and tell each other what’s in the letter so that they can better understand what the other person wants to communicate.

“Very often couples have different verbal skills and one person may be able to think faster than another. When we’re really dealing with a bigger issue, that’s one of the things that we have found that really works for us.”

Another approach that has been effective for Margie is to keep a journal. “If there’s something that upsets me—I write it down, and how I felt, and maybe I have written when it happened. If I find myself writing the same thing 3 or 4 times, then it’s something I need to bring up with Ken. If it only happens once, then I let it go because I can’t deal with every single thing that comes down the pipe,” she says.

“It’s really patterns that you need to deal with,” says Margie. “Very often one of the big patterns is money. How are you going to spend money? How are you going to save money? Having a time to talk about that is really helpful. I would look for a pattern that I’d want to talk to Ken about. The only way I can really figure that out is if I’ve written it down and then have a more specific example about it.”

“Generally, if it’s happened 3 or 4 times, we can figure it out. If it’s only happened once, it’s really not worth it. There are trade-offs. You don’t want all your conversations to be about what’s not going right,” she adds. Journaling can also allow you to better identify repeat behaviors or repeat situations you are finding yourself in as a leader—even situations completely separate from those that involve your partner.

Be Intentional & Transparent About Your Relationship 

It’s no surprise that being intentional about how they work together has been beneficial for their own personal development and the organization’s growth. One of the greatest highlights they’ve enjoyed together has been seeing their employees develop as individuals and as leaders, too.

“When I see miracles happening, we both can enjoy those together, and those people together. We just had a 20-year anniversary for somebody that has practically been a poster child at our company for development. We were both so proud and that’s a shared joy for us. There really are some great benefits from knowing the same colleagues and being involved in the same purpose.”

Improve Your Transparency & Communication

Whether with a spouse or with a colleague, have you ever had trouble communicating your ideas, thoughts, or feedback? When others don’t understand what you’re saying or suggesting, they are less likely to support and help execute those ideas.