Focus on the Family

Can Marriage Partners Work Together As Business Partners?

Can Marriage Partners Work Together as Business Partners
Running a business, just like marriage, requires humility, wisdom, and compromise. Marriage and business are not the place to unconsciously expect to always get my way.

When David and Lydia Sherrer married, they made a deal: David would continue working his crushing corporate job while Lydia stayed home to write and publish books full-time. They would live frugally on David’s income so Lydia could build momentum and establish herself as an author. As soon as Lydia made enough to cover the bills, David would quit his nine-to-five to work together alongside his wife publishing books and games.

The goal was to achieve this dream in ten years.

Five years later, they reached their goal and the dream became their reality. Could marriage partners also be business partners? They set out to work together as business partners and build their business.


The day David turned in his two-week notice, I was walking on clouds. We’d done it! I would get to work every day with my best friend in the world and we’d create an amazing business together.

David has a background in sales, so he took over the marketing and order fulfillment for our publishing business, Chenoweth Press. What a relief to hand off those duties and feel like I could finally focus on writing again.

But we got our wires crossed too often. Fast forward a few months and I had to resist the urge to strangle my husband on a daily basis.

I would say something, certain I was clear and precise. He would interpret my words much differently than I’d intended. Hours or days later we realized we had a mess to fix and an argument on our hands over who was at fault. We had different views on what to prioritize and different ways of accomplishing tasks. I felt overwhelmed, and he felt unheard. To make matters worse, on the weekend, when we forced ourselves to put work aside (no rest for the entrepreneur), he wanted quality time together while I just wanted to check out and be alone.

Everyone warns young couples that having kids puts stress on a marriage. But nobody warned us that running a business together would be far more stressful to our relationship. We thought we already had a great marriage: we communicated well, we shared the same vision, and we were unified by our faith in Christ. But becoming business partners made us quickly realize we had a lot more work to do.

Those first six months working together were especially rough. But we discovered some key principles to guide us as we ran a small business together:

Lydia’s Tips To Work With Your Marriage Partner

Remember You are in this Together

With my perfectionist tendencies, outgoing nature, and strong opinions, it’s easy to pursue specific goals that are most important to me. Running a business, just like marriage, requires humility, wisdom, and compromise. Marriage and business are not the place to unconsciously expect to always get my way.

My partner’s differences provide valuable insight and skills that I don’t have. I’ve been delighted, convicted, and encouraged by the ways David has proven me wrong. I’ve learned the importance of trusting him. This experience taught me to think carefully about my objections to make sure they are based on wisdom and sound business principles, not my own personal preferences.

Take Emotion Out of Communication

Discussions can too easily turn into arguments, particularly when we let our emotions take the wheel. When a desire to be right informed what I said, the communication ceased to be constructive. Whenever I felt like I was being attacked, what I said and how I said it became defensive. Too much emotion turned the discussion into a proxy to validate myself and make me feel like I’ve won or been vindicated, when what should have been happening was problem solving.

This was a hard-learned lesson for me. By God’s grace we were already pretty good at communication, otherwise the many difficult problems we had to solve together in our business could have quickly caused deep divisions in our marriage. Constantly devolving into arguments with my spouse indicated it was time to look into the underlying cause driving conflict and get appropriate help to mediate between us so we could discover how to communicate in a healthy, other-centered, and God-honoring way.

Make Time for Our Marriage

Thankfully we really like each other, because in our small home business we spend nearly all day, every day, together. We are also creatives, entrepreneurs, and parents of three small children. Once the weekend arrives or we’ve gotten the kids to bed, it’s tempting to withdraw into bubbles of screen-lit silence and barely say a word to each other.

For me, especially, I need space. I reason that I’ve been with my husband all week while we work ten feet apart in the same room. But David feels he hasn’t gotten to spend quality time with me. Days invested 100 percent in business and parenting, with no time for us as a couple is a recipe for a withering marriage.

For any couple, but especially for parents and business partners, scheduling quality time together is a vital priority. Otherwise, the urgency of business or the weariness of life spill into any moment of spare time. We try to schedule one hang out evening each week, and at least one date night every quarter.

David’s Tips To Work With Your Marriage Partner

I am incredibly patient and data driven. Lydia is methodical and detail oriented. When discussing business, I tend to think of the nebulous bigger picture. Lydia focuses on the topic’s minutia. While that clearly looks like a beneficial combination for doing business and working together as a couple, those strengths initially were cause for frustration.

Lean Into One Another’s Strengths

We eventually realized that when we get into a debate about work, we don’t actually disagree. We are typically talking about different parts of the same project. Once we saw this important difference, we were able to communicate far more effectively.

Understanding how our individual personalities and brains operated helped me work better on a daily basis with Lydia.

Ultimately, we set aside criticizing or trying to change our partner and focused on complementing each other’s abilities. We delegated tasks to the one whose strengths were the best fit. Leaning into what each of us do best, we built a healthy business partnership — and marriage.

Be Unavailable

A tough and important lesson I had to learn was telling Lydia to go away. In order to accomplish some tasks, I had to have uninterrupted time to focus.

By nature, it’s my joy and instinct to help everyone I can with whatever problem is challenging them. Developing healthy boundaries and learning to tell Lydia “no” was a struggle for me. Eventually I realized I had to do projects on my own for both of us to be productive. I made myself unavailable until I completed a project. 

Communicate Openly

The biggest, and ongoing, key is communication. Open dialogue with my spouse is foundational for a healthy marriage. Communication became doubly important when we went into business together. Both the relationship and the income are adversely affected when times are tough or feelings get hurt.

Patience is one of my strong suits. Lydia has about as much patience as one of our cats when it’s feeding time. When emotions get heated, that patience helps me keep calm, and reminds me to keep love and humility at the forefront even when communicating becomes frustrating. Experience has proven that when a couple stops talking, that’s the point when the marriage and work relationship goes downhill fast.

Lydia and David

Ultimately, it is the Lord’s power and grace that brought us through a tough season. We’ve experienced joys and struggles as we learned that marriage partners can work together. We’ve been able to grow a successful business together. As we recall the many challenges we’ve experienced working together, we remember that the most important thing any couple can do is to draw closer to the Lord individually and together.

  • Pray together.
  • Read the Bible together.
  • Share your joys and sorrows with one another.
  • Take the best and the worst to the Lord together.

Marriage is a tri-fold covenant between you, your spouse, and God. The only way to draw closer to one another, is to first draw closer to God. Our prayer is that God blesses you with wisdom and endurance as you seek to work together and build amazing things with your spouse.

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