Co-working makes you grow as an individual and as a multi-dimensional couple
Do not lose sight of your individuality while you’re perfecting your team work
I am generally supportive of couples working together—or as in my case, start and run a company together. There’s a lot to be gained from aligning your goals, syncing your schedules, and uniting behind a common purpose. Before diving in, however, I would urge couples to consider four very real and practical risks that come with a co-working arrangement.
Financial: Unlike friends and family, your bills aren’t very supportive of your dreams. While a couple’s financial considerations shouldn’t necessarily take first precedence, in my experience it is the most immediate pinch you will face as an entrepreneurial pair. Bills show up like clockwork and expect to be paid on time. If you’re the typical start-up that’s bootstrapping through your early years, chances are you’ve both taken significant haircuts on your paycheck. Whatever free cash you generate goes straight back into growing your hungry enterprise, a priority which always trumps even the most creative arguments for upgrading to the latest iPhone, or splurging on that special anniversary celebration. Even if things take off fast, your net worth grows on the type of paper that cannot be exchanged for goods and services. In short, get comfortable talking about your finances and be ready to make some short-term sacrifices.
Family: Even if you’ve managed to tame your bills and made peace with a frugal lifestyle, don’t get too smug just yet. If there’s one force more relentless than your creditors, it’s the barrage of baby photos Instagram has carefully curated to remind you just how far behind you are in life. Although I’ve not raised children, my Spidey-sense strongly indicates that it is an expensive and consuming affair. If you are a couple that wants a family, you will undoubtedly feel the heavy burden of choosing between your company and your progeny. While I know couples who have managed to pull off both, don’t assume this will work itself out without considerable thought and planning, and make sure you know exactly where your spouse stands on the topic.
Professional: Time spent away from family is not the only opportunity cost you will eventually start tracking. I was 31 when I jumped into the start-up deep end, which made me older than many but still young enough to feel that my career was mostly ahead of me. That’s when you can afford to take a few risks, knowing you have time to bounce back should things not work out. Chalk it up to a couple of learning years, fodder for your MBA admissions essays, a resume builder if you will. Somewhere around year three, however, your escape raft starts to deflate a little, and that potentially career-saving air starts trickling out.
I’d be lying if I said my mind hasn’t wandered towards the worst-case scenario during particularly stressful patches. If your partner is having the same thoughts, it can compound your anxiety. It’s important to check in with yourself regularly to ensure you have the kind of faith and conviction in your plans that will help you get past these challenging times—or know when it’s time to call it quits.
Relationship: Probably the first question that races through a young couple’s mind is the impact working together will have on their relationship. This is a fair and healthy instinct. However In my experience, young love tends to be braver, more optimistic, and risk-averse than in its more weathered counterpart. As your business and relationship grows, and the financial, familial, and professional pressures start to creep in, it can slowly chip away at the youthful resilience that allowed you to get this far in the first place. Be ready for the strains on your relationship to potentially grow over time, and stay vigilant of your health as a couple.
I wanted to save my last words for what is the most often neglected but most important consideration: your personal mental health. While co-working implies intertwining, there will be times when the weight of your personal responsibilities requires private introspection. You will not always be on the same page. You may not always be able to find solace in each other. You will face moments of loneliness, as all leaders do. It is important to know that as much as you are jumping into something as a pair, your individual strength and how well you take care of yourself will be as critical to how well you operate as a unit. Do not lose sight of your individuality even while you’re perfecting your team work. The stronger you both are as individuals, the more resilient you will be as a team.
A Working Marriage is a column that will cover the practical considerations of working with your spouse.
Nowshad Rizwanullah is the co-founder and CEO of MissMalini.com Entertainment.