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Couple Goals: Can You Be Married To Your Business Partner?

Mixing work and play — Can you or should you keep your work and personal lives separate?

"We have adjusted and continue to establish boundaries with one another so that when one of us is not in work mode, the other respects that."

It’s two weeks away from opening our latest venture, LuLu’s Lounge. My husband and I decide to head to our restaurant & bar on Amoy St, Employees Only, to congratulate our partners and staff on a big win; we’ve payed off our initial capital investment in 9 months of operation. My husband has brought along the LuLu’s cocktail list he has been working on, which I have not seen up until this point.

“We have to name them,” he says.

I have zero interest in doing this right now. I am tired, uninspired, and I want to bask in the glory of this achievement with a glass of red and a ribeye. Bringing this up gives me agita about the upcoming opening, which I express in the form of eye-rolls and snippy comments. He doesn’t let it slide and is displeased that he’s had to keep asking me to do this for over a week — I now have no choice but to get it done.

We sit in the Employees Only “naughty corner”, which is an area on one end of the bar best for people watching and being un-seen, and he proceeds to explain the taste and “intention” of each cocktail. His enthusiasm and creativity both irritate and inspire me in this moment.

“This one is a take on a Pina colada, but with vodka and kaffir lime,” he says.

“Big Coconuts,” I quip.

He laughs out loud — I guess we have a winner. He says, “See? This is why I need you!”

One hour and three minor squabbles later, we are proud to have a cocktail menu. He gives me an I-told-you-so smirk that expresses there are some things we just do best together.

I am often asked what it’s like being business partners with my husband. The truth is, it’s not always easy but we also don’t know any other way. As years go on I've started to feel sympathy for entrepreneurs who are not partners with their spouse. I couldn’t imagine feeling this strongly about my career and not having someone who feels same way beside me. How lonely that must be.

There are cons, of course. While it’s great to have someone understand all of your emotions that go with the highs and the lows, it does become nearly impossible to completely shut off. We have adjusted and continue to establish boundaries with one another so that when one of us is not in work mode, the other respects that. A simple “I don’t want to talk about work right now” has taken years for us to learn to communicate. But it works wonders. We now understand that close proximity to one another does not grant unlimited access to work matters. If there is something that requires his full attention, even if he is sitting on the sofa right next to me, I respect his time enough to ask for 5 minutes when he gets a chance.

Have we perfected it? Not exactly. Our lives our constantly changing with the growth of our business and with that our habits will have to evolve, too. We appreciate both our separate and overlapping functions in the business and both have an ongoing eagerness to learn from one another. He started out and continues to remain as my mentor. He is a natural-born and inspiring leader, wonderful communicator, a transparent and honest business man, and someone I am not afraid to say is one of the best in the industry. I'd like to think I have taught him some things along the way as well.

We would not have it any other way, but one thing's for certain: you’ll never see us working out together.

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