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Business partners after the romance ends

Here's a common story in America: A couple has an idea for a small business. They start it together in their garage. Over the years, the company grows and expands.

The rate of growth is different for every story. Some people are happy to make enough to get by. Others become millionaires or even billionaires with assets all over the world.

Regardless, a time comes when the couple decides to get divorced. The romantic part of the relationship ends. They head to court.

However, that doesn't mean that they want to walk away from the business. That's their income. They care about it. They've put their lives into it. It's part of their identity.

What now?

That's the big question, isn't it? Some people feel compelled to give up the business anyway and start over. Some couples sell the company and split up the money they earn. It's almost like the business was part of the marriage and the divorce has taken it away from them, along with everything else.

But some couples decide that they want to keep working together. The draw of staying involved in a million-dollar company is too strong. They vow to make it work and keep their professional relationship alive.

Is it possible? It certainly can be. You just need to know how to approach the situation.

It starts with respect

The first step is for both of you to commit to respect each other professionally. You have to set emotions aside. It doesn't matter if you're angry about the divorce or jealous that your ex is seeing someone new. You cannot let that lead to petty bickering or a falling out in the workplace.

Just as you would with kids, you have to put the business first. That means remaining civil and professional, no matter what is happening in your personal life.

You both add value

It's not just about avoiding conflicts. Respect also means remembering that you both add value to the company. When your ex has an idea, take it seriously. Take the time to listen. Use their input just like you would with anyone else.

Many couples have different roles; one does the bookkeeping, for instance, while the other runs the sales department. Figure out what your roles are. Stay committed to them and respect the other person's position.

Set up a partnership agreement

A partnership agreement is the easiest way to define those roles. It also sets up a legal relationship, in writing, regarding things you may have simply assumed while you were married. Examples include ownership percentages, salaries, time off and the like.

Remember, a situation like this can get complicated. Make sure you know what options you have during the divorce to set up this new relationship.

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