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Healthy relationships support mental health and your business

Owning a business can be wonderful, however, at times it can also place considerable strain on your personal relationships. 

The responsibilities of work can consume so much of your time and focus that it can be difficult to ‘switch off’ and be present with those you love.

At the start, your partner and family may have been excited and supportive about the new venture, but over time, built-up resentment and conflict can arise, especially if financial risk is added into the mix. Even when you’re working together in a family business, the rollercoaster of business ownership can test even the strongest relationship.

It is important to realise that all relationships go through difficult times and some conflict is normal. However, it’s important to take action if the conflict is frequent, ongoing and continuously left unresolved.

How do relationships affect wellbeing?

The social and emotional support from a close relationship is important for our mental health. Partners and family are often the most significant people in our lives, so problems within these relationships can be particularly distressing and lead to:

  • stress and lack of concentration
  • anger, sadness and anxiety
  • changes to appetite
  • sleeping problems and fatigue
  • increased use of alcohol or drugs to escape
  • feelings of isolation.

Taking action to enhance your relationship

All relationships are vulnerable to the impact of stress, it is something that everyone experiences. Taking action early when you have relationship issues is likely to lead to a quicker resolution of problems or conflict. And, if you are proactively trying to improve your communication and strengthen your relationship on an ongoing basis, you are in a better position to manage the inevitable stressful times.

Tips for strengthening your relationships

Make the time to discuss the issue: It may be tempting to spend more time in the business to avoid confrontation or arguments at home, but this is likely to make things worse. Instead, try talking about what each of you is finding challenging and what you could change so you both feel more supported – be prepared to compromise.

Learn and practice new relationship skills: We may use them every day, but relationship skills are not innate – we develop them through our experiences and interactions over time. Honing your skills will not only benefit your personal relationships but will also assist in your business relationships. Relationships Australia runs a number of affordable family and relationship skills courses.

Be a good listener: Improve your communications by listening and trying to understand where your partner is coming from. Avoid defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling (putting up a barrier to communication) and disrespect, as these patterns of behaviour only make things worse. You can learn more about these communication saboteurs at the Relationship Institute Australasia.

Start an ongoing conversation with your partner: Talk about your individual, and shared goals and priorities, as well as your expectations of each other. Be prepared to keep revisiting this conversation as your business and family circumstances change.

Nurture the relationship: Do things specifically for your relationship like scheduling time together without distractions and showing appreciation for each other.

Recognise external factors can and do impact your relationship: It’s important to find a healthy work-life balance. Make a conscious effort to minimise the impact of these factors, for example, by not always bringing work home, setting aside time for no technology interruptions, and seeking advice to address any financial stress (which is recognised as one of the leading causes of separation).

This story is sponsored by Ahead for Business. 2020 was one of the most stressful years on record for business owners, their managers, employees and families. If you or someone close to you is experiencing challenging emotions, please visit aheadforbusiness.org.au The site contains practical strategies and tools to assist people to regulate their feelings, and also provides access to a range of mental health resources.

Ahead for Business is an initiative of Everymind and funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

If you are in need of support for your mental health, services are available 24/7:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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