Mixing business and pleasure is certainly standard practice in the all-star industry—many gym co-owners are married, and plenty of coaches end up dating after spending so much time in close quarters. But can keeping things all business affect the relationship once you get home from work?
“People usually take their business home because it’s useful to talk to someone who has no connection to it,” says Dr. Margaret Clark, professor of psychology at Yale University. “But if you both happen to be in the business together and one of you is complaining, you don’t have a nonjudgmental person to talk to because they’ll have an opinion, too. You don’t get that sympathy.”
Clark says it’s natural for people who work together or who own a business together to want to talk about it after hours, but she advises against it. She says that instead of venting to your spouse or significant other, find someone else who will listen. “You’re mixing two relationships that operate with different rules,” says Clark, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and whose research is in relationships and emotions. “In the personal relationship, what’s ideal is that we’re responsive to each other’s needs, desires and goals, whereas in a business setting, it’s not so need-based, so these two things can conflict.”
Laura Rosenberg is a Chicago-based licensed clinical professional counselor who specializes in relationships and sees several clients who are both working together and romantically involved. She says the way to keep business in the gym and your personal relationship out of the gym is to come up with a “workplace version of a prenup.” It should cover areas such as, “’How are we going to handle affection at work? We’ll only take our breaks together twice a week. We’re going to go out with our friends one night a week. How do we handle it if we fight or break up at work?’ These are some of the things that have to be addressed if you want a healthy relationship,” says Rosenberg, who’s been in private practice for 15 years.
Clark agrees. “Have the rules be very clear for the business setting,” she says. “At the gym, [you should have the mindset of] ‘Here’s how we deal with things, and this is how we do it.’”
Rosenberg’s Do’s & Don’ts
Do be upfront that you’re dating and be professional. Try to minimize touching, flirting, and kissing at work.
Don’t spend all your time together outside of work.
Do make sure you spend time with girlfriends or guy friends or alone.
Don’t talk about work when you’re out on dates. If you need to complain about work, have others in your life that you can talk to about that.
Do have an idea of how you’re going to handle things if the relationship ends.