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the dynamics of romantic relationships in the workplace

Romantic relationships in the workplace have always been taboo, especially if the relationship is between a superior and a subordinate. However, in the start-up world, more and more co-founders are involved romantically. In the dynamic of a start-up, that causes a lot of problems. Below are the four problems with starting a company with your partner or working at a start-up with your partner.

  1. Who is in charge? It will be hard for the person who is not in charge to report to the person who is in charge, especially if that person was used to being in charge of the relationship. Compromises are typically made in a relationship that are not made with your manager. It can be hard to do as you are told as in a typical managerial-subordinate relationship when the manager is your partner.

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  1. Giving feedback: It is already difficult to hear feedback (particularly unfavorable feedback) from a superior, but the stakes are higher when that person is your partner. I imagine you are already getting relationship feedback from your partner, so now you are getting two sets of feedback. It is also particularly to give unfavorable feedback to a partner because he or she might take it personally. Often times, co-founders will try to stay away from difficult conversions with significant others, only making matters worse both at work and at home.


  1. Too much time spent together: Spending all day with your partner can cause a lot of strain on your relationship. Working with your partner all day and then going home together does not leave you with any “alone” time, which is critical for most people. There is also the chance of personal issues coming up at work, like the fight you had the night before.

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  1. No division of work and play: Along with too much time spent together, work does not end when you leave the office and can creep into your personal lives. When issues from the day are discussed at dinner, it further strains your relationship. Also, you cannot vent about co-workers or work issues to your partner since they are also his or her co-workers and his or her workplace. In addition, since you spent all day together, there is very little to discuss when you get home.

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I also thought about the role personality can play in these relationships. If the less dominant person in the relationship is now the more senior person at the start-up, it can cause frustration. Similarly, if the more dominant person in the relationship is also the more senior person at the start-up, the less dominant subordinate can feel like he or she has no control in both their personal and professional lives. There is also the notion of people having different personalities outside of work; the CEO who gets things done at work might be the less strict parent at home doing arts and crafts with the kids.

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