Have you ever toyed with the idea of co-working with your life partner?
Perhaps it’s something you’d love to do, or maybe you’ve thought about it but you’re concerned that working together may “kill” the love.
Either way, if this is a topic that’s on your mind, then read on. I think it might be able to spare you a few unnecessary headaches!
Let me share a story with you. I met my husband in an NGO we both used to work at together. We started dating and he later became the leader of my local chapter, making him by “boss”.
Eight years on, and we’re still very happy together, both in business and in life.
Today he owns a digital publishing company and I work there too, as a the head of content and marketing. Looking back all the roads we crossed, I will confess – it hasn’t always been easy and happy. Regardless, I wouldn’t change our experiences together for anything else.
Having the possibility to share my work with my partner makes me know him in a different aspect and I do believe it has helped us be more united and closer as a couple.
Before I realized this though, there were of course many moments where I thought, “Oh, s#%& this is going to fail!”
So if you’re in a similar situation, working with your life partner, and have moments where you have doubt or worry, let me tell you that you are not alone.
In fact there are tons of other “working-together couples” living the same experience.
According to psychologist Kathy Marshack (the author of Entrepreneurial Couples) couples working together was the norm for most of human history, from family farms to mom-and-pop shops. And it still is. But even though this is a common arrangement, it is not always the easiest one.
That is why I want to share some simple rules I have which you can apply to your business/relationship that will make your daily life easier and happier.
5 Rules to Working Happy with Your Life Partner
1. Set boundaries
Clear boundaries helps to segregate issues. It is one thing it is to analyze and debate the strategy for your new marketing campaign and another to complain who’s doing what chore to keep the house from being a mess.
Clear boundaries can be simple as “No business talk in the kitchen” or “No talk about the kids during office hours”. But Phyllis Moen, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied working couples for decades, said that approach is outdated.
“These days, everyone experiences blurring of boundaries because of new technologies,” she said. She says co-working couples have an edge – the partners understand the reason for the interruption and are right there to help solve it.
“Otherwise, pressures at work get translated to stress at home, and no one understands why,” Dr. Moen said.
So when issues appear at inappropriate times, dispense with them quickly, then get back to what you’re focusing on, like putting your team’s weekly report together or having a peaceful date night dinner.
2. Clearly defined roles
This is a must and it will help nip most of your arguments in the bud.
Work out mutually agreed roles – it has to be roles in business and in everyday life. Who does the cooking? Who does the grocery shopping? Who does the finances? What are your roles at work?
Most relationships suffer because roles are not agreed on, respected, or appreciated. This point is particularly important if you work and live together.
3. Be professional
Once you define your roles, respect each other’s positions.
If you had a fight at home, try not to bring it to work. Never second-guess what the other person wants or needs; it’s a recipe for disaster. Never be forced into the position where you have to manipulate your way into getting your needs met. Ask outright for what you need and ask your partner to do the same.
4. Develop relationship rituals
I love this one – we started doing it a couple of years ago and it works like magic.
Rituals are things you do by mutual agreement and with awareness. These are different from habits, which you may not even consciously know you’re doing and can be divisive.
Cuddling before sleep or getting a babysitter and going out to dinner once a week are some of our rituals. Yelling at your mate when he or she forgets to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube and watching TV when your partner is trying to talk to you are probably habits.
Rituals renew your sense of being a tribe and your commitment to each other. As I like to say, it helps you light up the sparks 🙂
5. Maintain a nexus of friends outside of the core relationship
One of the common traps into which 24/7 couples fall into is not having the time, inclination or mutual trust to go out and make external friendships.
One person, however supportive, cannot meet all your needs. Nor can one adult and a couple of kids. Women need other female friends and men need other male friends. I know that with kids, busy schedules and a lot of work, it can be very difficult to keep friends but there is nothing healthier than this.
Try to find time to have activities besides just being surrounded by your work and family. Fix a ladies night with the girls every few weeks, join an exercise class and socialise with your group. It doesn’t matter what it is – as long as it involves you meeting and talking to other people, schedule it in.
Recently I was talking about these rules with a fellow entrepreneur friend who also works with her husband. She paused me for a moment and asked me: “Do you believe it is possible to work and be together in the long run and live happily ever after?”
I will admit I don’t have the answer to that. But I do believe that whether you apply these rules or not, what’s important is that you genuinely try to find tools and other rules you can use that will work for both of you – to help you grow and respect each other – and keep the relationship working.
Do you co-work with your life partner and have some tips to share? Let us know below!