How to Survive Working With Your Spouse

    People ask me how Jeff and I are able to work together without killing each other.  Patience, my friends, lots of patience!  No really, it actually pretty easy.  After being married for 20 years, Jeff and I have consistently worked together for about the last 5 years. It has taken some adjustment and finessing, but collaborating with my husband brings me great joy in my work.  Jeff and I have different strengths that complement each other, so we bring out the best in one another.

    Jeff and I at the ARA meeting in Florida. Jeff and I at the ARA meeting in Florida.

    Below I share my experiences of working with my spouse.  But every marriage/partnership is different, so what works for us, may or may not work for you. If you are thinking about working with your spouse, I hope my experiences can help make it a win-win for your marriage and your business!

    1. Have fun. That's a key ingredient in our marriage, so we bring this to our work. We meet over lunch, check in over coffee, and make each other laugh at our desks. Outside of work we spend quality time together - my favorites are our neighborhood walks, where we have shoulder to shoulder time to connect.

    2. Set boundaries. It has taken practice, but we try our best to keep home at home and work at work.  Of course this doesn't always happen, but we both try to honor this mantra as much as possible.  For example, if we are at the office and one of us starts to discuss the kids' schedule for the week, we will remind the other one to pause the conversation until later that night.  Same with work topics at home - if we need to discuss something work-related at home, we will ask "hey, can we talk about xyz work topic for a minute" and get the other person's permission.  Usually once the topic is complete, the work talk is over.

    3.  Respect the CEO.  Jeff is the President and CEO of our company, and he makes the ultimate decision on the big stuff around here.  However, as a partner in our business, he respects my opinion and if I have strong feelings about something, he will take those into account. As an opinionated person, I may not always agree with what he decides, but I trust him to do what is in the best interest of the company, our staff, our customers and our family.

    Vegas 2014 Working together at the ARA Vegas Tradeshow.

    4.  Be either all-in or all-out. I have experience with being an equal partner in our business, working part-time in the business without the partnership, and having my own career separate from the business.  I have found that problems came when I worked in the business without being an equal partner. I saw Jeff making decisions I didn't agree with, but I didn't have the authority to do anything about it (other than nag him!).

    When I partner in our business, I have a better context and understanding of all moving parts and can make effective arguments to support my position.  And when I wasn't involved in the business at all, that was good too, because I could be a fresh mind for brainstorming,  listening, and encouraging.

    5. Ask when you need a spouse.  Sometimes if I have struggles at work, I need Jeff to listen as my husband, not as my business partner.  This is hard to do, as we are both "all in" the biz. When this occurs, I usually ask "I have this problem, but I need you to listen as my husband, not my work partner." That usually does the trick to have him listen in a supportive, helpful way.

    6.  It's a little financially risky.  Depending on our company for 100% of our livelihood is risky.  All of our eggs are literally in one basket. Growing a business the past few years in an unstable economy has been a challenge. I think it's good to know that and plan accordingly, as this can put a strain on a marriage.

    7. Take Vacations. Having down time away from the business re-energizes us when we return.  It also gives us to a chance to connect as a couple away from work.

    Working together has been a lifesaver the past two years while we redesigned and launched our new website. I don't think we could have gotten through this key transition without celebrating the highs together and supporting one another through the lows. Overall, working together has strengthened our marriage by having us focus our energy towards a common goal.  And sure, there are days when we drive each other crazy, but most of the time, we happily work together to execute the mission and vision of our company.

    Cheers! Jessica

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