Working with your spouse … depending on how you look at it, it’s either the greatest thing you could imagine or the worst thing that could ever happen to your relationship. The truth is, how you handle working with your spouse can determine whether it’s a wonderful way to make your marriage stronger or a fast track to divorce.
1. Separate home and work
Your home and work relationship are different animals, and as such, they’ll have different dynamics. You do need to be able to “put on a different hat” when you’re at home and at work, but what’s most important is that whatever happens at home doesn’t carry over to work, and vice versa. If you’re annoyed with your spouse for forgetting to do the dishes or neglecting to pick up his socks, that should have no bearing on what happens at work. Don’t bring your home life to work. Likewise, if she didn’t get the sale or he forgot to return a phone call, that should have no bearing on what’s going on at home. You can’t mix the two.
Of course, this is much easier said than done, but with a little practice, you’ll learn to keep work and home separate.
2. Always be respectful of one another
Keeping work and home separate, however, is made much easier if you are always respectful of one another. This goes for both home and work. This point probably should go without saying, but sadly, it can’t. Always be respectful of your partner at home, and remember your “please” and “thank you.” At work, even if one of you is subordinate to the other, maintain that respect- you’re both doing an honest day’s work and deserve to be treated with courtesy, honor, and kindness. Maintain this standard at both home and work and you’ll find it much easier to get along in both arenas.
3. Find ways to maintain your individuality
Sometimes when couples work too closely, they find it difficult to maintain a sense of identity and individuality. I recently read about a couple that works together and one of the ways they maintain their individuality is by walking to work separately. This gives each of them time alone and some separation from the other. Make sure you get enough alone time, even if it’s just to be alone with your thoughts. Everyone needs a little space.
4. Maintain separate working spaces
One of the best ways to maintain your individuality and get some “space” from each other is to maintain separate working spaces. Although my husband and I work together from home, we have separate offices so that we can have a little space from each other. Sometimes, when we’re working on a project, we’ll set up a joint space, but we still maintain that separation so that we don’t get on each other’s nerves. And occasionally, instead of walking into the other room to talk about a project or communicate about a client, we’ll actually e-mail each other, which maintains that space, minimizes communication breakdowns and confusion, and maintains a paper trail that we use to track projects. If you work from home, get out of the house sometimes! Find a place that offers wifi and space to lay out your things, and one or both of you head out to work for the day. Sometimes my hubby and I work at the library — there’s a coffee shop, free wifi access, tons of resources, and people, and if we get our work done early, we can take a walk around downtown and eat dinner at one of the local cafes.
5. Work in different departments or divisions
If you work too closely, you can step on each other’s toes. To avoid this, make sure it’s clear what each person’s responsibilities are, and make sure you don’t overlap each other. If you both do the same work, you can accomplish a similar system by assigning specific tasks or clients to each person. My husband and I set up two divisions of our company — I handle the business and marketing consulting and he’s in charge of the implementation team that manages our clients’ logos, web sites, copywriting, and virtual office management. It’s a wonderful system that gives each of us our own domain and yet keeps us working together.
6. Marriage comes first
The most important thing to keep in mind, no matter what’s going on in your business, is that your marriage must come first. If you try all of these strategies and working together still isn’t working out for you, then the most important thing is that you protect your marriage. That might mean that one of you has to step out of the business and find another venue for your talents, or if you’re a home-based business, it might mean that one of you procures an inexpensive office space, just so that you get more distance from one another. What’s most important is that you find the solution that preserves your relationship and protects your business. But remember… marriage comes before business!