The last 6 months have brought a lot of changes. My husband David was medically retired from the Army, we moved to a different state with 3 dogs, David started a new job (while still trying to transition out of Army life), and I transitioned back to an office position instead of working from home. If all of that wasn’t stressful enough on our marriage, we work together… at the family business. So, add working together in a small business to the list (and in David’s case, his father-in-law).
Starting out was rough, to say the least. I’m aware that I like to be in control of things; it’s not one of my most flattering characteristics. On top of that, David and I are both very stubborn people. While David was entering an entirely new environment, I was going into an office that I had remotely worked for online for the past year. I had somewhat of an established presence in the company, and at least knew a little about the day-to-day and what to expect. This made the adjustment difficult. I hadn’t fully prepared myself for David to enter my workspace, even though he was only trying to be helpful.
Fast forward 2.5 months. We’re starting to get the hang of things, but peacefully working together requires constant communication and work on both our parts. We have learned a lot about ourselves and each other, and a little about what works and what doesn’t. Let’s talk about some of the ways to maintain a healthy work relationship with your spouse.
Keep Him in the Loop
One of my biggest mistakes when we first started working together was to not include David. When an issue or question was brought up, I was quick to provide a solution and tell David “not to worry” about it when he asked for more details. Transparency and including each other is important for morale and productivity, because in reality he needed to understand what was going on in the office just as much as I did.
Respect Ideas and Contributions
Whether you and your spouse start working with each other right from the start, or one of you comes in halfway, be sure to maintain a mutual respect. At first, I had the tendency to discount David’s ideas because they seemed far-fetched or impossible. After a few fights, and stepping back to look at the bigger picture, I realized how valuable his ideas and contributions actually were. Because he hadn’t been immersed in the company as long, he had an unbiased, outside perspective on new things we could try.
Play to Your Strengths
I’m not one to ask for help; not in a store, in a crowd, or at work. I prefer to figure things out on my own. By keeping to myself, however, I’m missing out on a huge resource of knowledge and skills I have at my disposal: my husband! Some of David’s many strengths include his people skills, perspective, (blunt) honesty, and computer skills. When we first started working together, I was hesitant to share any of my tasks with him, because I felt like I could just do it on my own. Once I started to appreciate his skill sets, I was able to ask for help with spreadsheets and to get an unbiased opinion of my work.
Similar to playing to your strengths, divide responsibilities. Yes, some will overlap, and it’s always good to give feedback and edit each other. On the other hand, realize that you don’t both need to do the same job (unless you have the same title, which would call for some compromise!). With David in Sales and Logistics and myself in Marketing, we have gotten better about letting each other do our own thing.
Build Him Up
Celebrate the little successes! As David moved over to taking on Sales responsibilities, he gained momentum from the excitement of his achievements. Compliment each other when you can, and build each other up. Take advantage of all of the time you’re spending together to appreciate and acknowledge his achievements.
Leave Your Personal Life at Home
Separating personal and work life has been a little tricky while working in an office of family members and friends. While it’s virtually impossible to completely separate these two spheres of your life, at least leave the “dirty side” of your personal life at home. For example, the argument about the dishwasher probably should be discussed back at home after work, not in the office.
Boundaries are essential when working with your spouse. Yes, you’re married and yes, you might be in the same office – but you can still respect each other’s space. The first couple of weeks of working together, David and I became very thankful that we have separate office spaces in which we can find some peace and quiet.
Even after the petty arguments and issues we’ve overcome, I love working alongside my husband. When David came home frustrated or upset after a long day while in the Army, I was usually at a loss at how I could specifically address and help his problem since I didn’t have the full story. Now that I see him all day, however, I can better understand his work frustrations.
Do you work with your spouse? Do any of these ideas relate to other areas of your marriage?