Deep breath, close eyes count to ten, repeat.This is a mantra I have often employed whilst working alongside my husband in our own business for the past 10 years. That’s not to say the mantra is necessary all the time but there are definitely those days where I wonder what the heck we’re doing together (in life and business).
There’s NOTHING worse than starting the day on the wrong foot and spending the rest of the day wishing we could quit. Sending snide emails and giving dirty looks across the office is an option, but it never seems to get us far.
When things are rocking, a husband/wife team is formidable, when things are rocky, business, marriage and family suffer.
As with all lovers working as a team, my husband and I made the decision to go into business together for many reasons and it’s vital that we continuously remind ourselves of the BIGGER picture.
We have (mostly) learnt how to successfully collaborate in business and maintain a happy marriage too (yes it can be done)!
We have become experts on the job through trial and error and I want to share this journey with you simply because I want you to know it is possible to NAIL it in business, have a blissful marriage and truly love every part of this blended life.
But I also want you to know, that like any collaboration it takes hard work, commitment and a personalised framework you must live by.
Our Framework for working and living together happily and harmoniously
Set Boundaries. Setting boundaries that work for you BOTH is crucial. If this means you can’t function before a cup of coffee in the morning, your partner needs to honour this and shut up. If this means he says “no discussing work whilst the sport is on” then don’t! A friend of mine, Sally, who works with her husband Tim, points out “if work is affecting your relationship, do not talk about work, revisit it later, perhaps in a neutral environment and it won’t feel so intense.” For Tammy, another girlfriend who works with her hubby “it’s not ok to walk into the bathroom, while your partner is in the shower and start talking about work, EVER.”
Always have the insight and strength to say “we can’t talk about this right now and honour each other’s personal boundaries”
Establish your roles. Ensure you have well defined areas of responsibility and don’t overlap these too much. As Tammy says “this works really well (for us) because we’re not trying to tell each other how to do each other’s jobs (well most of the time anyway). My husband and I have ensured that our roles have developed into very separate entities over the years which I believe has ensured the longevity of our partnership.
Communicate. Learn to actively listen and value each other’s input, ensure you’re liberal on expectations of each other and apologise. Tammy suggests “say sorry and mean it. We all make mistakes, realise when you have and apologise if you need to.” Equally as important is to remember to “praise one another on a job well done, often. It’s simple really, everyone’s working hard, and sometimes it’s easy to forget the little things and to overlook your partner’s achievements.”
Find your own “blend”. We used to feel guilty for talking about “work” over dinner. However, if the truth be told, sometimes we just really want to talk about the positive outcomes, so instead of worrying about the perfect balance of separating work and “family time” we have made a rule to only discuss the “wins” and the positives over dinner or on weekends and keep the rest for “work” hours.
Marriage and family ALWAYS comes first and you need to find the “balance” that works for you and your family. We often “switch off” between the hours of 5pm and 7pm for the kid’s dinner, bath, bed time and then make that time up after 7pm when the house is quiet, kids are asleep and we have had “family time” –it works for us.
Find some physical space. Having occasional different work spaces is essential. I’m writing this from my local café, whilst my husband works in our home office. I look forward to us having lunch together and meeting in the afternoon about a new project. Living in each other’s pockets is not a good idea and for most couples, not sustainable.
Keep a Sense of Humour. Remember the big picture. Why you went into business together. Have fun. Sally points out that you must “keep it in perspective and even when the work is tumbling down around you, laugh together and lighten up.” Working together can be the greatest gift ever, if you just remember that you are on the same team.
Working together can be the greatest collaboration of your life. We are our own “life designers” and our days are flexible – we can nip out for a family beach session at midday and make up for it later that night. You can have a great balance of business, family and fun and live the life you dreamt of by ensuring you find your workable balance…(need to work on this conclusion)
What’s your number one tip for working with your lover? I would love to hear from you – send me an email or comment below on how you and your partner work together – what works, what doesn’t and what do you wish you’d known before you “said yes to a blended life”.