Nic and I have now been working together for about 6 months – long enough to reflect on what it means to build a business with your spouse.
When he asked me if I wanted to work with (for?) him, we weren’t even married yet. At the time, I was about to quit my job, which was making my life hell, and sending applications out. He had carefully thought about it and basically needed someone to help him with the business. I didn’t say yes immediately. Taking the decision to work with your future husband is not an easy one. I took a week to think about it and finally accepted the offer.
Six months later, I still think it was the right decision. It takes time and effort to build a business and a marriage at the same time and I’m not going to give you any tips on how to do it. One you can find plenty of advice just by googling it. And two I believe it depends too much on your personal circumstances and your relationship.
What I can tell you, however, is the pros and cons I have found when working with my husband.
Let’s start with the cons – just because I’d rather finish on a positive note…
– No real separation between work and home
Anyone will tell you that you should have a clear and healthy separation between work and home, especially when you work with your spouse. Easier said than done… Let’s face it, when you work from home, with your husband, you can’t just leave work in the study at night.
We’ll spent some nights at the pub talking about work, and I’ll find myself doing housework some days. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is being able to understand when the other is not in the mood for talking business and back off.
– Danger of cutting yourself from the outside world
Not going to an office full of people every morning has been a massive change for me. My office is about 3 metres away from my bedroom and the only person I might meet there is my husband. Although I found the peace and quiet very refreshing in the first few weeks (a tiny office with 5 strong-headed and sometimes loud female colleagues can be overwhelming), I soon felt the need to go out and have a social life.
– You’re very conscious of your spouse’s feelings
You need to be careful when expressing criticism to your spouse. Remember that he/she is the same person you share your bed with, and you don’t want to start a personal war.
I’m stubborn, always right and quite sensitive. Above all, I can’t stand losing face in front of Nic. He is stubborn too and very forgetful. Because we don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings, we found new (and better) ways of communicating – chats in a neutral environment or well-considered emails. There’s nothing wrong with communicating by email with your spouse. On the contrary, it allows you to really think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can read it over and over again before you send it to make sure you won’t start a fight. It’s actually pretty effective.
Now with the pros…
– Lots of fun!
It’s important to have fun in your job. It’s even more important when you’ve deliberately chosen to work for yourself or for/with your spouse. And working with your husband should be fun because you share a lot more than just an office space and paperwork.
If you’re married to someone, there’s a good chance you know and understand the person well. I don’t want to endorse any cheesy clichés, but you don’t necessarily need words to know when is a good or bad day, when you can joke or when you should just remain silent. Working together actually brings in a brand new level of understanding in a couple. It might take some time to be on the same page, but when everything is in place, it’s great. I know, for instance, when Nic doesn’t want to be disturbed for anything. I put on my headphones and just get on with work. He understands when I’m having a bad day and can’t get anything done. He just tells me to go out for a couple of hours to clear my head.
– You get to spend more time together
Not only do we spend time working together, but I also feel that we have more quality time together. With my previous job, I was leaving home at 7.45am and coming back at 6pm, 5 days a week, with nearly 1 hour commute each way. A standard working day for many people. The difference today is that our working hours are quite flexible and we take time to have a lunch break together, or go to a coffee shop or to a pub for a drink after work. I also have some housework done during the day, so we don’t have to do it at night or during the weekend.
Ironically, it is also easier to spend time apart doing our own stuff. When you already don’t get to spend much time together, you’re torn between being with your mates or being with your wife. Now that we work together, we need to spend time apart and don’t feel the least guilty about it!
Working with your spouse might not be for everyone but for me, the pros largely outweigh the cons and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The next challenge is working together and having a baby at home. Nic is already looking at getting an office somewhere. Probably a good idea…
photo credit: Jason Pier in DC