Writing about life, love, relationships and dating. A research junkie, a book lover and a smart*ss, according to my partner.
We often hear that couples should never work together in order to have a happy relationship. People end up spending all their time together, the boundaries between professional and personal lives disappear and work-related disagreements spill over into domestic problems.
Spouses working for the same company have to deal with more than just seeing each other all the time: there are a lot of issues that they have little control over, like office gossip or diminished respect from colleagues based on an assumption about preferential treatment by the couple.
The ideal work-life balance is even harder to achieve for those living together as well as working from home. It takes a lot of hard thinking and self-exploration to admit to yourself and your partner whether you are ready to live a life, that connects you so closely on all fronts.
Many try (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to avoid relationship problems by setting boundaries, such as avoiding talks about work while at home and vice versa, or allocating “work” rooms if your house is also your joint office, or avoid working over weekends.
The same ideas and solutions aren’t necessarily suitable for every couple that works together, but looking at potential drawbacks as areas of improvement can help create the work-life balance that’s ideal for each couple individually.
My partner and I went from working together and dating to working and living together, to building and running a business from our living room.
So, how do we manage to stay happy with both our love and work lives? These are the seven points that I believe help us navigate freely between the two – hopefully they’ll encourage you to find more benefits and balance in your own situation:
You Are on the Same Schedule
Even when my partner and I worked for the same company, we mostly communicated over the phone, being in charge of two separate departments. Very often, I had to work long hours and he had to work weekends. The difference in schedules left us with just a few precious hours in the evenings.
Working together from home, means you are pretty much on the same schedule all the time. You learn to get up at the same time in the morning and you get to have all your meals together. None of you has to worry about getting home late after working long hours or about not paying enough attention to your spouse.
Synchronizing your days can also teach you about time you spend on performing your daily tasks. I was a procrastinator and used to leave most of my workload until late afternoon, having to work into the night to complete everything. My partner is a get-goer, he gets up in the morning and gets right into it. Inevitably, I started following his pattern, feeling guilty for not completing much before lunchtime. As a result, now I manage to do everything I need during the day which leaves both of us plenty of quality time in the evening.
Living and working in the same environment allows a couple to learn a lot about each other’s daily habits both personal and professional. It also encourages both sides to perform better – we all want our partner’s approval, it’s motivational and rewarding and it works with all aspects of your life.
You Get to Spend a Lot of Time Together
The main problem people seem to have when it comes to working with your spouse, is that you are together 24/7. I, on the other hand, consider it a huge bonus – why wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as you can with a person you love, with your best friend?
If couples who start a business together end up having personal problems as a result, it’s more than likely that those problems existed in a relationship way before and weren’t addressed in due time.
A “live together – work together” scenario works when a couple’s lifestyle and fundamental values include the importance of close-knit and supportive relationships and aspiration for growth both as individuals and as an item.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to spend all the time you have exclusively in each other’s company. Not one person can fulfill all their partner’s needs, that’s why you still need to maintain your friendships outside your relationships – they allow for healthy bonds and keep you in the loop with events outside your happy little life/work bubble.
Go with the Flow
When we started working from home, we both tried to establish a routine where we separated the work time from the downtime – we scrapped the idea about three days into the experiment. When you run your own business your work never leaves your mind and that’s just something you need to accept. If I suddenly have an idea and can’t share it with my partner because it’s outside the working hours, I won’t be able to enjoy my downtime and feel agitated and distracted.
For us, our work is just one of the things we do and enjoy together. Sharing thoughts and ideas when they pop up is a natural flow of our relationship and we embrace our work with passion.
Of course, sometimes it’s natural to want to switch off. If you are on the same page and know each other well – and you should if you live and work together – you’ll know when to stop and take a break or let your spouse hit the time-out button. I need to switch off more often than my partner does – he has a harder time with it – and it’s totally ok, I let him wind down at his own pace.
You Get to Divide the Labour
Like with any business, clear role division is important to your success. I am terrible at the business side of things so my partner set up the company; he is also responsible for the finances and the technical development. I am good at writing, building on ideas and creating structure – and that is what I do for our business. It’s important to know your limitations and stick to what you know. Trying to get involved in things you have no clue about just because you want to be included is unprofessional and immature and you would never do it working elsewhere.
If you learn to divide responsibilities within the business, you’ll see the benefits of doing just the same in your personal life. In fact, it will come quite naturally. My partner doesn’t enjoy cooking so that became my responsibility. I don’t like dealing with finances so he took on the bills and the management of our accounts. Mutual agreement on all aspects of your life as a couple leads to harmonious relationships and reduces conflict.
You Are in It Together
The best thing about working with your spouse or your partner is that you are creating and building something together, it’s a part of you as a couple and it’s a part of you as individuals. A business set up by two people in a relationship requires equal investment on both sides as well as mutual goals and commitments. If one of you gets sidetracked momentarily or struggles under the pressure, it’s the partner’s job to remind you why you have started it all in the first place and that together you can get wherever you want to be.
Encouragement and Support Are Real
When you work with your partner you develop a clear understanding of the amount of effort they put into your business and the obstacles they have to overcome to make it work. When they succeed, you experience their victory like it’s your own – you know about the countless hours and the amount of work they had to put in to solve this or that issue. The words of encouragement, support, and appreciation will never be empty clichés, and coming from someone close to you they mean more than ever.
Working Together Creates Grounds for Self-Improvement
Living and working together, you are exposed to your partner’s way of thinking and seeing things on a daily basis. You also have to account for it and take it into consideration, including the way they think about YOU as a life partner and as a professional. The opinion of someone who means a great deal to you is the best motivation when comes to reflecting on your own abilities and finding areas to improve on.
I feel immensely proud when my partner comments on my improved computer skills or complements a piece I have written. What I love about his responses to my achievements the most, is that there is always a constructive break-down and not just the simple “well-done”. If you take your time to relay what exactly has improved in your partner’s arsenal of skills, they’ll work even harder to keep progressing. Self-improvement and encouragement are crucial to successful professional and personal relationships, especially when the two are intertwined.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.