Living and working together: three couples’ insights
Being married is beautiful and challenging, all at the same time. It requires a lot of love, patience and understanding to make it last forever. So why is it that some of us take the challenge to the next level and work together?
This week, I asked three married couples what it’s like to live AND work together. Ray and Miriam co-run a trading magazine; Glen and Maria are nurses in the same hospital, and Kerry and Alasdair have worked together a long time before they co-founded Popup Weddings.
Your partner knows you better than anyone
Having worked together in lots of different companies and capacities over the last 15 years, Kerry and Alasdair can confidently work side by side:
‘I find it easier working with Alasdair. I know him and how he works, and he knows me and how I work. We just get each other. Plus I enjoy his company (we worked in the same department and sat next to each other for over three years)!’
Ray and Miriam’s viewpoint is similar. Miriam says that she ‘couldn’t think of a better business partner… Once you’ve been married as long as we have, being married starts to evolve into a business-type relationship any way. I don’t mean in the stiff and corporate way, but in the teamwork-related way. Whether we’re being a married couple or business partners, we’re both very mindful of each other. We can say exactly what we think without the other one taking offence or judging. And we can preempt what each other are thinking, which makes doing business together more efficient.’
Glen and Maria’s situation is slightly different. Although they’re both nurses in the same hospital, they don’t always work on the same ward: ‘I’d say we work together directly about twice a week. At first it was strange [Maria] giving me orders and signing off what I was doing. But the strangeness didn’t last long. Our job is all about being adaptable, so interacting with her on a professional level is like working with any other nurse or doctor… [although] when I’m on the same ward as her, I just feel that extra bit of reassurance.’
It’s important to get the work life/personal life balance
Nowadays, more and more of us can call our colleagues friends. But when you work with your partner and socialise with your colleagues outside of work, it can be overwhelming, as Maria explains:
‘In my first five years of being a nurse, my friends were the people I worked with. Because we work shifts, our days off don’t really coincide with the average office worker. So it’s almost impossible not to socialise with other health professionals. But when me and Glen both started working together, and our relationship got more serious, I was more conscious of the boundaries. I suppose I wanted to have a level of privacy. I still have good friend-colleagues that I see outside of work, but I’m not as ‘open arms’ as I used to be. Otherwise, if me and Glen went out with friends, it would just be like being at work. And that’s too invasive for me.’
Kerry also tries to keep her work and personal life separate: ‘Over the years I’ve made good friends through work and we work well together. However, there have been times where I had friends who I started working with and our friendship changed. So I do try and keep a line between people I work with and the ones I want to stay friends with.’
Ray admits that he’s never found a balance: ‘Balance? What’s that? My life revolves around the business, Miriam and the kids. We’re a tight little unit, which gets the occasional visit from a family friend. When we’re not doing family stuff, I’m literally working. But I don’t feel hard done by – my job is what I love to do!’
Put aside some couple time
When you live and work together, your professional and personal lives have no choice but to overlap, explains Kerry: ‘It’s not just about working together, but we find we are so busy sometimes we forget to just be husband and wife.’
So how do you stop the overlap from affecting things?
Miriam and Ray always finish early on a Friday: ‘Most of the time we grab a drink and talk about how the week went or what we’ve got planned for the following week. Yes, it’s work chat. But we need that catch up to decompress and get work out of our system before the weekend. Then, when we wake up on Saturday morning, it’s our weekend. No business chat until Monday.’
But when you’re not your own boss, it can be hard to find a balance. Glen says: ‘Because we’re both nurses, our lives are governed by our shifts. In the early years of our relationship, not having time off together was really impacting our bond. If I was on nights and Maria was on days, we could go a week without seeing each other properly. So we sat down with our managers and they agreed that we’d have the same three days off each month, which is unheard of in our sector.’
Ignore the on-lookers
All our couples have come across people that judge them for working together, in one way or another.
‘When we’re on the same shift, we get “no kissing in the office” from the other nurses and doctors. But it’s all in jest. And when our long-term patients find out, it’s a great rapport starter. This one man told me that it was the wisest move I’d ever make, working in the same place as Maria because – and I quote – “she’s too good for you. No wonder you want to keep her close.”’
‘We were at a wedding last year and when we told the groom’s parent we run a business together, they congratulated us,’ says Miriam. ‘They’d been married the same length of time as us and they definitely had a spark. But they both led very separate lives – they didn’t even holiday together! But that worked for them. And being partners in business and in life works for us.’
When Kerry and Alasdair work in the same setting, they prefer not to tell people they’re married: ‘We try to be professional about it. When they do find out their reaction is ‘OMG are you really? I couldn’t tell!’
But when they do tell people they’re married and work together, they get a mixed reaction: ‘Most people are like, “That’s so awesome. I don’t know how you do it! I couldn’t work with my husband”. But we’ve had a few managers who couldn’t take the couple out of the team, even though we could.
We came up against comments like: “They come as a pair”, “You can’t split them up” and, when we did work in different departments, “Wow does your elastic cord stretch that far?” I did find it quite annoying, as we tried so hard not to let our personal relationship effect our working relationship. But when I think about it, it was actually everyone else bringing it up and making a ‘thing’ of it. Not us.’
Living and working with a partner might seem an impossible task for some, but for others it’s totally do-able. Based on what our three couples have said, I think the success of such a partnership comes down to the dynamics of a relationship.
If you’re working with your partner or you have done in the past, what do you think makes for a winning ‘life partner, business partner’ relationship? Let us know in the comments box below.
About the author