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Working with Your Spouse - Recipe for Success or Distress?

Updated on September 6, 2008

While I have to agree that working with one's spouse can be an enormous challenge, I believe that it is simultaneously an extremely fulfilling, wholesome, and rewarding experience.

I have often reflected on the irony of how two people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to each other; to love and cherish one another for all time, promptly spend most of their waking time apart. If you cannot maintain a compatible work relationship with your spouse how do you expect to run a healthy and functional marriage?

Marriage requires an enormous amount of active cultivation and effort. More often than not however, couples become complacent and tend to neglect their marital relationship due to the pressures and stresses concomitant with an overwhelming work load. This is compounded in a relationship where both spouses work or actively participate in a full-time career. How often have you found yourself coming home from work and simply vegetating in front of the television or, even more common, how many perfectly functional marriages eventually deteriorate into a resentful breeding ground for petty bickering over who does more household chores and who has a more stressful work day? Sound familiar?

Since time immemorial couples have pulled together creating a functional homogeonous unit that pools resources, strengths and skills in order to most effectively nurture and protect the family. If we are to consider this in a more contemporary light, today's workday is no longer about gathering resources in order to survive but is spent actively striving towards the goals and aspirations one has set for oneself and one's spouse. With this in mind, it makes the most sense to 'partner' up with one's spouse/lifetime partner and work together towards these goals and aspirations. Knowing that you both have the same ultimate 'end product' in mind should allow you both to step up to the hiccups and challenges that are inevitable in any business endeavor with the solidarity of a team. Should there be disagreements, which are undoubtable, managing them in the work environment will consolidate and mirror how arguments and disagreements are dealt with in the home environment.

A working relationship of any kind, whether it be business, marriage, friendship or even familial requires a few key elements in order for it to be a balanced and healthy association. Respect for your partner's ideas, space, priorities, and beliefs (which may often vary from your own) is of vital importance in maintaining both a successful work relationship and a marriage.

One often, without question, affords the courtesies of tolerance, patience and respect to unfamiliar work colleagues; surely the same courtesies can just as easily be extended to one's life partner. If one is able to communicate difference of opinion and discuss important matters objectively, without the fiercely competitive and emotive edge that so often accompanies marital communication, I do not see why an extraordinary work relationship between spouses cannot flourish.

Remember that your spouse is not your sibling, treat them accordingly and with love, determination and hard work on your side I simply do not see a better recipe for success.


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    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      I think it comes down to what the goal of the business is.  If both partners are fiercely competitive and want their business to conquer the world, then it works.  However, I don't think people get married based on common career mentality.  I know I married my wife because she is loving, kind, gentle, patient and compassionate.  She doesn't have a competitive bone in her body.  She want's everyone to win.  How could I not love a woman like that?

      However, this attitude does not translate well to the workplace in some situations.  I mean, it can if I just want a nice mom and pop business, but generally not on a super large scale.  When competitors start playing "dirty pool" or even just when a really nice employee just sucks too much to be saved and needs to be canned, a nice, sweet, forgiving businees partner can drive a firm, business minded one InSaNE!

      I think the problem is that there just becomes too many new opportunities to create disharmony.  "Never mix business and pleasure" is a saying I've seen work out well.  My marriage is a pleasure, so, why risk it?

      Interesting topic though, something fresh!

    • Alice Grey profile image

      Alice Grey 9 years ago from Pasadena, California

      Thank you for responding! You certainly raise interesting points and I have grappled with many of these very issues myself. Hopefully this can raise an interesting debate.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      I hope so too, I look forward to following it.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Alice- this is very true. It is sad that many marrieds are unable to spend much time together. Love your avatar.

    • Alice Grey profile image

      Alice Grey 9 years ago from Pasadena, California

      Thank you for your comment...yes I see it so often and find it such a sad reflection on the nature of C21st society. I am most saddened by the newly developed competitivness that seems to have developed between spouses and believe it to be a direct result of the dissolution of the separate spheres...nobody actually knows what their role in the household is any longer. Anyway....enough teacup is cute isn't it!!

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      Alice, one of the big pushes in contemporary education is the destruction of the "traditional role."  There is a huge and growing body of literature now working diligently to point out the evils of traditional roles, particularly as pertains to gender.  Hearthkeeping and nurturing activities are meticulously excised from gender ascription of anything that can be construed as "feminine," and, interestingly enough, even females themselves are being removed from the descriptive "feminine."  Feminine is now an adjective to descrive behavoirs that are typically associated with the hearth and home and/or with less agressive, more delicate personal traits.  However, this irritates social theorists because the very nature of using "feminine" to describe non-masculine behavoir pigeonholes the behavior back onto woman-like... which is what they're trying to escape.

      It's no wonder nobody knows how to act.  I believe we're supposed to try to raise children to be gender neutral somehow, that way nobody manifests any "stereotypical" gender behaviors.  Those darn masculine men and feminine females are just gumming up progression, dang it!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Times are surely changing, Alice. When I was a boy the stereotypical male and female were entrenched in our consciousness. Girls were expected to become nurse or teachers, boys had better be sports enthusiasts and ready to rumble and eventually go to work as cops or firemen and take care of the little lady, who would raise ladylike girls and rough and tumble boys. What you say makes sense, but I think few men today would welcome their wives in the same workplace. The hierachy of most workplaces today are more like George Orwell's "Animal Farm" than "The Life of Riley." Interesting discussion.

    • Alice Grey profile image

      Alice Grey 9 years ago from Pasadena, California

      Thank you so much for both the comment and fan mail William. I LOVED your likening of the modern day work place to Orwell's "Animal Farm"! You make some valid points. This is an extremely complex discussion, one that is going to take a lot more discussion. Something I am finding interesting though, is that no many women are partaking....hhhmmm...

      Perhaps in time.

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 9 years ago from USA

      Well, here's my voice...My husband and I work together and have for many years. However, we did not start our marriage doing that, yet because my husband was a cop, our relationship did require a large amount of respect and understanding of schedules, and committment. i could no more separate his job from him than I could suck out his blood. Since I understood that, I never felt the need to compete for his attention.

      When we went into foster care, we had been married 10 years. Again, we had to partnership in the caring for other people's children and came across many major differences of opinions. Because we had a foundation of respect, most disagreements were settled with compromise or at times one of us giving in to the other. Not always easy, but always worth it.

      We now work together for the last 6 years managing a multimillion dollar business. - it does work, but we are unusual as many couples can't agree over breakfast much less a division of duties and responsibility that involves mutual admiraion of each other's strengths and accomplishments.

      We don't steal each other's limelight. We might butt heads momentarily, but respect enters and anger exits. goals are accomplished...together and sometimes separately.

      In other words, we respect DIFFERENCES about the same as unity.

      He says "I'm the boss when she's gone - she's hardly ever gone..." LOL

      a sense of humor is vital. I don't think our situation is universal and as careful as we would be to hire the right people, so should the decision be weighted if a couple wants to work together. As Shadesbreath says "Why risk it if there's a doubt?" It's hard to erase a bad experience.

      Does this help or lend anything to your discussion? I hope so...I enjoyed your thoughts and glad you brought this subject up!

    • Alice Grey profile image

      Alice Grey 9 years ago from Pasadena, California

      Oh marisue... excellent comment thank you so much for participating. I think you were able to put forward what I was trying to say far more succinctly than I did. Your experience is so similar to mine. My husband and I have a wonderful working relationship but as in all things often butt heads. As I was wanting to say to William, we resolve our conflict situations as you do by understanding our different roles within the business relationship and as you say with enormous amounts of respect and compromise.

      Thanks so much for adding your 2c...MUCH appreciated.

    • profile image

      Laurie Bixler 7 years ago

      Excellent article. Not enough is being written about spouses who work together. It is a real life challenge. Immaturity in marriage = immaturity at work and vice versa. The biggest growth experiences I have had in life are: 1. Having a child and 2. working with my husband. Remember it takes two. Thanks for your article.

    • profile image

      Brenda Freeman 7 years ago

      I work from home with my husband. There are challenges along the way, but it can be done successfully. We both have our own time away from home (and work) to pursue our interests, but we also make sure we have time as a couple with no work discussed. It works for us. :)

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