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Couples That Work Together - Balancing The Job With Your Personal Space And Romance

Updated on August 23, 2010

Dear Veronica

I need to figure out how to have some balance in my life and I am writing to you Veronica to see if you can help guide me. (...)

Here's my story. I am a woman in my 40's who has never been married. I am now living with my boyfriend for 1 year.  I met him online but not on a dating site. I met him on EBAY! Yes, that's right! He has a very large successful eBay business (....). I purchased a lawn mower from him. He was supposed to have it dropped off to my house by a friend of his with a pick up truck and I paid a $20 fee for that. As it turns out the lawn mower when he was loading it onto the truck got dropped and he wrote me and explained that he wanted to repair it. Then, his friend with the truck was busy. I was also selling on eBay, not like him but just some stuff here and there and I had a day job in a factory. As a seller I understood that these things happen. He was so nice and we started emailing, then calling. Finally he was able to borrow another truck to drop my lawn mower off. As soon as I saw him I wanted him lol! He is a widower, he is 48 and he has no children. We began dating and he began encouraging me to sell more on eBay. I was able to quit my day job that I hated and began selling full time. We decided to move in together, and it's been hectic to say the least. I sold my house and moved into his, but we quickly discovered it was too small. We are renting it out now and we bought a big house together. We got such a great deal on it, and have been 50/50 with the mortgage and the downpayment and everything. 

Let me just tell you a little bit about him. He is a classic computer geek. He's absolutely adorable, very intelligent, and a little shy. He's soft spoken but he's a very communicator. He treats me like gold. Really I am so lucky to have found him. I am so in  love with this man it makes my head spin! I believe he feels the same way. We are always smiling.

Now for the problem part. Well it's not a problem as much as it's just that I need some guidance. I went from being single and living alone, and going out of the house to work every day, until just this past year and a half. During that time I fell in love, quit my job, kicked off a big home business, and moved twice. Now, I live with my boyfriend, neither of us leaves the house to go to work, we are both working round the clock and with each other all the time. 

I love being with him. Honestly I really love working for myself and that he works for himself. We have this big house and money is not an issue. If you know anything about eBay than you understand that sometimes he could have 3000 active listings and I could have 500 - 600. Auctions are about a week long and if you get a message that someone wants additional info or pics you want to jump on it so you don't lose them to another item. I realize this sounds horrible but we will be laying in bed at night and hear mine or his computer make that email sound, and we get up and run into the office to see what the email is and answer them right away! I even admit that I find it kind of fun sometimes. I would say on an average week we each do about 50 hours of actual work. But the thing is it's not in a row or at a specified time. It's all over the place. 2 hours here, 3 minutes there. 

I feel like there is no distinction between work time and our time together as a couple. And I am not used to having no alone time. I spoke to him about it and he was great. I told him I'd like to do yoga and he said great! He turned one of the spare rooms into a yoga studio with me. It's lovely! I signed up for classes but kept missing them because I'd get to answering an eBay email. So I asked the teacher for private instruction so now she comes to the house twice a week. Since I'm paying her, and it's my house, it seemed silly to not invite my husband to try out a session with me. It's lovely really. But now I am not leaving the house and I am not doing this alone. I don't think this served my purpose!

The hard part about this is that I really love him so much and I love spending all this time with him. I also really enjoy selling on eBay. It's always different, and it's exciting when you sell something, and you meet people from all over the world. This isn't the point but also it has given me financial freedom I have never had.  (....)

I just don't want to wind up ruining how great my whole life is right now by not setting up some kind of boundaries. Do you have some guidance for us Veronica? My boyfriend is very open to hearing what you have to say as well. Thank you for your time.

Bee Boulder

Dear Bee Boulder,

Thanks so much for your email. I left out some large sections of it from this post. I left out the area where you talked about what you sell and where just because I felt it was too personal. I left out the paragraph about what you've read of mine Thank you! And I also left out the specifics of your finances again just to keep you safe online.

I hope people will read the charming story of how you met your boyfriend. Boy, talk about when you aren't looking! Congratulations on finding each other. And he does sound very nice. I'm happy for you.

Now let's tackle your time balancing issue.

Working a 50 hour week isn't crazy. People that work a 40 hour week probably put that extra 2 hours a workday in with commuting, picking up dry cleaning, getting dressed in corporate attire, attending business functions, and doing other tasks that allow them to work a 40 hour week. So I don't think that's an unreasonable amount of time to dedicate to your job. Additionally, you mentioned several times how much you like what you do, how it has given you financial freedom, and how you still get excited when auctions close. Meeting different people all over the world, and getting to do it in the comfort of your sweat pants from your living room couch is an awesome perk!

The generation of workers coming into the work force now are referred to as Gen Y. Net Generation, Next Generation, Millennium Echo-Boomers, lots of names for a new type of employee. They have email, and Blackberries, and Droids, and iPads. They are completely redesigning the way our generation perceived the workplace. They actually work a longer day because they are technically always on call. But they have completely rebelled against the idea that they have to do their work from a desk in an office, or that they have to be there at 8:00am. Or that they have to ask for a day off. Or that they wear a suit. They are the result of parents and grandparents who worked their whole lives in oppressive creativity-restricted jobs for the same companies, only to be tossed out or pushed aside when it best suited the company. They do not have company loyalty, they are loyal to themselves, and they set the parameters on how they are willing to work. Truth be told, they are more productive.

The work environment you created is actually the day's protocol.

I see no reason for you not to do something that makes you happy and results in your having such a productive and good life. I understand your very smart desire for balance, but just as you are not working in yesterday's work mindset, you don't have to be in balance according to what worked for people 20 years ago. Read: yes of course you can go 3 or 4 hours without checking email. But, why should you, if you like to check on your auctions and if your boyfriend doesn't mind? What are you gaining?

I think it's lovely that you two have built a Yoga room and have an instructor come to the house. It's nice that your boyfriend was able to enjoy doing this with you. Unless you aren't being completely honest here, it sounds like the two of you really enjoy spending so much time together. I can appreciate the concerns but I think just a few simple guidelines will make a framing difference that may ease your worries.

If you really want private time with your boyfriend away from work, instead of setting aside a block of work time since you are kind of on call round the clock, set aside a block of personal time. Don't set a limit you can't possibly meet. Something simple, like at the dinner table, from 5 pm - 6 pm, there's no checking emails.

Usually when people need to do that it's because one partner or the other isn't on call, and isn't getting emails all night. That is just not the situation you're in. You both have exactly the same work demands so you completely support the other and understand. It's a much different mindset to see that you can spend 2 or 3 quality hours with your partner, that may have 2 or 3 five minute interruptions. That's alot of relaxed good time. If you set aside an hour where you can't check emails, it's less time, and it could be stressed. Looking at the big picture of how much time you actually spend together would show you that you spend a great deal of time together, much more so than couples that work apart and schedule down time to be romantic.

Another factor here is that even though Ebay is work for you guys, clearly it's also a passion. It's not like a chore, it's fun! And it's something you share! If you are sitting at desks posting listings on Ebay while also talking, drinking coffee, smiling, listening to each other, sharing what you're posting, that can't be considered work by the old definition. So let that definition go and see that the time you're spending on Ebay may actually qualify as quality time.

One thing you might want to try to do is to schedule an out of the house vacation. The great thing about being in business for yourself is that you get to give yourself a week off. It might be very interesting to see how you two relate and interact when you are not online or keeping an ear out on your listings.

List your auctions with a statement saying no one will be minding the shop during these certain dates. Time your auctions to end on a given night. Spend a day or two shipping and emailing and processing. Post a note on your Ebay Me Page saying you'll be back in 5 days, (or 7, or 14, whatever you choose) and go. Leave the house, leave the computers. Leave Ebay. Get on a plane and go someplace. You said money isn't an issue. Congratulations! Go do something you'd both like. From diving in Honduras to walking through museums in Paris, to a long camping trip in the Adirondacks to laying on the beach in Morro Bay. Talk about it, pick something you're both excited about and go.

Then resume your lives the way you seem to like it, with lots of interaction and emails.

The fact that you are both in your 40's lends a certain perspective too. I doubt either of you has failed to master being their own Person. I have many people that write in, in their early 20's that don't understand that it is important to be able to spend time by yourself, and on yourself. They don't understand that this is essential. You have to be able to make your own happiness. You have to be able to be You, before you can be a partner to someone else. You are both well passed that lesson. You've probably each spent quite a bit of time alone. It's almost as if you've paid your dues. You have developed yourselves, and you're obviously both good partners.

That leads me to the final part: the time you spend completely alone. Your boyfriend sounds very understanding and respectful of this. Don't do something just for the sake of doing it. Only insert your independence where you feel you want to. It could be as simple as taking a walk by yourself, or going out for a cup of coffee by yourself. It could be a little more involved like joining Curves where you can go at 1pm or 2pm, or if you're caught up in an email about an auction, you can go at 3pm or 4pm. It can also be something a little more lengthy, like going to visit your sister or an old friend for a long weekend. If you want to do it, then do it. If you want to create some space for yourself in your home, by all means you should. And encourage him to do the same.

But don't feel you need to. At this point in your life Bee, you've both paid the dues and done the work. You're both viable people that seem to work together as a couple in a very strong way. You're still in the honeymoon stage so enjoy it. Laying a smart foundation of clear open communication is really the best thing you can do. As time moves on things may change. As long as you can talk about it together, you'll be fine. As long as you keep being honest with each other and respecting yourselves and your needs, I think you can play it by ear. I hope this has helped. I celebrate you. Thanks for sharing your story!


Submit a Comment

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from NY

    Thanks Ladybird33, I appreciate your comment!

  • Ladybird33 profile image


    8 years ago from Fabulous USA

    Wonderful advice and it helps us all! I enjoyed reading, thank you for the advice!


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