How to work happily ever after with your spouse

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by Prerna Malik

Living in India with a heart that wishes to see the world, Prerna works with her husband, bakes with her daughter, shares her life at The Mom Writes and frees up time and creates content and community for time-starved entrepreneurs at Social Media Direct.

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“Will you be able to pull it off?” nagged a little voice inside my head when my husband and I decided to go into business together in 2011.

The decision did come after a lot of thought and brainstorming, planning and strategizing, but still there was this little voice inside that asked repeatedly, “Will it be a happy place to be in?”

Gladly, today, after almost two years of working together, I can say, “Yes, we did pull it off and yes, it is a very happy place to be in.”

However, it certainly isn’t easy and, like every partnership, both partners have to work hard at it. Here are some tips that help me work happily and successfully with my spouse right beside me.

Set Common Goals and Expectations

First things first, know why the two of you are working together. What do you expect to get out of this business? Know your goals and agree on them. That will make decision-making a lot easier down the road.

Better still, write down your goals as you create your business plan. Review and revisit regularly so that the focus stays.

Also, having the right expectations is important. Both of you should be onboard with the business idea and plans. Both should know the financial ramifications of the business. Both should know what to expect should, God forbid, the business fail. Yes, you should both have clear expectations.

Meet Each Other Halfway

Working together is not a power struggle. You’ve got to learn to meet each other halfway most of the time. While there will be instances when tough decisions will need to be made, try not to make every single one into an ego battle.

Also, always, always listen to each other. You’ll be surprised at how many times I’ve gotten a fresh perspective on a blog post or on dealing with a client because I listened.

Give Each Other “Alone” Time

Yes, when you work together, you need to spend time away from one another as well. More than ever. Schedule “me-time” so that you get to give each other some breathing space and probably think over things independently as well.

Mayank, for instance, gets his alone time when he heads out to the gym or to play tennis every morning. Me? I treasure my early morning alone time, as well as the time when both Mayank and Manini, our almost 5-year old, go for her tennis lessons.

Alone time is also important when you’re working on a project and can’t seem to agree. A walk outside on your own or an evening with impartial friends can help you get perspective and “meet each other halfway”.

Spend Some “No-Business” Time Together

You’d be surprised at how easy it is to talk “business” all the time with your spouse. I know it, first-hand. So, we now have weekends (or at least Sundays) when we don’t talk business at all.

We discuss movies, books, our daughter’s latest and funniest, plan a holiday or our retirement, but we DON’T talk shop.

Remember, you’re husband and wife first, business partners second. So, keep that romance alive by spending time away from your business, every now and then.

Work with Each Other’s Strengths and Interests

When you’re married, you tend to complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t let that change when you work together.

Mayank is great with numbers, so he naturally deals with the boring important bookkeeping and invoicing, along with other things. I enjoy writing and networking and so take on those aspects of the job.

Divide responsibilities according to your respective strengths and interests. Life and work will both be simpler.

Partner, Don’t Compete

Finally, always, always partner with each other. You’re not on different teams so don’t compete or try to show each other up, ever. Be respectful. Be sincere. Be a partner.

Share the housework. Team up to take care of the kids. Divide responsibilities.

Yes, working together with your spouse can be enriching, fulfilling and “happily-ever” after. You just have to learn how to make it work, just like you’d do with any other relationship. And honestly, wouldn’t you rather work with someone who really “gets” you? I would. Oh, wait, I do!

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Comments

  1. I have renovated three homes with my husband and I found myself nodding my head in agreement with each of your suggestions. Sometimes we worked together, other times I painted in one area with my music blasting while worked on something in another part of the house while watching a movie on his kindle. We always made a point to go out at least once a month and do something together that had nothing to do with renovating. Giving up on competition was hard at first but after a while we feel into roles that suited our talents and in doing so were able to get the job done more effectively.

  2. avatar
    Robin from Frugal Family Times says:

    Great post, Prerna! My husband and I write our blog (and now freelance) together. We are both pretty good at giving and receiving “constructive criticism”. But, sometimes it was hard to move from receiving-feedback colleagues to happy-couple-parents again. Some tender feelings were often carried over. Lately we’ve been doing something that helps: after we’re done our work we give each other a big long hug to signify work is done and family life has begun (not that it ever stops!). It’s working nicely! Sometimes the hugs start forced, but eventually we melt back into friends and a couple again.

  3. Great idea, Robin! Love having a special “sign-off” ritual to indicate stepping out of the office:-) Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Prerna, this was such a timely post for me! I recently started blogging (more seriously) and my sweet husband has partnered with me in many aspects of it. He is my biggest cheerleader and I couldn’t do it without him, but it’s amazing how full our conversations have become with “work” stuff. Thanks for the encouragement to block off time in which we don’t talk business!

    • Hi Jenn! You are welcome and great to hear about your working partnership! Talking shop is so natural especially when both of you love what you do so much.. But switching off is always wonderful.. for the home, your work and your relationship. All the best with implementing this! :-)

  5. Great post! When anyone ever asks me how am I able to do all I do, I answer, it’s because of my husband. We work together all the time on each others projects, but I never thought about the working partnership we have created until I read this post. One of the secrets to our success – I think – is awareness and self-awareness of each others strengths and weaknesses. Also, as much as it’s great not to let business invade personal time, I think the opposite is also true. You can’t deny him his opinion just because he didn’t take the garbage out last night :)

  6. My husband and I graduated from the same University, with the same degree. I used to think it would be a terrible idea to work in the same company. But looking at us now, I realized that I was actually scared of us competing against each other. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and where each person has a comparative advantage over the other is really a great help. I just wish he’ll stop thinking that I HOUSEKEEPING is my strength. LOL

    • Ha! I wish I weren’t better at the HOUSEKEEPING. My husband helps me anyway though. I read somewhere once that if someone can do something better, or even just good enough you should let them help you. I don’t know what I’d do without my husband’s help. And if he weren’t willing to help change so many diapers I’d probably throw in the towel at having more kids too!

    • Hi Cham! We actually worked together in the same company for quite.a while.. In fact, that is how we met! Lol! Ad yes, the fear of competing against your partner is scary but once you have a few of these ground rules in place, it is a lot more fun!

  7. I am a full-time stay-at-home mom, so my first priority is to take care of kids. When I read your post, i felt everything you said in this post. We argued about how to raise the 2 kids, we helped each other, we complement well with each other, and we both need alone time with our kids…

  8. I’ve always wished I could work with my husband because I think we’d have a fun and effective way of doing so. I’ve done some freelancing/volunteering for his work in the past and it was always awesome to be able to collaborate with him on projects.

    • Hi Nina! Here’s hoping your husband and you get to work together on some great projects soon., the funny thing is that these tips work for us not only in the work sphere but also when working together on home projects, like redecorating! So, even if you can’t work together, you can always collaborate on other non-work projects..

  9. Very inspiring article Prerna. My husband and i have worked together on some projects in past and we have always divided responsibilities to avoid conflict. Love the no business time together idea.

  10. Prerna,
    This is such good information – and an excellent check me for me! After my husband lost his job in 2008 and began working as a consultant, we have shared an office and work space. With both of our kids in school all day, we have quiet time to work but have to stay focused. It’s easy to get off track! My husband helps me immensely around the house, which he wouldn’t be able to do if he went to an office each day.
    Great job, Prerna!

  11. Such a wonderful post, Prerna! And it’s so nice to see you here! :) I know this information will help lots of husband and wife teams.
    Heather

  12. Thanks for this post. Now if only my husband and I could avoid that little competitive thing that seems to creep in!!

    • Hi Stephenie, glad you liked the post.. You know, what competitiveness tends to creep in sneakily.. and one has to REALLY keep an eye out for it.. Once you learn to nip it in the bud, it soon stops becoming a problem!

  13. Thanks for the insight! I am glad it was successful for you. It seems like it would be kind of cool because you get to see a different side of your partner you would not ordinarily see. I would love to work with my spouse. However, I am sure it would be really hard as you say. I know where I am weak he is strong, and that makes the best partnerships. Thanks again!

  14. Tami, spot on.. Both personal and business lives need to work together and yet be distinct.. Love that your husband and you work together ‘happily ever after’!

  15. Man, I couldn’t work with mine!!

  16. Another great post Prerna. Even though I and my husband do not completely work together, but he helps me in a lot of aspects. We do have plans of working together in future and I find myself agreeing to everything you say.

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