Working With Your Spouse: Insights, One Year Later

My husband and I recently celebrated an important milestone: a year of working together.

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In January 2016 he resigned his last job and began working with me in the coaching and consulting company I have run for the past 13 years. It was a big step, one that we had noodled on and off for a long time and then happened very suddenly when he came home one day announcing he had tendered his resignation.

From that moment on, we never looked back.

Our life now looks completely different than it did before: we’ve essentially switched roles. Where I used to be the primary caretaker for the kids at home, now that role falls to my husband with me in a support role. He has a very full life, because he also runs the operational side of our coaching and consulting business. When a kid is sick from school, he works from home. Otherwise, we work side-by-side in our lovely office 15 min from home in our small town’s bustling commercial district.

Sure, there is a lot of risk involved. I would be lying if I told you I did not feel increased pressure now, since the company needs to provide for our whole livelihood. That feels weighty.

And, boy, am I ever all-in. In fact, we both are.

Over the past year, the upside of this lifestyle has been so worth it that we are incredibly invested in making it viable for us on a continual basis. I often find myself saying that this has to work out, because I can’t imagine a better lifestyle for us and our children than this. Having time with their daddy, who used to be at his 24×7 job most of their waking time, is priceless for my kids. I see them flourishing, and though they test us at every turn as all kids do, we are more equipped to deal with whatever comes our way than ever before. We’re a team, in every sense of the word.

This transition actually began a few years ago, when we contemplated a move to Southern California for a job my husband was pursuing. At the time, it was an exciting possibility to think of re-inventing ourselves and our lives in a new place. However, after visiting the city and trying to imagine ourselves living there, it became clear that I was more invested in my career and business where it stood than he was in his career.

Though we could have made the move, and I originally went into coaching thinking that it would be a mobile career that I could take with me if we ever chose to move to support my husband’s career, it became clear that my business would be impacted by a move and that we were not up for that…not to mention the impact the move would have on the kids leaving a school and town they loved.

It is tricky to be an ambitious woman in this world, especially if you are also a mother who values time with her kids and a wife who wants to have a satisfying marriage.

It was a trying time as we navigated my husband’s career transition; in fact, it took another job for my husband and another year and a half before we finally decided to start working together. I have great respect for my husband for going through the process he did to determine that he would be willing to support his wife in her business. Now, the business is truly ours; we talk about “our company” and “our office” and “our team.” Looking at our website, I’m realizing an update is needed to reflect t these important semantic and energetic changes.

Before his arrival, I had gotten to a point that continuing to run the company by myself felt daunting. I considered throwing in the towel in the months and weeks before he decided to join me. Although I love coaching, the administration of a multi-practitioner business is not for the faint of heart. I was burned out and exhausted, and yet still had an unshakable sense that this work was what I was meant for. It was a confusing time, until my husband decided to step in.

Last summer, about six months into working with my husband, one of my friends who sees me twice a year said that I was glowing, and seemed so happy. It made me step back and think. Yes, I am happy, in a way that I haven’t been before. I feel like a knot that has been tied for a long time has finally been unraveled. That is because of my partnership with my husband, both at work and at home.

Working with your spouse is not for everyone. For us, it works well. I have had other people work with me in my office before, and working with my husband is by far the best.

Why? Several reasons:

  • Like me, he is invested in the business growing, and supportive of whatever needs to happen to do that.
  • I don’t need to entertain or take care of him. He knows me better than anyone else and we can be comfortable together doing what we need to do to take care of ourselves during the day.
  • He is committed to me, and loves me no matter what. That is a great base to build a business on, because it makes you resilient. You feel like you can conquer any challenge.
  • We can communicate in shorthand. He’s an engineer, and we can very plainly talk to each other and sort things out. This has always been the case, but especially since adding kids to the mix. We know how to get the job done in as few words as possible.
  • He makes the company better. We are both strategic thinkers, but in very different ways. He is the hands-down best person for me to strategize with, and I am amazed at how we can sort out thorny issues together that feel impossible for me to do on my own.
  • We are walking our talk. In my role as a coach, it is essential for me to honor my values in the way I live and work in order to be someone who can authentically assist others in doing the same. With my husband working alongside me, I am able to do that more than I’ve ever been able to before. There is an alignment energy there that feels unstoppable.
  • We recover from mistakes and setbacks quicker. Why? Because we have to, and because we have the horsepower. Having four hands is better than two. Each setback means less when tackle it together, and we can cover more ground as we learn from mistakes.

If you are considering working with your spouse, here are a few guidelines to increase your chances of it being a successful endeavor based on what we’ve learned:

  • Craft written job descriptions for what each of you will do. It is important to know who is on the hook for what; otherwise, you run the risk of either stepping on each other’s toes or else missing things that need doing that each of you thought the other person would handle.
  • Determine specific roles at home. If you are like us and are essentially switching roles at home, it is especially important. Figure out, ahead of time, who will be making breakfast and lunches for the kids (if you have them), and who will drop them and pick them up from school. Who will handle the laundry and cooking? What about the Finances and tidying up the house? If you leave these things to chance, they will be causes for frustration and friction.
  • Make your work schedules known to each other, so that the other person knows when you are and are not in work mode.
  • Hold your spouse in unconditional positive regard. Challenging, I know, and, important to do. When you feel frustrated with something your spouse is doing or not doing at work or at home (and trust me, you will), remember that the person is doing their best, from their perspective. There are likely conditions that you do not see that are impacting them, and it is important to understand them. Approach with kindness and empathy, not with combativeness, when you need to figure out and get to the bottom of why something was done (or not done).
  • Designate a no-work zone. We actually talk a bit at home about work, and vice versa. AND, there are times that we don’t; Sundays in particular are days where we tend to avoid work talk and just enjoy time with the family and recharge our batteries.
  • Make sure you have financial runway before you make the switch. It will take time to figure out the rhythm of working together and how to optimize it to both maximize your lifestyle and earn the income you need and want to support your family. It is important to have some time to figure out that rhythm; if you go into it wondering where your next meal will be coming from, it will put undue pressure on the situation and make it difficult to succeed. Sit down and calculate together how much you can earn together over the first year or two of working together, and then make sure you have those resources on-hand.

We are in the process of making some strategic moves in our business to grow the impact of our work, and to serve more people so that we can help people build and enjoy thriving careers. I feel incredibly grateful to have my husband by my side as we do this.

 

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