Working With Your Spouse?
Working with Your Spouse — Could You Do It?Being Business Partner with Your Spouse Comes with Challenges, Yet It Can Be Quite Rewarding
By Joyce Owen
My husband and I like working together.
But from comments made over the years by several co-workers, I fear that if some couples tried working together it could lead to the end of the marriage, if not the end of one or both spouses.
I think it works for us because it was a choice we made. As a friend who works with her husband told me, it’s not as though someone forced us to share the same office space.
So why do we do it? And more importantly, how?
Why? I’ve always said we were just catching up. In the early years of our marriage, my husband, Rich, served on a nuclear-powered submarine. It seemed he was gone all the time.
One year, he was away from home for 305 days. When you realize the lengthy separations we endured, it kind of explains what happened next. Rich got out of the Navy, and we decided that if an opportunity to work together came along, we would try it.
We have now worked together three times, and at home we’ve always shared an office. At the last job, we were just desks apart, but the other two times we worked in different departments on different floors.
And for us, it has been a blessing in so many ways. Early on, we figured out that when one of us succeeds, we both benefit.
It goes back to our first shared work situation. Rich had wanted to develop his photography skills, pardon the pun, but that wasn’t possible with the cheap Instamatic camera we had.
I used my first paycheck to purchase him a single-lens reflex camera. It didn’t take long for him to discover his niche — a photojournalistic approach to capturing everyday situations that tell a story. Today Rich has a daytime job as an analyst, but his true calling is as a photographer, which is a great match to my job as a writer.
In the first two jobs, I worked as a secretary, but Rich encouraged me to step out beyond my comfort zone and take chances. I had often talked of wanting to be a writer. I even submitted my work to publications over the years but had no luck in selling anything.
Rich ultimately helped me achieve my aspirations when he invited me to accompany him on a photo shoot of a play at then Okaloosa-Walton Community College. He was a freelance photographer, and he thought that if I wrote an article to go along with his photos, the editor would be more inclined to run several photos, which would be great for him. He was right. It ran as a feature story, with my byline! It led to a full-time writing position for the newspaper. A few years later, Rich joined the staff as the full-time photographer, and we were back working together again.
As to how we do it: by combining our strengths and overcoming certain weaknesses. We’ve become a good team. Rich is always the professional. When I work with him, I strive to match his work ethic, which makes me better at any job I tackle. I’m a bit of a procrastinator, but not him. Give Rich an assignment and he goes right to work. Then, of course, I have to get going, and the next thing you know the job is done, the customer is happy and there’s the benefit — a paycheck.
There also are Rich’s organizational skills. In less than a minute, he could put his hands on a 10-year-old tax return. My workspace is a bit more cluttered. My stuff has taken over the walls and filled several boxes; even the nearby daybed is stacked with magazines, newspapers and clippings I might need someday.
While we have had success in photography and writing, it hasn’t always been perfect — nothing ever is. But we like to work and play together. And we’ve decided that the little problems that occur are just that — little things that we figure out how to resolve.
And although I wouldn’t say that working together is suitable for everyone, especially in these days when you could both be out of work if the company fails, for us it has been the best way to share a wonderful life.