Working For Your Husband Is Tricky Business
My husband is sleeping with his secretary.
Not only do I not care, I actually encourage it.
No, we’re not swingers, or in a dysfunctional marriage. We work together… and I’m his secretary!
The first question I’m asked when people find out that my husband and I own a business together–and that I technically work for him–is, “How do you do it?
The answer I give is the expected mix of joke and half-truth: “Not easily!”
We started working together by accident. My involvement at the outset was more or less that of a doting girlfriend with lots of spare time. We fought frequently in the first couple months, actually, because he seemed to be working all of the time. One night, during an argument, he told me, “I don’t even start working until after 5:00 because I’m in the office all day!” To which I snapped back, “You barely have any work in there in the first place! How in the world do you have so much office work to do?”
Three months after he started the business, I had taken a few days off due to minor surgery and decided to go in to work with him just to get out of the house. One day in his office was all I needed to see that he did have enough work to require help.
Due to my flexible work schedule, I kept helping out in his office when I could. After a couple months of that, I could barely keep up with both jobs, and things weren’t going well at my “real job.” We discussed it and thought it would be worth a try having me come on full-time. That was May 2008. He proposed in June, we were married in August, and I’m still working full-time in the office. The business continued to grow exponentially, and we now employ four full-time guys in addition to ourselves.
So, how do we do it? To be completely honest, I’m not 100% sure. We’ve had times where I thought it would be the end of our marriage. The issues that play out in any typical marriage are present both at work and at home, and are only amplified by the stress of running the business and managing employees. Staying on the same page is hard. Defining roles is even harder. Despite our early success handling the business as co-owners, over the longer term, that was not working out.
Someone has to be the boss, and even though I still struggle with it at times, that person is him. Some of the standard rules that apply to a successful marriage just don’t apply to a successful business.
We are both assertive control freaks, meaning we had to learn fast to stay out of each other’s “areas.” He doesn’t tell me how to do my work, and I don’t tell him how to do his. Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
We are also an “opposites attract” couple. Sure, we have some common interests, but our personality types are polar opposite. He’s sociable, outgoing and energized–an extrovert to the core. I’m a little shy and reserved, a homebody and mellow–very much an introvert. He’s an eternal optimist, and I typically see the glass as half-empty. Oddly enough, this combination of personalities has helped the business more than anything else, because we balance each other out. Where he’s ready to jump in head over heels and take a a risk, I urge caution. When he takes off running after an idea, I sit back and do the research. In spite of the conflict it can occasionally spark, we’ve seen this pay off more than it’s harmed us.
Probably the hardest part is remembering that while we’re at work, I’m the Office Manager and he’s the Boss before we’re husband and wife. Sure, we occasionally flirt or argue, but if the business is going to succeed, work has to be work.
There are drawbacks to working together. It is virtually impossible to leave our work at work, and we don’t always have so much to talk about over dinner since we not only know how the other’s day went, but what specifically happened. We do have to work harder at making “me time” to ensure that we maintain some semblance of individuality and have new conversation topics.
One of the positive aspects is that we are growing together, every day. Each challenge we meet and face head on brings us closer. Regardless of the times we are pushing against each other, when something does get done, we did it together, and it creates a strong sense of teamwork in our marriage that can only be accomplished by achieving shared goals.
Will this arrangement last forever? Will we be working side by side in thirty years, old and gray and holding hands as we gaze upon our empire? Only time will tell. Because I have played a large role in building the business, I don’t ever want to completely bow out. But I do have dreams of my own that I’d like to get around to some day. Maybe we’ll start a family. Who knows? Because we began working together early in our relationship, I worry that if we stopped it, would affect our relationship negatively. We don’t know each other in a different context, and a large part of what defines our marriage partnership is our business partnership. So as long as it is is working I’d just as soon leave well enough alone.
I just know that, for now, it works. And we love it!