Surviving Working and Living Together
“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
Let me just put this out there before I go any further – I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist nor a relationship therapist. But I am a mother and wife who happens to work and live with my husband and have done so now for over 10 years.
Working and living with your partner brings many benefits as well as pitfalls. For many couples, spending quality time together is limited to evenings and weekends. Snatching this time can be a juggling act as this time also has to accommodate shopping, daily chores, paying bills, catching up with friends, gym and hobby time, as well as, for many, time with their children and their activities and homework.
Couples who live and work together, or co-prenuers as I like to refer to them as, face the challenge of being together 24/7. However, this arrangement can lend to more flexibility in how activities are done and how time is spent. This can often bring people closer together, as each appreciate what the other is doing and going through and can offer appropriate advice and support. Co-prenuers can also establish daily routines such as commuting together, eating together and sharing sleeping patterns which can support harmony and calm routines.
On the flip side, being with each other day in and day out can result in “too much of a good thing” causing conflict, stress and general misery for all involved.
Co-prenuering doesn’t suit everyone – and that’s OK. The first rule to surviving co-prenuering is to be honest about yourself and your partner in relation to whether your personalities really lend to working and living together. Be OK with saying no and walking away from the idea if you know in your heart of hearts it’s not going to work for you.
Many couples think it’s a good idea and get into it only to discover that, usually their personal relationship is suffering as a result. Again, set the expectation that it is OK to walk away from the co-prenuering if you feel it is best all round.
My next learning as a co-prenuer is that you have to separate your personal and work life. You need to establish rules and boundaries in relation to when work can be discussed at home and how home life behaviours don’t enter the workplace. These Chinese walls are very important to ensuring that you nurture your personal relationship and not just your work one. Co-prenuers discuss and agree on when work can be discussed at home and when it can’t. Some even go so far as making rules as to rooms at home that can and can’t be used to discuss work. At the business, co-prenuers set limits on discussion of private life, with some establishing symbols that identify the working person as oppose to the life partner; for example, some women use their maiden name professionally and their married name in family life; some couples establish that when they cross the entry of the work place they “are not privately a couple” and therefore look upon each other as merely co-workers until the cross the entry to leave work for the day.
For most, we talk to our partner differently at home than when we are in public. In conflict at home we are less inhibited than if we think someone can hear or see the argument. I think we can all agree it is not a good look going at each other in front of customers and/or staff. Also, without rules in relation to how to communicate with each other, blurred content and spillover can result. By this I mean, when you’re living and working together, a disagreement about one aspect of your lives can quickly descend into an excuse to bring up everything else that’s bothering you – “OK so I forgot to advise the supplier that there was a time requirement on that delivery but you left your dirty socks in the lounge room again.”
The opposite can also apply. The workplace is not the place for lovey dovey. No matter what business you are in, you need to project professionalism to customers and staff. There are very few businesses I can think of where kissing, hugging, flirting etc can be accommodated, at least not publicly.
There are many successful co-prenuers such as Bill and Melinda Gates and Gerry Harvey and Katie Page. But, alas, there are also many such as Sonny and Cher and the two couples in ABBA who just didn’t quite make it.
My final suggestion to survive working and living together is to establish clear roles and responsibilities, as well as expectations, in both your work and private lives and be careful not to let egos get in the way.