Living & Working with your Partner
An Insider’s Perspective
“I could NEVER work with my partner!”
This is usually the response I get when I tell people that I both live and work with my partner of 10+ years, Marius. And I get it — it’s weird. Or, at the very least, it’s uncommon.
“How do you do it without killing each other??” they ask, either intrigued or horrified.
Well. That’s a big question.
There’s a reason why there are so many articles out there about it, with titles like: “Should you live and work with your partner?” and “TIPS to AVOID CONFLICT if you WORK with your SPOUSE”. People want to know if it’s possible to maintain a relationship when you mix business and pleasure.
A lot of people strongly advised Marius and I against starting a business together. “It’ll never work out. You’re risking your relationship and your business. Don’t make it personal!” We listened to their words of wisdom, but like most young millennials with a dream, we went ahead and did it anyway. We may live to regret it, sure, but isn’t that true of anything in life?
(You might expect the end of this article to read something along the lines of, “THEY WERE RIGHT! It was a huge mistake and now we hate each other.” Spoiler alert: Nope. It’s been four years and we’re still going strong. Hurrah!)
It turns out there’s no secret to working and living with your partner: it’s just a super subjective balancing act. It took a lot of work and time for us to figure it out — myself specifically because I have an A-type personality and everyone’s warnings blared loudly in my mind.
For example, we started off with different offices because I’d read that separate spaces were important. So Marius worked in the office and I worked in the bedroom, but as the years passed, I felt growing resentment in the pit of my stomach. I became tired about waking up, working, and going to sleep all in the same room — not to mention the buzz and flickering light of hard drives transferring footage throughout the night. I let the anger fester until it blew up spectacularly one day.
Me: “I can’t work like this anymore! I need an office that isn’t also my bedroom. That’s it, we need to find a three-bedroom apartment. It’s the only way!”
Him: “Uhhh, why don’t you just move your desk into the office with mine?”
Me (incredulous): “With yours?”
Me: “But… what about space?”
Him: “That was all you, I never needed ‘space’. I really don’t mind. It’ll be nice to not have to shout at each other across the apartment.”
Me: (suspicious) “Cool. Cool cool cool.”
We’ve shared the office ever since, and Marius was right — it’s much nicer not to have to text or yell at each other throughout the day. The only office-related thing we argue about now is the childproof gate that Marius installed for our bunnies after an unfortunate cable-chewing incident. I argue that the gate is high for someone 5’1” to climb over with hot soup or coffee, and Marius argues that it’s better than buying new cables every month. The battle still wages on that particular front, with me removing it on the sly only to have him promptly replace it, but it’s become far more of a joke than a real issue.
I’d also read that effective business partners/spouses had a strict “don’t talk about work outside of work hours” rule and decided we should try it as well. But the business is a big part of both our lives and trying to isolate work talk to work hours was unrealistic. Like any job, sometimes we needed to vent or talk through a problem with each other outside of work hours. There was an added bonus as well, in that we never had to catch each other up on stuff like office dynamics — we already knew.
Fool me once, internet, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. At that point, I gave up suggesting any further “foolproof advice”. I imagine some of it must resonate with other people, but we weren’t the target market.
We started doing things our way and finding a balance for us, specifically. Marius and Shannon.
I think part of what makes our partnership work so well is that we do very different things within the business. Marius designs client websites, develops digital marketing strategies, and pitches to clients; I plan, shoot, and edit our video projects. We do our own thing most of the time. Sometimes our work overlaps and we end up working on the same project, which is actually a nice change of pace. If we were constantly working together on the same things, I’m sure we’d start to get on each other’s nerves, but with our independent skill sets, we have enough time apart that working together is enjoyable.
Another reason our partnership works is thanks to our different work preferences. Marius likes trying new software; I like finding one that works and sticking with it forever. He likes working on his own; I like collaborating with others. He likes sitting down and working for six straight hours; I like flitting about the house. One style isn’t better than the other — they each have their own strengths depending on the project, and both styles have helped us land and keep clients. We don’t hold these differences against one another. Instead, we recognize them as advantageous and use them to better the business.
A BIG reason we work well together is because of our relationship, not in spite of it. Marius and I have been a couple for a decade, since we were 18 years old. When you become partners that early, you tend to grow together. It’s like becoming two puzzle pieces that fit together when they’re still malleable, rather than trying to fit together two rock-solid pieces. When we went into business together, we used the same approach and met in the middle. Neither business partnerships or relationships work if one person, or both people, are immovable. They both require communication and compromise. Sometimes we switch project management systems because Marius pushes for it, and sometimes we shoot stock footage because I push for it. Sometimes, we get our way; sometimes, we don’t. And that’s okay.
It took some trial and error over the past four years, but I think Marius and I have managed to strike a solid work/life balance. I’ve come to love working together throughout the day, having dinner together, and hanging out together. As sappy as it sounds, I always look forward to seeing Marius, whether it’s when I wake up in the morning, in the office, or after work hanging out with friends. We haven’t destroyed our relationship or our business, and we’re certainly nowhere near “killing each other” from too much time spent together.
When people used to ask me “how do you do it?!”, I used to ramble on, searching for a quick and easy answer… but there isn’t one. It’s all about finding what works for you specifically, and bugger what anyone else tells you. Like everything in life, it turns out that working and living with your partner is subjective.
Enough from me on the subject. Read Marius’ thoughts on living and working together here! (And if you’re curious about our business, we’re sorethumb.co)