Emily Sue Harvey: Spouses Working Together - Making it Work
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
– Henry Ford
At one period of the Harveys’ life, circumstances forced us to do a bona-fide “starting over,” including a career change. On this new frontier, on-the-job clashes took the romance out of our relationship until talk of divorce scared us into separating business from pleasure.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Lee and I decided to open our own hair-styling salon, allowing us more time together, plus permitting me space to write in my spare time. “It won’t work,” warned naysayers. We laughed. Don’t rain on our parade!
Yet, we’d barely begun to set up the salon when tussles over details arose, like where to hang mirrors and pricey versus cost-effective furniture for the waiting area.
Then, the biggie; “Who’s the boss?” Lee’s bossiness didn’t set well with the new partner – me. And he didn’t know how to handle this new businesswoman wife who stood up to him. And heaven help me, listening to his same old jokes all day? Needless to say, by the time we got home, we were barely civil to each other.
Despite that, our salon flourished. But as business partners, we no longer felt like husband and wife. One day things got so heated that one of us blurted, “Let’s just go see a lawyer.”
The truth? Neither of us wanted a divorce. We took seriously our “’til death do us part” vows.
Just raising the issue jolted us back to reality. It inspired us to make changes that would save our marriage and business. The first step was to pray and seek God’s guidance, of course. With Him in charge, we came up with six ways to renew our working relationship.
SIX STEPS TO MAKING IT WORK:
(1) SET YOUR ROLES: Define your roles within the business, ones that you both agree that you can live with. In our case, we decided to not have an actual “boss.” Rather, we began to negotiate the hows and whys of issues, coming to a solution we both approved. Compromise became an ongoing exercise.
(2)TIME APART: Once we realized what was happening, we agreed upon taking separate days off and, when free, each taking time out for a trip to the supermarket or an hour at the golf driving range. That way, we weren’t constantly joined at the hip, thus reducing the probability of annoyance. It freed me from that “being watched” feeling and it gave Lee the experience of trusting me to make wise decisions. He soon recognized the tiny strain of controller in himself and backed off. As a result, we began to look forward to and value our times together more.
(3) COMPARTMENTALIZE: This was crucial in our marital/business relationship. When we left work, we agreed to leave it all behind. When we got home, we basked in our haven. We stopped talking shop at home. At work, we gave it our all. We were a team, reassuring one another during rough spots that “we’ll work it out.”
(4) MUTUAL RESPECT: Immediately, we became business associates, requiring utmost esteem for one another’s opinions and procedures. When necessary, we switched roles from that of “husband and wife” to that of “business partners,” and vice-versa. During business negotiations, this freed us from preconceived stereotypical spousal reactions.
(5) SCHEDULE ROMANTIC DATES: During these dates, our policy was “no business talk.” We went all out, dressing up, babysitters, and even getaway weekends without the children. Other times, we did unique things with the children, like going to Dollywood at Christmas time, making “family time” special.
(6) SCHEDULE REGULAR BUSINESS MEETINGS: These were necessary to redefine our roles (that we’d previously set) and clear the air of gripes that would build up during working hours. It also gave us the opportunity to give each other positive feedback and encouragement.
Working together takes your marriage to another dimension. In going there, your commitment, like ours, will be tested to the limit. Stormy clouds hover and threaten but faith and commitment—along with the above principles—will see you through.
Emily Sue Harvey is the author of multiple novels published by The Story Plant.