4 Secrets to Marital Bliss When Working From Home With Your Spouse
Working with your spouse is never easy. There’s an invisible line that you’re not supposed to cross between work and home life particularly when you’re raising children together. In pre-COVID times, it was possible to create boundaries through physical offices or time spent away from each other during lunch meetings or regular daily outings. But with the total collapse of life as we knew it in March, all those tidy divisions went buh-bye.
Anyone who has been following Rachel Hollis and her husband/business partner as they’ve built their business together was most likely crestfallen to hear about their split. Balancing the demands of a working relationship with those of a marriage and parenthood is difficult, even for the most committed and optimistic. Don’t get me wrong: there is no better business partner than one who always has your back particularly when their dreams align with yours. The stakes and risks are high; when it works, the benefits are awesome!
My husband Charles Nelson and I built Sprinkles from a tiny cottage business in my West Hollywood condo into a national brand with 40+ locations not to mention our many cupcake ATMs. After selling to a private equity firm in 2012, we founded Pizzana, a Neo-Neapolitan pizzeria in Los Angeles. Pizzana, along with two other start-ups, is also on the national expansion track under our new venture capital fund CN2 Ventures which focuses on early-stage consumer-based businesses.
During the last seventeen years of our partnership, I’ve learned a thing or two about working with my spouse, and I’m grateful that even after sheltering together for the last five months, we remain solid.
Here are four reasons why.
1. Mandate me-time.
Don’t just allow space for your partner’s me-time, make sure it happens. My husband is like a horse who needs to be run. If he hasn’t gotten his daily workout in, I can hear the tension in his voice. We all feel so hemmed in that it’s more important than ever to check in with your spouse to make sure their basic needs are met. What does your partner need in order to recharge? Being married, I trust you know what that is. Now go honor it.
2. Mind the minutiae.
The other night I started editing the latest episode of my podcast, Live to Eat, and while in the process of putting my headphones on, my husband snapped saying, “You need to wear headphones if you’re going to do that.” It was a small thing, but the tone of his voice was enough to set me off the rails. And it’s something I also immediately regretted.
In this bizarre new-normal, our brains are rapidly trying to adapt, but it’s not easy. Evolution doesn’t work that fast! And for most of us, tensions are even higher as we try to adjust to these extraordinary circumstances. That’s why even the seemingly most innocuous comment or gesture can send us into a raging fit of lunacy.
Tread lightly and with kindness. Watch your words and your tone. And if you really feel like screaming, get in your car, and close the door. I’ve been there, and it’s remarkably effective.
3. Disagree, don’t dis.
My husband and I share the same sense of humor, which has served us well throughout the years when we have a work disagreement. Anyone knows that a well-timed joke or a good-natured rub can melt the tension like Dawn in a greasy pot (sorry, I’ve done a lot of dishes throughout quarantine.)
But even if humor isn’t your thing, when you and your partner have conflicting opinions, take the time to consider your reaction and how it will be received. Just because your partner thinks your Facebook ad campaign is underperforming, it doesn’t mean he or she thinks you’re a terrible person. Take a breath first before responding, and remind yourself that it’s business and not personal.
4. Get connected.
No, I’m not talking about plugging into the Wi-Fi or connecting on Linkedin. I’m not even talking about establishing a regular date night (something Charles and I have never done!). I’m talking about getting grounded and connecting to yourself. Everyone loves working with someone who’s happy and whole, so do the work to get yourself there, and your partner will appreciate it.
Glennon Doyle calls it your “knowing”; some people call it energy; and other people call it God. Whatever it means to you, and however you tap into it — maybe with meditation, or getting out into nature, or joining for a virtual church service — do it. It will make you less vulnerable to the worry and stress that is defining this moment in history.
Calm your mind, get present, gain a little perspective, and — who knows — maybe you’ll find a little joy in the process.