Working with a Spouse: Lots of Fun or a Recipe for Disaster?
After two years of running a coaching & development company with her husband Nikola, Jelena shares the highs and the lows of working with a spouse.
We are a very creative team as we have our different strengths which complement each other and each of us is solely responsible for a different part of the business although we also often advise and support each other. On the other hand, it's a bit of a disaster too, as we sometimes get frustrated with each other - we'd probably be much more polite and kind to co-workers we're not related to! But, as most other couples who work together know all too well, the biggest problem is that we just can't switch off: going for a walk along the beach with the children, the Sunday morning coffee or a trip to the pub for a pint or two in the evening almost inevitably lead to work-related conversations.
As stress management specialists and psychology/coaching professionals we are usually the last people to implement effective strategies for conflict and stress resolution in our own lives (guilty as charged!). In our defence, though, think about all those excellent carpenters, electricians etc. whose own houses are a permanent building project!... However, we recently started designing proper weekly timetables where we schedule not only our individual and joint work commitments, but also all of the following:
Our weekly business progress meeting where we take stock of the previous week's work, discuss business development plan and set targets (this meeting has a 2 hour limit which forces us to be very efficient and remain focussed on the topic of business).
Set social media time as a separate category of work activities. Social media work feels more time consuming than useful but it seems to be essential for any modern-day business. Setting a 30 minute per day limit (or two blocks of 20 minutes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon) for posting links, tweeting etc. prevents us from slipping into random internet surfing and checking out Facebook photo albums of friends who aren't really friends but we kind of know them from that road trip 20 years ago...
Time with the children: knowing that our working day will end at a certain time (i.e. when they come home from school/nursery) also forces us to focus on our work and helps us meet our daily targets. Besides... kids will grow up and leave home before we know it so we shouldn't miss the opportunity to spend some quality (and also the not-so-quality) time with them!
Plan some social activities apart from each other: go for coffee or a night out, regular hobby/class with a friend, etc. Apart from making us work more efficiently in order to complete our work in the allocated time so that we're free to meet your friends, this also give us more things to talk about when we are together (see 5. below).
Set aside time for just the two of us and plan to do interesting stuff. Go out on a date: check out the latest theatre production, go to a gig, a restaurant or to see a movie... we are really spoilt for choice here in Brighton (and Hove, of course)! Spending time together with friends - dinner parties, drinks, coffee - also falls into the 'time for us' category. Take up a hobby or do a sport together. Let's face it, if all we ever do when we're together and without kids is work, then no wonder we don't have any other topics to discuss on those rare occasions when we do have a free moment together. The more activities we have as a couple outside work, the more things we'll have to talk about.
Also, making plans for our 'couple' time will additionally force us to work more efficiently during our scheduled working time.
It's all about the balance...
We found that during these 'OFF' periods (family or couple time) we simply need to switch off our mobile phones: no email, phonecalls, social media etc. Yes, availability is one of the crucial pre-requisites for running any successful business but, ultimately, having a successful life is all about balancing your professional and personal needs. Being without a mobile phone for a few hours a couple of times per week is not going to harm the business (in our line of work it's completely acceptable to answer an email or a voicemail a couple of hours later) but it is certainly making a huge difference to the quality of our non-professional relationship.
Walking along the beach, holding hands, discussing the shape of clouds and the design of our Mediterranean dream home (once the children grow up and we can be just a couple again), is what we used to do long before we embarked on our joint business venture and if we stopped doing it, we just wouldn't be the people we always were.
That's another point about being truly successful: your business/career plans have to fit in with your personal inclinations and goals. If not, you will find yourself in a constant struggle to reconcile the two and the feelings of fulfillment and content will remain elusive.
Approaches that may support you in developing a healthy balance between all segments of life:
|Laughter Yoga||Life Coaching|
|Mindfulness||NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP)|