People often ask how Bill and I work together all day and live together at night -- and stay happily married. Let's face it, some couples have trouble spending too much time together and function better with lots of time apart. Our first few years of marriage, I frequently travelled for business, so we never got enough time together. Now we live in what equates to the world's tiniest town, where we work together all day and can't leave the island after dark. You wanna talk about marital challenges?
No, really, there were some reality checks for both of us when Bill retired and we moved to Vieques to do wedding planning full time. He'd been Evening Watch Commander for his police department in his last command and so most nights, dinner for me consisted of whatever was hanging out in the fridge. Suddenly Bill wanted to eat dinner. Every night! And the television remote battle that had never existed before began -- not only were we both home together at night, but there was only one TV!
Bill is nocturnal. Thirty years of working midnights and evenings will do that to you. And when we lived in D.C. I used to wait up until 3 a.m. almost every night to make sure he made it home safely from work. Cop wives do that. Now I have my own company and a bunch of employees, and my happy ass has to be dressed and functional in the office by 8, so I need to get to bed earlier. I'll admit there are nights I work into the wee hours when I get behind, but in general, it's me who is nudging us toward bed earlier than what is now biometrically normal for my husband. Straight up, he still gets up to snack at 3 a.m. I don't think if he's still on night shift after seven years retired, I will ever change anything about that. So we try to compromise. He's quiet if I go to bed earlier (sort of) and I'm quiet when I leave for work (although I get in trouble if I don't kiss him goodbye -- and I love that).
Working together is a whole other trick, especially because we're not equal partners. This company is mine. Bill is a full-time partner in every sense because he's there for me whenever I need him, but I'm the one who has to run this place and remind him of who the clients are that we're picking up that day. He's not in charge of little details like that. That said, he is in charge of equipment, radios, setup and teardown crew guys, vehicles, and more little things than I can possibly list here. He stays at the beach parties so I can leave and see what's up with flowers. He gets to the welcome parties first half of the time because I'm trying to tear myself out of the office. He troubleshoots so many things that I have no clue about until I hear about how wonderful he was from the clients later on when chatting at the reception. Bill is my hero.
How do we work together without killing each other? We have clearly defined roles and we don't step on each other's toes. If we do, we do it at home and fight it out there without an employee audience. Having the bosses go at each other just makes everybody feel weird, and would be a highly unprofessional way to run our company. I don't mean we never snap and snark at each other -- I'd be lying. But we're pros at this and after seven years, we recognize the dirty look that says, "Oh yeah, we'll talk about this later." The good news is that "later" is good because we're both always cooled down by then. Sometimes "later" becomes "never" and that's a good thing too. I can be a bitch. He can be a jerk. We're real people. We work and live and sleep together. We are not perfect, even though we both try very hard to be. And when we do fight, we have to whisper fight anyway because there's like three feet of space between houses on our street and we have ventana windows. Takes the punch out of the fight to some degree when all you can do is hiss at each other.
To work with your spouse, you have to have boundaries. I'm the boss, but if I have to countermand something Bill is doing, I try to do it on the side or in an appropriately professional way. When he disagrees with me, he tells me on the side. He's learned the hard way not to get involved in décor, cakes, catering or staffing because those areas aren't his problem. If he would like to take responsibility for them, I'm happy to give it to him. But he doesn't want that, so he's happy to keep his mouth shut. Kinda like me and tiki torches. No comment, dude. Pretty much ever. Not going there because I'm never going to deal with them. I don't want to do the lights either. Does this make sense? If you're going to work with your life partner you need separate office spaces and separate responsibilities, and you need to back each other up unconditionally in public and disagree privately later on.
Bill and I have the additional challenge of living in a place where our social circles are limited. There's no movie theater or bowling alley. We miss most of the cute gallery openings and other community events because we're at wedding events at least three nights a week. Lots of people on the island have business connections with us, via subcontract or family member, and that keeps our social options limited too. It's hard to party with somebody on Monday and discipline them, if necessary, in a professional manner that Friday. So we just avoid putting ourselves in that position as much as possible. Which means we spent entirely too much time together in our off hours too. We're each other's best friends, but that can be a bit much too.
I don't know that I'd recommend quite this much togetherness to other couples -- don't get me wrong, we still know how to function independently and prove it when we travel north to the real world separately on occasion. I think girls' night out and guys' night out are great things and beneficial to most relationships. Unfortunately, we live on an island where we can't go out separately without rumors starting that we're split apart. No lie.
So what have we learned here? It is, in fact, possible for a married couple to live and work together successfully, but you have to have three very important things:
1 - Boundaries
2 - Clearly defined roles
3 - Respect for each other's positions
Follow Sandy Malone on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SandyMalone_