BBC Capital

Quora Column

Married to the job: Sharing an office with your spouse

(Thinkstock)

(Thinkstock)

For many, the idea of living and working with a spouse or partner sounds like utter insanity, but for others, it’s a golden opportunity to mix marriage with business.

Longer work days mean more couples are ‘passing like ships in the night’.  So when striking a happy work-life-balance proves elusive, some consider setting up a business together. But do couples that work together stay together?

BBC Capital wanted to know more. Do the benefits outweigh the inevitable fall outs? So we went to online question-and-answer site Quora.com to find out what is it like to work with your spouse

Tim Tangermann wrote: “It boils down to your relationship. I was in a bad marriage for a very long time and there was no way I could work with my spouse. But now I have a woman who adores me and has a very mild manner about her, so we can work together peacefully.” Although he conceded that it can be hard to get work done sometimes, his advice was: “Take breaks, always show respect, ask questions, don't be demanding, and be very understanding with one another.”  

Remo Zecchinelli said he met his partner at work 15 years ago and that they have been together ever since.

He wrote: “The short answer is: it's very hard to work with your partner, most of the time it's harder than living together. In the beginning our salaries were quite different, so that was odd — we worked in different offices for the same company.” He added:“Now the salaries are the same but we sit next to each other all day long, so that's weirder.”

Zecchinelli that the couple had given up on trying to separate work life from personal life. He wrote: “Before we used to fight over our work differences; now we use them as a bond, to make a perfect, solid team, with two viewpoints sometimes completely different. We've learned listening to each other and see our points, and then come up with a strategy that joins them. We've been successful on that, but again, it took us quite long to get here. 10 years, And we're still fighting sometimes, and improving too.”

Yet a porous membrane between work and home life can quickly become a problem without advance planning, as Chief Financial Officer Julie Chan found when she set up a business almost 19 years ago. Chan wrote that when she first co-founded the company with her spouse , “we ate, thought, and breathed for the business, working for its survival on a daily basis. We ignored our relationship.”

She wrote: “We did not lay down some rules for separating our roles as business owners versus as husband and wife and as a result, the business defined who we were and are as a couple. However, when there were business adversities — and there were many, it translated over into our personal relationship and often resulted in arguments that now I realise were not productive, in the very least, and very destructive to our relationship.”

Chan sounded a note of caution for anyone else embarking on the same route.  To all couples starting down the path of shared entrepreneurship, my advice is to determine ground rules to guide behaviours and expectations of each other first. Then make sure to check in, take time out for each other, and respect each other.”

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.

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