Working with Your Spouse Without Ruining Your Relationship

Working with your spouse without ruining your relationship

There are often unique issues that come to play when we work with those we love.

As a married couple, the decision to work together may come from convenience, financial need, or having met as a result from being in the same field. Whatever the reason, navigating the boundaries between home life and work life can be a challenge for any couple. You don’t want your loved one to be a co-worker you can’t get away from or feel suffocated by. You also don’t want to cross a boundary and have your personal relationship leak out to unprofessional actions in the workplace.

Preserve the intimacy of your relationship at work

The following 7 strategies will ensure you will help preserve the intimacy of your relationship at home while staying productive and focused at work.

1. Reach out

Who can you talk to if your spouse is bothering you? Are there mutual friends who don’t want to hear about the nonstop tension? Help manage by having a conversation about who you talk to without making others uncomfortable or violating the privacy of your partner. Have a source that’s separate from others. This may be a therapist or someone you know you can trust who won’t come in between both of you. Be cautious of opening up to co-workers or mutual friends who may be unwillingly brought into the drama of your relationship.

2. Set clear boundaries

Frequently, when you work with family members, negotiations like salary time off for vacation days, sick days fall by the wayside. Often times, when working with family, people will spend hours working and work at odd hours and don’t ever feel they have time off. Having fair compensation and specific boundaries dates will help designate time you are working and times you can relax. Be aware of times you work “because it’s family.” By agreeing on the amount of vacation and sick days, and the daily schedule many fights can be prevented when the rules are clear.

The bed is for sex and sleep. Period.

Do not wake up and immediately check emails, avoid emails on the bed altogether. No reporting the schedule for the day. The private and public space needs to be separated and clearly delineated.

3. Take time off

Be mindful of times when you need a break. If you’re in the grind of working at home and in the office, it becomes very important to establish “me time” for you to take care of yourself. If both partners are taking care of their own physical, psychological and social needs outside, they will be able to each give more to the relationship and to be more focused while at work.

Take time off

Make time to be a couple without working; it’s a dinner meal with the family and you discuss the crisis that just occurred at work. Kids are playing outside having fun and a work issue you think needs to be immediately addressed by your spouse. They may not think of it as very important and would want to focus on the family time but do it nevertheless. These are situations that lead to resentment and lack of intimacy. Make a weekly night to rekindle and remember the person you fell in love with- not the co-worker. No work discussions allowed. Want to take it to the next level? Try not discussing the kids either. You’ll be surprised how warm and happy you can be with just a few moments to look into each other’s eyes and do similar adventures you used to. When you’re both in a better mood and deriving more pleasure- working together will be a breeze.

4. Avoid black or white thinking

“You’re ALWAYS late!” “You can’t do any of the tasks I ask!” Pitfalls occur when we pigeonhole people into sweeping generalizations of who we come to understand. Then, small arguments can become much larger issues. Avoid labeling one another and be aware of language. If you call your partner “lazy” it will not be much of a motivator to do something different the next time. Instead, try to focus on what you’re arguing about in that moment and make a suggestion about what may work better next time.

5. Speak using “I” statements

Instead of “you should” begin by saying “I feel”. Your statements will be more well received. It will also help the other person not feel immediately defensive, attacked or targeted.

6. Increase communication with your staff

Discuss the elephant in the room. It will be difficult for employees to voice their discontent with the special treatment the spouse receives. If, however, there are check-ins and it’s viewed as a progression and everyone is collaboratively and openly looking at potential issues, it’s more likely that the sentiments will come out and be able to be addressed.

7. Shake up your roles

Spender vs saver. Powerful one and one in subordinate role. Shake things up. If one of you is the boss at work maybe you can be subordinate in the bedroom. Mix it up. Sometimes implementing one small change or being spontaneous can help introduce a playful energy to both the relationship and the working dynamic.

By gently reminding yourself of the partner you fell in love with you can stop bringing the same age long issues both at home and in the office.

Jessica Koblenz
Psychologist, PsyD, CGP
Dr Koblenz helps people with psychiatric problems such as trauma, loss and relationship issues. She comforts and supports her clients through crisis situations and helps them improve their lives.
Currently she works at the Harlem hospital, she teaches psychaitry residents, psychology doctoral students and Columbia University medical students.
She received her doctorate from Long Island University. She got her training from Bellevue Medical Center, Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.