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  • Elaine Zito

How to Work With Your Spouse (and not kill each other)


My husband and I have been working together for 6 years. We met at work when I was just 19 years old and worked together for less than 2 months before we started dating. You could say we established a good work relationship beforehand, but not much can prepare you for being together...ALL OF THE TIME. While it's amazing most days because we can drive together, vent to each other while we're there, and flirt however much we want (no HR issues here), it is definitely difficult at times. We have had to navigate boundaries, control, emotions and more. Here are some ways we make it not only bearable, but enjoyable:


(While Allyn and I work in the restaurant industry, which is very different from 9-5 jobs, I will try to make this as relatable as possible)


1. Work in Separate Areas/ Departments:

-The more space you give each other, the better. It's already hard enough being together 24/7 without pulling your hair out, but if you're right on top of one another, it can go south quickly. For us, we separate ourselves spatially. I work on the inside of the restaurant (most of the time), while he works on the patio. I will occasionally work outside, but know not to make it a habit. Space is good, and allows us to be our own individual selves. Working in a separate area or department gives you the independence and freedom you need to succeed. As for couples owning their own business together (because we are in that game as well), try to designate certain areas of the job to each person. For example, in our real estate, Allyn handles the finances while I handle the emails and paperwork. A clear separation of power is less likely to lead to arguments over control.


2. Give and Take:

-Sometimes Allyn wins, sometimes I win. When making decisions at work or in your business, you can't expect to always get your way. Allyn and I have a rule for this: if someone is super passionate about a decision and hands down knows their reason why, then that person wins. We use this for disagreements and opposition. If you know you can't always get your way, then you'll be less likely to spark a fight so often. Hear their reason why and try to put yourself in their shoes. No one wins if a decision or task is not complete because you can't agree to disagree.

3. Don't Take Things Personally:

-This has been, and continues to be the hardest concept for me. In the restaurant industry, you must have thick skin. Whether it's with rude customers, angry kitchen staff, or overworked co-workers, the emotions get high and you end up doing or saying things you might regret. But, I would think with any business, that you may easily abuse your spouse with your emotions and words because they are the one you are most comfortable around. While this shouldn't be taken lightly, you can't always hold a grudge and insist on justice for what they said or did in the heat of the moment. Give your partner grace, and forgive. Talk about it later if it continues to bother you. But, fretting over it isn't going to do anything but hurt yourself and your success at the time.


4. Treat Each Other Like You Would Everyone Else (This is Hard):

-While you can definitely help out your spouse more than others, make sure you don't take advantage or abuse them. I say this in the way you use your words/ actions. It's easier to get lazy thinking they will pick up the slack, or say something a little bit more rude. Your guard is down, and you feel you don't need a filter. Make sure to give them just as much respect as your coworkers. Just because you go home with them doesn't mean you can use them to your benefit in an abusive way. This might seem like an obvious concept, but can be easy to slip into. Help each other out, and treat each other with the same kindness as you would any other employee. It's easy to treat them more favorable, but harder to treat them less harmful.


5. Make Your Spouse Feel Special:

-Because while you shouldn't treat them with less respect, its ok to do a little more (after all, their benefit affects both of you). Allyn and I portray this with helping each other do side-work (tasks we must complete before leaving), bringing in extra food/ snacks for one another, and showing each other off to our tables. Whatever environment you work in, put the same amount of effort you do at home into showing them how much you care at work. The more you do and the more you give, the happier they will be and in return do and give for you. A happy couple at work is a successful couple.


6. Set Clear Terms on Expectations:

-Whether its with the amount of time you work, the tasks you complete, or what you accomplish, be very clear and specific with each others roles. The less confusion, the less chance for disappointment. Again, it's very easy to feel taken advantage of. Guidelines are a start to nipping that in the butt. We set guidelines on the amount of time we go to work. This way, one person isn't forced to go to work more than the other. It's fair and equal.


7. Leave Home at Home:

-Don't bring your marital fights to work. No one wants to hear them. They won't benefit you or your success. (Again, same respect as your fellow employees- you wouldn't go off on your co-worker for not unloading the dishwasher...would you?)


8. Alone Time:

-This is hard to do, especially when you work the same hours. But, distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Go out with your girls, go to separate rooms when home, take a weekend away. It's very important to maintain your independence and self worth when constantly being with someone else. Don't lose your identity and who you are. You're so much more than who you are as a couple.


9. Flirt:

-Freakin' remember why you're together in the first place! Grab each others butts, sneak in a kiss, write a little love note. Make it fun and worthwhile. Working together can be so special for this reason. Enjoy each other for as much as you can, because remember, some people's spouse's careers take them across the world for months or years at a time (y'all are saints).


10. Schedule Time Off Together- Distance Yourself from Work:

-Even though you're always physically together, you're not always mentally together. Just like you should leave your home issues at home, leave what happens at work, at work. Make sure you get in that one on one time at dinner, or cuddling, or playing a board game. Adventures with your spouse are necessary to keep the marriage alive. Find time to actively pursue one another and keep the spark alive.


Overall, Allyn and I absolutely love working together. I can't imagine our life at separate jobs. He's there when I need him, and understands similar struggles and triumphs. So forget what people say, you can work with your spouse and have a great marriage! What you put into it is what you'll get. And we have created an amazing life and career path because of it.


Xoxo, Isla Girl