Want to know how to work well with your partner? We asked successful couples to share their wisdom
Netflix’s The Politician has returned for a second season – and continues to star A-List actress Gwyneth Paltrow. So far, so normal. What’s interesting is the fact this American comedy-drama series is created by Gwyneth’s husband, Brad Falchuk (alongside two others), which means the couple are working long hours together. And it got us thinking: just how do you successfully work with your life partner?
We asked four couples – each running a successful business together – how to make the (working) relationship last. Especially at a time during the era of Covid-19, when we are all working in such close proximity. Thank us later.
‘Be gentle in your feedback’
Says Matt Farquharson, also known as Papa Pukka, who writes epic books about parenting and relationships with his wife Anna Whitehouse (their bestseller, Where’s My Happy Ending? is out now). He adds, ‘The best tip is probably ‘don’t work with your partner’. I can’t think of any partnerships – particularly for anything creative – that have ended harmoniously. After each book we say ‘never again’, but then an idea strikes and off we go.
‘If you do work together, my advice would be to have clear delineation over who does what. It stops bickering and means you’re not stepping on each other’s work. And be gentle in your feedback. No-one likes getting the red-pen treatment from their best beloved.’
‘Differentiate work from home’
Are the wise words from Anna Whitehouse (it would have been foolish to only ask for her husband Matt’s tips). She says, ‘The main thing has been differentiating work from home. They often overlapped and we found ourselves switched on 24/7, but that all shifted when we set an alarm for the beginning and end of the working day.’
‘Just a physical reminder that the two worlds exist and we need to protect what’s ours. Boundaries are the key in any working life but needed even more so when there’s two of you squabbling over tax returns and dishwasher stacking.’
‘Try to spend the majority of time doing fun things’
Katy Al-Rubeyi owns denim brand Story mfg. with her husband Saeed. She tells us, ‘Working with my husband is a dream. We are doing something we love together, growing it, fire fighting all the problems and celebrating all the little wins together. That being said it’s not always easy – emotions can get tangled up in work problems and taking criticism from someone you love can be hard to hear sometimes. Some of our rules for avoiding needless confusion and hurt feelings are:’
- Always be honest with each other – learn to take criticism and be kind when giving it.
- Try to spend the majority of your time doing fun things – if there’s a part of the business that requires a lot of time and brain power and makes us miserable then we find a way to work around it or go without it completely.
- Never talk about work after 6pm, unless it’s something very excellent!
‘Don’t have meetings late at night in bed’
Claire and Andy Burnet’s business, Chococo, makes fine, fresh handmade chocolate. Delicious. This is how they keep their relationship sweet: ‘Don’t have meetings late at night in bed! We learnt that very early on in running our business together – save board meetings for the office, not late at night, however pressing the issues you have to discuss. We have now been working together for 18 years and in that time have raised two children too.’
‘You do have to work hard to separate work and family life to stop work taking over and in difficult times, affecting everything. You have to be disciplined and know when to stop being in work mode and focus on time with your partner and family. It’s definitely easier said than done, but you need to train yourselves to do it.’
‘Make all key decisions unanimously’
Emmanuel Rey, who founded and runs natural beauty care brand Yuni with his wife Suzanne, expands, ‘Working with your life partner can be challenging at times, and I think a few rules of engagement are important:’
- All remarks and comments should be coming from a place of love, trust and respect, to help the brand in a constructive way.
- Truly listen to each other without ego leading the conversation.
- Allow yourselves to be wrong without guilt and do not systematically try to reject the fault on your partner.
- Accept and even cultivate your partner’s differences.
- Make all key decisions unanimously even if it takes a lot of conversions. It sometimes better not to do anything but decide quickly and clearly.
So there you have it! Good luck out there.