When people find out I work with my husband, I get a wide range of reactions. Some people think it’s adorable, others think we’re crazy for working so closely together. Oh, and by close, I do mean close— I’m CMO and he’s VP of Sales. And yeah, it is pretty unusual. But it’s actually worked out surprisingly well so far, plus I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Whether you’re also considering working with your significant other or you just want to know how the hell this is even possible, check out the top lessons I’ve learned from my experience so far.
1. You Need to Do Some Major Reflection Before Making a Decision This Big
Before going down this path, we talked at length about what would happen to our personal lives, our work lives, and our relationship. This involved asking each other all sorts of honest (and somewhat uncomfortable) questions: Would we get sick of seeing each other all the time? Could we still be our “work” selves knowing the other person was in the room? Would we still be able to bitch to each other about the office when we got home? Although there’s no way we could have covered every scenario, our answers to these questions were sound enough—and I’m a big enough risk-taker—that it seemed very reasonable that this could work.
Ultimately, it came down to a few reasons. For one, when it comes to our personalities, what you see is what you get. No matter our environment, we don’t change much. And since we already got along so well at home, we weren’t worried about that changing at the office. It also helped that we’re each other’s biggest fans. While we’re both driven and love to win, we always want each other to win, too, so becoming too competitive wasn’t a concern either. But most of all, we just really like being together. My boss once told me that he didn’t know of many couples that spent so much time together. At this point, it’s just second nature; we’ve been friends for over 20 years, together for 17, and married for almost 10. If we didn’t like each other by now, we’d be one of the most miserable couples on the planet.
2. You Have to Accept That Your Personal and Work Life Will Be Intertwined
When you work with your husband, it’s not so much about balancing your personal and professional lives as it is about maintaining a healthy blend of both. Living together and working together means that you can’t totally separate the personal from the professional—I’m not going to pretend I don’t know my husband at the office, and I’m not going to stay silent at home if I have something work-related on my mind.
This might sound exhausting, but Amit and I have found that it’s helped us connect to one another on a deeper level. We can sympathize with each other’s work frustrations better, help each other prep for our next board meeting, and give feedback that comes from a place of first-hand knowledge. And when we need a break from the daily grind, we can always meet up and talk about some cute thing our son did that morning, or even what we want to have for dinner. It’s all about knowing when and where to bring things up—and when you’ve been together long enough, that comes pretty naturally. Overall, my day isn’t more personal or more work-related. It’s just less neatly divided.
3. You Will Quickly Realize Conflict’s Unavoidable
Before you walk away thinking that we never fight or that I’m some Stepford wife (and believe me, that could not be further from the truth), let me state for the record: My husband and I aren’t perfect. Like any other couple, we argue, we get things wrong, and we definitely make mistakes. And when you factor work into the mix, the potential for conflict expands.
But as long as you know how to handle this, it’s manageable. No matter what the nature of a disagreement is, we make sure to sort things out as quickly as possible. One thing that’s really worked for us is allowing ourselves 15 minutes or so to hash things out when we disagree on something. The timeline allows us to both state our feelings, but also holds us accountable for coming to a resolution and moving on quickly. And so far, it’s worked, and thank goodness—letting things linger is a recipe for resentment at home and poor performance at work.
4. You Get to Know Each Other on a Completely Different Level
There’s something really interesting about seeing someone you’ve known for over 20 years in a completely different environment. At this point in my career I know what my work style is, which kind of personalities I collaborate best with and what are my strengths and weaknesses. But for the first time, Amit and I are truly learning those same things first-hand about each other. It’s helped me develop a greater sense of who he is (and isn’t)—not only do I get to see him as a man, husband, father, and dance partner, I get to see him as an executive, leader, motivator and team member. My appreciation for him and his whole self has increased more than I thought possible.
Honestly, this whole experience has been amazing for me. How lucky can you get to have your work husband and your real husband be the same person—and for both relationships to actually function well? If you’ve ever gotten the chance to work with someone you already knew beforehand, you’ll know how easy it is to dive right in without skipping a beat. And getting to know each other in a different context has added a new level of understanding and appreciation to our relationship.
Sometimes I get asked if I’d recommend this for others—but my answer is, that’s not really for me to say. No one knows your relationship like you do, so at the end of the day you’re the one who knows best. But if you do decide to go for it, I’m sure you’ll learn a lot about yourself, your partner, and how your relationship is able to span unique situations.
Nisha Ahluwalia is the Chief Marketing Officer at Highfive. She has startup, tech, and software-as-a-service experience across several marketing areas, including demand generation, product marketing, PR, content marketing, and branding. She's experienced in building marketing organizations and launching and growing products. Her previous roles include positions at companies such as Cisco WebEx, RingCentral, and PagerDuty.More from this Author