5 Things to Keep in Mind if You Work With Your Spouse

Establishing work-life boundaries is a must

Updated 04/26/19

BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy United

How did you meet your significant other?

While dating apps seem to be the de facto way many of us meet our partners, it’s certainly not the only way. Before dating apps, a lot of people met through more old-fashioned methods: through friends and often through work. In fact, despite the ubiquity of dating apps, meeting people at work is still a very popular way of finding a spouse.

It makes sense, of course. You spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your friends, you automatically have something in common with them, and complaining about colleagues and bosses can be an immediate bonding experience—especially when paired with after-work drinks. There’s only one problem, of course. If you meet your partner at work then you, well, work with your partner. Until one of you changes jobs, your personal life and your professional life are now deeply intertwined. That means things can get complicated.

“You’re married and you work together,” Joshua Klapow, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Brides. “It can be a wonderful experience or a miserable one. How it goes is really a function of many factors, including the nature of your jobs, the size of the organization, how frequently you interact during the day, your roles at the place of employment, your schedules, your responsibilities at work and at home, and your overall compatibility with being together in a work environment.”

So what can you do if you and your partner work at the same company? Here are some tips that can make life run a lot more smoothly.

Make Sure You Follow Professional Protocols

While there’s this myth that persists that people working at the same company aren’t allowed to date, that’s not necessarily true. You may need to talk to HR and let them know you’re in a relationship. And certain relationship dynamics—between an immediate supervisor and subordinate, for example—may not be allowed. But normally intercompany relationships, especially between separate departments, is fine. But make sure everyone is aware of the relationship. “This is a significant, often missed point,” Klapow says.

“Working in an environment where your marriage is a secret is a recipe for problems, rumors, and speculation. If you are working in an environment that prohibits coworkers from being married, you are working in a lie, and it will have negative implications for your job and career.” He adds, “So it needs to be out in the open. Your employer needs to know, as do your coworkers.”

Set Some Boundaries

One way to help things run more smoothly is to set rules as soon as possible. Decide how you want to handle a myriad of different situations, right from the get-go. Klapow suggests figuring out some basic questions. “How do we want to interact at work? Does the work culture frown on spouses working together? Do we need to keep a professional distance at work? What do we each want in terms of lunch breaks, socializing, etc.?” he says. “How do we want to handle home disagreements the next day at work?

What are our rules? Usually, setting boundaries that keep home-related problems separate and forbid retribution at work for home problems is the most effective approach.” Dealing with this sooner can save you complications later.

Limit Work Talk at Home

Complaining about work can be consuming. There’s something delightfully indulgent about whining about every annoying thing that happened in your day or about that one coworker who drives you both nuts. But here’s the thing: It can run away with you. It’s not very healthy, and it can easily eat into important relationship time. “Usually a time limit and some boundaries about what is discussed and how much is discussed about work while at home is helpful," advises Klapow. A vent and some support can be useful, but if it’s starting to bleed into crucial couple-time, then make a deal to call it quits.

Be Wary of Competition

If you work for the same company, comparisons can be inevitable. It’s certainly true if you work in a similar department or role, but even if one of you works in HR and the other in sales, there are still ladders to work your way up and raises to be had or missed out on, so things can easily become competitive. Make sure that if you feel that instinct growing, you talk to your partner. It may be that you need to talk less about work generally or that you need to address specific issues, such as if you feel your partner rubs your nose in their success, or if you feel like they don’t support your career enough.

If you feel any sort of flicker of jealousy or competition (from either of you), make sure to tackle it right away before it gets to be a big issue.

Know That Something May Have to Give

Finally, while many couples work happily together, it doesn't always work out. “Be willing to accept that working together may not work,” Klapow says. “Be honest with one another about how it is going, and remember that your marriage and relationship should be more important to both of you than your work.”

When you work with your partner, you have to be more vigilant and more aware, so make sure you're touching base and making sure you're both happy with the current setup. Whether it's between you and your coworkers or you and your partner, transparency is always the way forward. A few boundaries can make a huge difference.

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