Bringing your work home

Practical advice for working with your spouse.


Heather and I have been working together for more than a year now. It’s wild to think about, but outside of buying our first home and having kids together, her leaving corporate law was one of the biggest decisions we’ve ever made. But it made perfect sense: my firm had grown enough to support our family financially, and Heather and I wanted to keep growing it together. Even though we possessed the confidence to go all in, we only had some idea of what that would actually look and feel like.

I am proud to report that both of us are still alive and happily married. Though there have been disagreements along the way, no one regrets the decision to formalize this piece of our relationship. I could credit the twenty years we’ve been in each other’s lives for our ability to make it work, but there’s so much more to it than that. Working harmoniously with your spouse has layers. So, this week, let’s explore (from my perspective) some of the things we do to keep our professional and personal relationship on track.

The most important thing we practice is good communication. This is the cornerstone of any successful partnership, especially when it comes to working together. Heather and I check in with each other every morning about what’s on the docket for our day. We make sure to create space for active listening in order to best understand each other’s perspectives. On Fridays, for example, we block out time to have lunch together so we can discuss high-level goals and address any concerns we might have. We also take walks to talk through major decisions, because we find ourselves less distracted when we’re not at home or staring at our screens or phones. 

Role clarity is another important area of focus for us. In the beginning, we established who would be responsible for what–we wanted to make sure we don’t get in each other’s way. This allows us to trust and respect each other’s specific skill sets so we can take the lead in the areas we excel in. Obviously, corporate law and this boutique practice have differences. We’ve been very careful to build in time for Heather to learn certain roles and work with outside support behind the scenes to feel comfortable with her new responsibilities. Just as we would with anyone else. 

It goes without saying that teamwork is critical. This newsletter is a great example of that. Although we take turns writing, I leverage Heather’s superior writing skills (in case you couldn’t tell) to organize my thoughts and edit my posts so I can generate a higher quality of work than I would otherwise be able to produce on my own. There’s things Heather can’t pitch in with, and vice versa, but we’re always there to listen and offer a new perspective. By the way, that perspective might be one the other person doesn’t want to hear, but we never “yes” each other. If anything, we challenge each other, then resume cheering each other on. 

Speaking of challenges, no matter how much you get along, working with your spouse is stressful. We both feel immense pressure to not let the other person down. I cannot underscore the importance of maintaining our physical and mental health as individuals in order to keep working well together. We make space and time for each other to exercise, eat right, seek therapy, whatever it takes. That might mean one of us pitching in more with our kids so the other one of us has that time. So be it. 

Lastly, we make an active effort to celebrate both big and small wins. We encourage and motivate each other through positive reinforcement, being sure to recognize each other’s efforts and contributions. Hearing that your partner is proud of you over dinner or a drink, even if it’s for something minor like surviving a busy week, goes a long way in building a stronger working relationship and mutual respect for one another.

What we’ve chosen to do is extremely hard, but we love riding the ups and downs of this journey together. Like Heather telling me she didn’t like this newsletter, but she edited it and let me publish it anyway. That’s teamwork. That’s love.

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The content shared in The Joint Account does not constitute financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Readers should consult with their respective professionals for specific advice tailored to their situation.