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The GEM Experiment: Could You Work With Your Spouse?

From time to time I like to let you in on a few things we’re trying here at the Good Enough Mother household. Remember over the summer, we tried the “Could You Live On Cash Alone” experiment? Well, now we’re starting another one and I pray to that sweet little, eight-pound, flesh-toned baby Jesus it doesn’t end in divorce. Come along with me boys and girls, as we embark on the “Could You Work With Your Spouse” trial. Go ahead,  let that sink in a minute.

As you know, I’ve been married to Buff for almost 18 years. I married him because he’s handsome and smart, witty, charming and a card-carrying member of the Rene Syler fan club. We’re both pretty headstrong individuals and as such, I suspect one of the reasons we’ve been married as long as we have is because we spent lots of time apart. Until now.

Buff is starting his own company and where do most companies start? At home. Where my company started. And currently operates. That means we’re going to be together. A lot.

Now I know what you’re thinking; once the kids leave, we’ll start the day with a rousing romp in the hay, followed by breakfast together and tender conversation over coffee and croissants. I would you to please put down whatever it is you’re smoking, drinking or consuming in any fashion because the reality is, this will be good and bad.

Good: Buff is disciplined, I am not: That means there will be a schedule to follow, with clear and defined goals to achieve.

Bad: Buff is disciplined, I am not: Man that’s gonna piss me off.

Good: We’ll eat dinner together as a family: In the nearly 18 years we’ve been married, we’ve only been able to do that a handful of times due to conflicting work schedules. We’ll actually be able to enjoy meals, the four of us, together, peacefully sharing the end of the day with one another.

Bad: We’ll eat dinner together as a family: Did I really just type that?

Good: Buff gets to pursue his dream: My husband is an amazing teacher who loves helping others dig deep and get to that next level.

Bad: Buff gets to pursue his dream: There is absolutely no bad in that.

Of course, there will be the inevitable adjustment like learning to give each other space when it’s needed. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, we’ll make good use of the kids being gone during the day, after we see what’s on cable, of course.

Okay, GEMs hear my plea. Do you or have you ever worked with your spouse? Was it in an office or at home? What was the adjustment phase like? What are the secrets to working together and not ruining your marriage?


  1. Mell

    October 13, 2011 at 9:23 am

    My initial thought: Sadly my hubby and I couldn’t do it. I think it’s wonderful and couples should be able to, but it would definitely put the nail in the coffin for us.

    My final thought: I am guessing if our livelihood depended on it we would have to find a way to make it work. It would force us to deal with the issues that prompted my initial thought and we would probably end up with a deeper connection.

    The difference in the initial and final is- if there’s an option out I think we would take it. If there’s no option we would have to make it work.

    Ok, I am rambling. Have a good day.

  2. ella

    October 13, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I’ve never been in this position, but getting him his own “closet” or the like seems to be job one. Defining space is essential.

    Good luck! I know you will both have great, successful, home-based businesses!

  3. ViHo

    October 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

    OK….. FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!!!!!!
    this might sound selfish… and it is. BUT, I could NEVER do that! it would drive me insane. I NEEEEED my personal space AND time like i need oxygen. maybe it’s b/c i’m a creative person and i’ve always been that way or maybe it’s b/c i’m human.

    i love my girlfriend…and when i was married, i loved my wife(u know the history of that, Rene). BUT, spending all day, everyday with either of them, would not be good for us. what makes my current relationship work is time apart… especially when i have an out of town shoot. that time apart is crucial. it gives me time for me and it gives me time to miss her.

    i know what it is to be in a 17 year relationship and i know what made it work. so i’m no novice. “ME TIME” is crucial!

    NOW, this may not be true for everybody. i know couples who work together and they seem happy. but, like i said it may be b/c i’m a creative person and i HAVE TO HAVE my personal space and time to develop me. and quite frankly, spending that much time with anybody would get on my d@yum nerves! LOL!! but, i’d still love ’em 😀

    … good luck 😉

  4. ViHo

    October 13, 2011 at 10:23 am

    even if that time apart is while she’s at work and i’m working from my studio at the house or at a shoot…. that time is crucial for me. it makes the weekends and our alone time GOLDEN! something to look forwrd too… ya know? if i’m lookin at ur @ss all day, everyday i’m gonna be looking for a reason NOT to spend time with you on the weekends… lol

    …again, good luck ;-D

  5. DawnKA

    October 13, 2011 at 10:29 am

    My husband works in an office where he has long hours and his field requires a lot of research and everything goes by the book. I have my own business with a home and an external office. I also travel a lot for business and I also work very long hours. We are an ambitious team. Like Buff, my husband is disciplined, organized and follows the book. I on the other hand, doing things my way which is most often not the way things are done – irritates my husband. I think of myself as one who believes anything is possible and goes after it. Needless to say, whenever we have worked together it has been intense beyond belief. However, it always works out marvelously in the end.
    Congratulations to Buff!!!

  6. Will Jones

    October 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I’d LOVE to work with my wife. It’s something we talk about all of the time and it’s in our plans in the very near future. I’m sure the folks that know me are tired of hearing it, but I spend as much time with her as she lets me get away with… and I have for the past 18 years. We can still sit and talk for hours about anything, or about nothing at all. Everything we do, we do better as a team. I’m not sure how, because we are polar opposites in almost every way, but we just click.

    I think businesses and marriages that really work usually work off of the same principles: passion (and/or love), honesty, respect and communication.

    BUT… A word of caution from a guy, Rene. I’ve never actually met him, but Buff seems as strudy and solid as a rock. To a man, that’s a BREAT compliment.
    However…remember that this is brand new for him so be UNDERSTANDING. He may not admit it, but he’s going have a bunch of new emotions he’s probably not use to dealing with very much, and one of those is going be fear. When men get scared, it shows itself as anger and frustration. Be re-assuring, but do it carefully; if he does get scared, he won’t want you to know, so pretend that you don’t see it. Talk to him, listen to him, and love him. Tell him I said, “GOOD LUCK!!!”

  7. Will Jones

    October 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I meant “sturdy” and “GREAT” Sorry for all the mispelling! LOL

  8. Teresa

    October 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Don’t work with my spouse, but I do work with my father, my brother and my uncle and occasionally one of my children help out.. What I have learned after years of this – the key is to keep work and home seperate..not easy..if we have dinner… with dad or family we say NO WORK TALK. I have actually left a gathering because dad wanted to only talk work.. Bottom line – make sure you leave RENEE AND BUFF time! Without discussing work… Ok, that was longer than I thought – but just my advice! Good Luck!

  9. Auntie Lisa

    October 13, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I have worked with my hubby at our home for 6 and 1/2 years. It’s been since Day One of our marriage, so I don’t really know what it would be like to NOT work with him! If we had more space, I think it would work much better, so you have a definite advantage over us there. We live in a small condo: one bedroom, one bath, small living room, small kitchen. That’s it. The living room doubles as the office and the dining room. That’s a LOT of togetherness!

    Since you have a larger place (heck, your closet alone is larger!), you’ll be able to still have some distance when you need it. That will help a lot. I know sometimes my hubby goes in the bedroom to make his phone calls, and even though I can still hear him, it helps so much! Having boundaries is crucial.

    Also, we work together on the same venture. I suspect you will continue to work on GEM while Buff works on his new company. That will make things easier. Working on the same venture, we had to establish who was the leader (in our case, hubby). And I had to get to a place where I’m not married to every brilliant idea I offer up. He uses some of my ideas and brags on me about them. Others are rejected, so I have to hold them loosely and move on.

    For us, division of labor was a cinch. He’s more comfortable and gifted at phone calls and writing documents, while I’m more suited to stuff he hates to do. This is where being opposites can be a great benefit!

    The part that’s difficult for me is how frequently he “thinks out loud”. He will just start talking and expect me to be able to pull myself immediately out of whatever I was focusing on. I just end up making him repeat himself, because I’ll usually miss the first part while I disengage my brain from whatever it was latched onto when he started.

    Overall, I think working together has helped our marriage, because the situation and the constant togetherness forces us to face the challenges and work through them, rather than avoid them.

    I think once you’ve established a regular routine and boundaries, you will love this new arrangement! Keep us posted…

  10. Auntie Lisa

    October 13, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Oh… and may I add: sense of humor is CRITICAL. 🙂

  11. m.e. johnson

    October 13, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I think of all the Mom and Pop stores. One is very good at ‘X’, the other is very good at ‘Y’, they both are good with their customers. We don’t know what happens when they are at home, but they work together okey-dokey (and for years and years).

    @Will re typos: What! You’re not perfect?!! Ten lashes with a wet noodle for you.

  12. ViHo

    October 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    @ Auntie Lisa: WOW!!!! my hat’s off to you…. in a small space, no less. i’d be climbing the walls… LITERALLY!!! LOL!! i’m too ADHD to do that… with someone constantly in the SAME space.

    …. seriously, that’s good that u guys can do that. 🙂

  13. Erika Forbes

    October 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I could say a heck of a lot on this subject- but it could be in part because it is my line of work( I help couples and families that want to work together or who do work together sort it all out) or it could be because I have worked with my spouse for 10 years before our marriage ended( not due to work) it could be because I work with the love of my life now- OR it could be because I always have a lot to say on any subject. I digress….what I can say from a personal and professional perspective is that it can work if you want it to and it may not work even if you want it to. I find that the most vital key either way is to, talk, and talk some more. This communication thing is no joke in marriage or in business whatever the configuration is add to the mix children and strong willed aka stubborn set in their ways people and you could have a very explosive chain of events. But with compassion clarity, honesty and a huge sense of humor… well you just may find that romp in the hay during the day does happen- good luck and stay in love-
    thecouplepreneur coach

  14. Auntie Lisa

    October 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    @ViHo – Thanks! 🙂 I should have mentioned that we also PRAY a lot. I’m sure that is more important to our success at working together than anything else I wrote above…

  15. Lamar @

    October 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    We’ve been working together to build our blog business since Dec. 07 and it’s really brought us closer. For the past year I’ve been working from home where she was already working and the main thing it did was revolutionize our family life. I had a demanding gig with a 1.5 hour commute each way so I didn’t see the kids much on a day to day basis. My relationship with them changed a lot more than the one between me and my wife just because I’m always here and I get to spend so much more quality time with them. Plus mom doesn’t have to do everything by herself.

  16. irene

    October 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Oh, gem…this is gonna be an adventure.

    I work with the man of my dreams and it is all that and a bag of chips—–SOMETIMES!

    LOL–no really my hubby and I have worked together a long time now (since 1998) and it works out well. It seems like when I am busy he is able to run kids to doctor and vice versa and I do think it helped us to keep a low roar with our teeniemonsters as far as giving them space yet knowing most of what was going on (key word most)

    Lots of luck to both of you gem dandies.

    If you need a breather come south!

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