We often get asked the same questions by guests on numerous topics, but one of the ones that seems to be of most interest is how we manage to work together and live together 24/7 without killing one another. We like to joke that while most couples have a 40-hour work week apart, we don’t, and therefore our 15 years of marriage is more like 23 in “innkeeper” years ... but the reality of it is that we have worked together for almost as long as we have known each other. First while we dated at a sandwich shop; then while we lived in Las Vegas; and now here at the Chestnut Street Inn. It isn’t always easy, but there are a few things we’ve learned along the way that may be of help to other couples, even if they aren’t together all the time.
First of all, just because you are in the same room, sharing the same space, doesn’t mean you can’t find your “alone” time. We often are in our innkeepers’ quarters for hours at a time and don’t necessarily have to talk to one another or entertain one another. I think some people feel obligated to carry on a conversation if they are in the same space as someone else. I can be perfectly content to put on my headphones and listen to music or watch You Tube videos while he watches golf ... and not feel obligated to force a conversation. It gives us a chance to enjoy individual hobbies while not disturbing one another.
Second, we are really good at keeping work and home separate. This is probably the hardest thing to do because when your home IS your work, the one often pervades the other. But what we learned a long time ago is that you have to have your “work” time and your “couple” time; or you end up talking about work nonstop, and it can be highly stressful. I won’t say that we are always successful with this as there are times when it’s virtually impossible, but especially when we are away from the inn we make a concerted effort to keep things non-inn related. We also know that when discussing business, that shouldn’t affect our personal relationship. They are mutually exclusive.
Third, have a sense of humor. The single best thing about working together with my spouse and best friend is that we make each other laugh. We have our inside jokes, little things only the two of us know about — and probably only the two of us think are funny, and we always remind each other of them. I guess you could say we tend to “play” a lot at work. It keeps things light, and it reminds us of a special bond only we have. And let’s just say that sexual harassment is encouraged when you work together. That’s a little tongue in cheek but come on. Let’s not take things too seriously right?
Finally, show each other some respect. We each know what our job descriptions are and have very carefully divided what each of us does at the inn, so that we don’t step on each other’s toes and so that everything gets done. That being said, I have the utmost respect for the precision and care with which Jeff does the linens. We have a plaque on our wall that reads “When I said I do, I didn’t mean laundry.” He does a lot of it, and I greatly appreciate it. He is also my greatest champion when it comes to my culinary artistic endeavors. His enthusiasm for my food makes me want to be a better chef. When we each voice our respect for one another to guests, it is just validation that we are a team.
I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect or that we never argue. Marriage is first and foremost a commitment and requires a willingness to continue to work on it. But we refuse to dwell on disagreements. We were told early on that you should never go to bed angry with one another. That was the best advice we ever got. No matter what, we are a team, and that goes for not just our private lives but for our innkeeper lives — and a team by definition means two people coming together for a common purpose. In this case, the common purpose is to create an unforgettable experience for our guests.
Monika Sudakov is the chef and innkeeper at the Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield. She can be reached at email@example.com.