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The secret to working with your spouse

Published: Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 1:57 p.m. CDT

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Guests often ask us what the secret to working with your spouse is. They usually chuckle and say they’d likely kill each other if they had to be together 24/7/365. While I don’t believe that, I do believe not all couples can tolerate working together. This doesn’t say anything about the strength of their marriage or relationship, but more about individuality and the way people communicate.

In our particular case, we established our relationship as friends. First and foremost we enjoy each other’s company and have a lot in common which makes the day-to-day grind a lot easier to deal with. Beyond that, we have worked together in numerous jobs and know we have no problem negotiating the division of labor, so to speak, without contention. With that in mind, however, I will offer just a few nuggets of advice on how to make working together a little more painless.

1. Know who does what. Having a defined list of chores that each of us knows is our responsibility is helpful. It keeps us from stepping on each other’s toes, and it also insures we get everything done without assuming the other person will do it. In our case, Jeff does all the laundry, linens, handiwork, snow shoveling, waiting tables, helps with dishes, sets tables, dusts, vacuums and takes care of non-bathroom cleaning. He also cleans the litterbox, but I digress. I am in charge of all the cooking, bathroom cleaning, assisting with dishes, social networking, emails, blogging, website maintenance, accounting and any other computer-related items. That doesn’t mean we don’t discuss these tasks to make sure we know what’s going on, but by allowing the other person to do their job without having too many chefs in the kitchen so to speak, we streamline efforts and minimize conflict.

2. Give each other space. This one is tough. In our case, our living quarters are basically confined to one large room, which means, there is nowhere to go if we want to be left alone. We have figured out ways to get our “quiet” time though by allowing one another to do what we like. In Jeff’s case, it may be watching sporting events; in mine, it might be watching Celine Dion videos on You Tube with my headphones on (don’t judge). In either case, we let each other be and don’t argue about it. We are also good about allowing each other to pursue our hobbies. Jeff loves golf, so when weather allows, I have no problem sending him off to play a round while I man the fort. He knows what he has to get done, so he can play without worrying about his chores, and I know it’s good for both his mind and body to get the exercise. For me, it’s reading or yoga or playing in the kitchen.

3. Keep business and personal separate. What I  mean on this front is that even if you have a disagreement about something relating to operating your business, i.e. where to spend money, how to plate a dish, etc., once you are done discussing it, let it go and move on. It’s not personal and shouldn’t be brought into your “private space.” We never fight. We may have a heated discussion, but we either compromise or agree to disagree and move on. It’s just business. It doesn’t represent who we are as a couple.

4. Have fun and make each other laugh. This is probably the most important part of the equation. Not a day goes by where we don’t laugh about something. Often it is something only the two of us think is funny. We firmly believe in doing what you love with the one you love, so it’s easy to have fun. That’s not to say there aren’t stressful moments in our day-to-day lives, but in the end, you find a way to make it fun despite challenges, fatigue or stress.

So what is the secret to working with your spouse? There really isn’t one. Ultimately it comes down to respect for what you do and who you love. Maintain that respect for one another, and the rest falls into place. And laugh. Always laugh. It’s the best medicine for the mind, body and soul, and it’s good for business.

Monika Sudakov is the chef and innkeeper at the Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield. She can be reached at monikaandjeff@chestnut-inn.com.

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