During the lovey dovey period of friendship, courtship and engagement, couples long for togetherness every minute of every day, but what happens when they are really together every minute of every day, when they are literally inseparable at home and at work?
It’s not a strange matter to find small business run by couples, farmers working with their wives or poor families helping each other without feeling bored, insecure or let their ego interfere. Work and family are considered not only an economical issue to cut expenses, but also is seen as a social unit which strengthens the family ties and turn the business into a heritage. This has been the case mainly a long time ago, its only when the industrial revolution arrived that work was separated from family and partners at work didn’t necessarily mean partners at home. The modern society triggered changes and the higher educated, the classy and the career thriving are those who sometimes have problems with a 24/7 relationship.
We sat down one on one with couples getting their feedback on working with a spouse.
Moahmed and Marwa felt great about working at the same company and loved the idea of being at the same office, 13 years later, they both hate the idea. Mohamed says that it’s very confining, he has to back up his wife whenever she has a conflict with anyone, he also complains that after marriage they don’t see eye to eye on work matters, they argue about who is right and who is wrong all the time. Marwa says that for her, it’s the way Mohamed brings their problems at home with them to work, “He is lousy at hiding how much he is angry with me, everyone knows the instant we get into the office that we just had a fight at home, its very embarrassing because our colleagues volunteer to patch things up and sometimes he gets angrier. No, I am against couples working together; they could be in the same field, the same company but definitely not in the same office”.
Hany and Sally were skeptical about working together, they are in different departments but have the same educational background. Hany was afraid of Sally’s jealousy. “She is the jealous type and I am kind of flirty in a harmless way, so I was afraid that this would cause us problems if she sees me with a beautiful client”, but that was not the case, Sally says “I used to be very jealous because I didn’t know him but after marriage, I understood him and I feel a lot safer right now, besides, its very nice to have the same background and discuss our work together, because we give each other advice and help each other more, he understands how much I love my work and our family and he’s very supportive. For me, it’s a yes!”
Soha felt quite the opposite working with her husband Amr. “Whenever I get a new idea, he gets very jealous, it’s obvious to everyone, although I deny it when my friends say that, but its starting to get on my nerves. Sometimes I think of an idea that is so original and new and then tell our boss that it was him who had thought of it first and his face lightens up, the amazing thing is that he accepts credit for my ideas without feeling the tiniest guilt about it, I am definitely against working together, I disaster“.
There was this older and wiser couple; Nadia and Ahmad whom I interviewed and who thought that there are no threats among couples who work together if they are both understanding and mature enough. Nadia says “Why should there be threats, jealousy or fear? When we are at work, we focus on working, when we are at home; we focus on our family life, we value each other and so it’s the same way we conduct our work, with respect, even if we disagree and that happens a lot, we do so with respect”. Ahmad says” She is not going to take my place and I am not out there to demean her efforts, we met at work, she is remarkably talented at what she does and I loved that about her, so why would it be a problem after marriage?”
It’s one thing if a couple is employed at the same company and having the same boss, but it’s a completely different thing when one of them is the boss.
Ghada and Ihab are an example of this category. Ghada doesn’t deny that this keeps her under pressure constantly. “The idea colleagues presume is that everything I get is out of nepotism and not hard earned, they would question every action, they would be extra sweet so I can put up a good word for them or they could be judgmental of his actions and attack me instead! People don’t understand that we were able to set boundaries when Ihab got his promotion, we vowed not to let work interfere with our marital life and we succeeded, it’s the people around who make it hard for us by dragging our marital status into our work”.
Ayman says “I wouldn’t want to work with my wife or be boss to my wife, it’s the fastest way for divorce, its boring for a couple to be together all the time, there are no news to share and stories to tell. There are no surprises, no secrets and no privacy at all! What if I wanted some space, no, this kind of togetherness would kill emotions out of boredom and marriage has to be full excitement, it’s boring just as it is so why make it extra boring!”
So, it seems that working together for couples is an individual issue; it depends on the couple’s level of understanding, honesty, love and their will to have their partner real close without jeopardizing their career or their relationship. As everything else in life, this needs balance and communication to make each other’s lives easier. Working together is challenging alright!