(Ally Vesterfelt is one of those kindred souls, the kind of person that keeps you believing long after the world has sapped your faith. She’s fire and energy and compassion, and I’m honored to have her share my space today. e.)
At first, working with my husband was like a dream come true.
It’s the kind of thing they should make a bad romantic comedy about (have you seen the Sears commercial?). Two bloggers find one another online. He “follows” her on Twitter. She “follows” him. Soon, they’re “friends” on Facebook. Then they talk on the phone. Their romance unfolds over Skype calls and text messages until finally — finally — they meet in person. Everyone cheers as they make a romantic connection.
I still remember the first few weeks and months we knew each other. In addition to the fact I had found someone who I connected to emotionally, spiritually and physically, we also connected over our work — our passion. We spent most of our days in coffee shops, collectively writing, blogging and freelancing.
Suddenly I had found someone with a life as crazy as my life, and a “job” as unconventional as my job.
When we got married we decided that, instead of working separately on separate blogs, we’d rather pool our efforts and do something together (especially since before the wedding I had been writing a dating blog under my maiden name. It would have been awkward to keep that going). So we came up with the idea to start an online magazine, to create a space where we could allow our friends, new and old, to share their stories.
We started brainstorming and collaborating and combining our creative power.
And it didn’t take long to figure out that it was not going to be easy.
We were driving to the post office together one day, to file the paperwork for what was about to be our LLC (Prodigal Magazine) when the tension that had been building for weeks, finally broke. I was sitting in the passenger seat and, as we pulled up to the front door, he handed me a stack of papers and started to rattle off a list of instructions. When I hesitated to take what he was handing me, his voice became firm, and he wiggled the paper around. “Here!” he said.
I couldn’t stop myself. The words bubbled up within me.
“Who do you think I am, your intern??” I yelled.
People often ask me what it’s like to work with my husband, and while now, a year into our marriage and our business, we’re starting to find our rhythm, and for the most part it’s really wonderful, when the question is asked, I can’t help but play this scene back in my head. It reminds me of how truly difficult it is to work with people who are different than you, regardless of whether or not they’re you’re husband.
Working with my husband has taught me a lot about creating positive working relationships because unlike most working relationships, I have a strong desire (emotional and practical) to make this particular relationship a good one.
Gossiping isn’t as freeing as we think it is
The hardest part about my husband and my “boss” being the same person is that I can’t come home and complain about what a jerk my boss is. Or, I could, but I’m pretty sure that would make things worse, not better. But what I’m learning is that making my boss the villain (which was my tendency in previous jobs) wasn’t getting me very far.
Sure, it felt nice to come home to a roommate, or sister, and “vent” about how my boss was cold, or controlling or a micro-magager, the difficult truth became apparent after multiple bosses all with the same list of unfortunate qualities: the common denominator was me.
It wasn’t until I lost the luxury of gossip that I found out how gossip was actually trapping me, trapping me from personal growth, and trapping me from discovering constructive ways to communicate with people who acted wrongly toward me.
There is strength in diversity
I spent most of the first year of my marriage trying to make Darrell the same as me. After all, I’m an interesting, creative, kind, intelligent person and the world would be a better place if more people were like that, right?
What I discovered in working with Darrell (that I couldn’t always see in a domestic setting) was that the strengths he brings to the table are necessary and beautiful. Although his gifts sometimes seem to be in opposition to mine, without his gifts, there would be no Prodigal Magazine. Kind is good, but so is firm. We need passionate and logical. We need analytical and emotional.
Sometimes we forget to celebrate the diversity of our husbands, and our co-workers.
Having my husband as a co-worker has reminded me of that.
Question: Have you ever worked with a family member? Have you had a difficult time with a co-worker? What have you learned?
Allison is a writer, managing editor of Prodigal Magazine and author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Darrell. You can follow her daily on Twitter or Facebook.