How to Work With Your Significant Other: Jobs and Businesses for Couples
My wife and I have worked together for more than 10 years. Friends ask if being business partners causes problems. Yes, sometimes, but working as a team has also strengthened our relationship, and we love our time together.
Psychologist Kathy Marshack points out that working as a couple used to be the norm. In the past most people worked on family farms, for example, and mom-and-pop shops were common.
She does note that "with increased time together, you have more time for conflict," but that doesn't mean you can't make it work. There are plenty of examples of couples successfully working together, whether employed by others or in business for themselves.
So are you ready to try making money together? There are two obvious questions:
- How do you create a good partnership?
- Where are the opportunities for couples to work together?
How to Work Well as a Couple
You might think you should negotiate every decision when working as a team, but Marshack says someone has to be in charge, especially if you're running a business:
When you’re working with your spouse, you’re going to be tempted to compromise, because that’s what you do at home. But that’s not good for business.
On the other hand, you don't necessarily need one "boss" who decides everything. Marshack says a good arrangement is to each be in charge of different elements.
For example, in our online publishing business, my wife handles technical work like choosing, installing and testing software. We each control content for our own websites (hers are in Spanish and mine in English, making this separation easier). We've traded accounting duties back and forth over the years, but never in the middle of a year.
Sandy Malone, who owns Weddings in Vieques, says her husband Bill is a partner in her wedding planning business. But she also says, "we're not equal partners. This company is mine."
Bill handles equipment, radios, setup and teardown, but they try not to get in each other's way. Sandy explains, "We have clearly defined roles and we don't step on each other's toes." That separation of duties seems to be the key to couples working well together.
Relationship expert April Masini says it also helps to have times each day and places in the house where you don’t talk about business; she suggests the bedroom and bathroom. She says you should treat your spouse like any other coworker, but also, "Make sure you still act like a married couple when you're not working."
Jobs for Couples
So maybe you can get along while making money as a team, but where do you find jobs that allow you to work together? Here are some of your options:
These are common employment openings for couples. They include everything from off-season maintenance of mountain lodges to running households for wealthy employers.
For example, a search of CareerBuilder.com with the keyword "couples," turns up a post for a "domestic couple," needed for a New York City family. Duties include "childcare, house cleaning and maintenance, driving and overall upkeep" and the base pay is between $90,000 and $120,000, plus a place to live.
Business Management Positions
Sometimes it works well to hire a couple so there's always someone manning the front desk or phone.
For example, that same search on CareerBuilder.com produced a post for a "storage management team" to take care of a self-storage facility and truck rental business. The ad clearly said, "We will only review candidates who are applying as a team for this position." Pay included a place to live and about $1,200 monthly.
A retirement home looking for management also noted that they only wanted couples, saying "Couples will interview together, as a partner team."
Working With Kids
Searching "married couple jobs" on SimplyHired.com turned up a listing for "Relief House Parents." The ad explained, "The Relief Couples are the primary caregivers for the students living in campus homes."
You would work from 6 p.m. Friday to 9:30 p.m. Sunday and get $758 per weekend. Summer camps for kids also hire couples.
Some cruise lines hire couples, and if you both apply, you can always say no if one of you isn't hired.
Carnival Cruise Lines says it's "a very 'couple friendly' cruise line, and endeavors to allow couples to work on the same ship whenever possible." But it says that in the FAQ section of its entertainment recruiting page, so perhaps you'll have a better chance of staying together if you're a singing duo.
Other Jobs for Couples
Using keywords like "couples," or "looking for a couple" on any of the big job websites is one way to find appropriate positions. But there is also a website devoted specifically to jobs for couples: WorkingCouples.com lets you browse listings by location or job type.
Businesses and Investments for Couples
The possibilities for couples to run a business or invest together are endless. Again, it probably works best if you have clearly defined roles. For example, if you start a restaurant, one of you might run the kitchen and dining room while the other handles the paperwork and marketing. If you're investing in the stock market, one of you could specialize in dividend stocks while the other finds the best option investments.
You could also just work together at home but each with your own job or business. This is a nice way to share work time without the potential conflicts that come with sharing decisions. You might be a search engine evaluator, for example, while your spouse has a business selling things online.
Take a look at my list of 103 ways to make money at home for an idea of the many possible combinations that let you work together in the house.
Your Turn: Have you worked with your significant other, or do you hope to in the future?
Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).