A lot has changed since the Good Wife’s Guide was published in 1955.
The perfect wife, sitting at home with dinner on the table waiting to “let him talk first” is now more suited to a social history museum than the modern world.
No longer confined to the kitchen, a wife’s place is anywhere she chooses — and in many cases, that’s by her partner’s side, in the office.
In the UK alone, it’s estimated that couples run 1.4m of the country’s 4.7m family-owned businesses. Yet as any “couple-preneurs” will tell you: working together brings good times and bad.
So, is it possible that the guide which advises never to question “the master of the house” could offer some useful tips for achieving contemporary co-founder harmony? With a little re-imagination and a big mindset shift, it just might.
A good wife always knows her place
Let’s start by re-defining this mantra as: knowing your place within a team. Both a husband and wife play vital roles as co-founders, and work better together when boundaries are clear. Even if you’re naturally inclined towards certain tasks, don’t leave division of responsibilities ambiguous – that leads to confusion and, sometimes, conflict.
Determine who does what and how you can support each other. It can also be helpful to make sure impartial advice is always at hand by recruiting a board of leaders to assist with business decisions – as long as they listen to both of you.
Don’t greet him with complaints and problems
Working with your significant other is intense and separating your personal and professional life can be hard. But it’s essential to leave external “complaints and problems” at the door.
In the office, the best peace policy for the whole team to follow is the age-old marriage maxim: “never let the sun set on an argument”. Discuss work-related issues openly, as and when they occur, and find a solution together so that they don’t build into something bigger.
Be a little more interesting for him
Again, this tip needs realigning; for today’s couple-preneurs it means infusing the workplace with fun to keep everyone motivated, especially each other.
There may be long hours and tight deadlines, but don’t lose sight of your unique personalities and what inspired you to build the company in the first place. Make being at work enjoyable in unexpected ways that add fresh interest to each day; wear wigs at meetings, throw stress balls around the office, whatever works for you.
Make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquillity
Just as domestic issues shouldn’t enter the office, your home should be as much of a work-free zone as possible. There will be times when bringing tasks home will be unavoidable, but try to maintain the divide by establishing a “switch off” time and creating your own specific work spaces.
The rest of the time, limit work discussions to asking how your partner’s day was – just because you’ve been in the same place, it doesn’t mean your experiences were identical. Leave the big stuff to the office. And if you have kids, appreciate the flexibility that being able to change your hours brings. Little things are worth celebrating.
We’ve come a long way in 62 years but for the couples starting out on their first business venture, maybe the past can provide a useful lesson for harmony, with a little adjustment.
Elkie Nicholas is brand director and co-founder of RentalsCombined.