If you and your partner both work from home, you’re familiar with the unique challenges it can present to your relationship. From feeling like you’re always on top of each other to having all of your quality time interrupted, the freelance life can be rough on relationships. Here’s how to keep the spark when you both work from home.
If you like your partner (hopefully you do), the prospect of being able to work from home together may have seemed great at first. You get to see each other all the time! You can have sex any time the mood strikes! The novelty of this arrangement can bring a nice jolt of life back into your relationship. Unfortunately, this honeymoon period soon fades, and you may find yourselves feeling a little sick of each other.
Perhaps the most important key to preserving your relationship is to keep some separation. If you’re lucky enough to have the room, try to create separate office spaces. If there’s a way to close off the space with a door, or even a room divider, that’s even better. Even if your apartment is tiny, try to carve out your own little nooks. These spaces should be yours and yours alone, and should be used for work only if possible. It’s preferable if you don’t have to stare at each other all day, so even turning your bodies in different directions is beneficial. Headphones can also be a great way to tune each other out.
Another option is to try working outside of the house one or two days a week. Try getting a desk at a coworking space, perhaps on separate days. Alternatively, try working at a coffee shop or even the library.
Keep Regular “Office Hours”
When you’re both at home together, it’s way too easy to distract each other. You go to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee, innocently ask, “hey, did you see that amazing video of the dog and the balloon?”, and all of a sudden you’re going down the YouTube rabbit hole together for half an hour.
Even though the flexibility of working from home can be awesome, try to come up with your own office hours, and communicate them to each other. Try to be diligent about not interrupting each other during those times. Try not to talk about your non-work lives during work hours, unless absolutely necessary.
Beyond that set schedule, you should also come up with ways to signal to each other when it’s especially important not to disturb you. Try closing the door, putting up a sign or post-it note, or simply saying, “I’ve got an extremely important deadline at 4pm, so can we hold off on everything else until then?” You can also find ways to signal when you are open to interruptions, like this idea for using red, yellow, and green cardstock.
Similarly, explore how you’ll end your workday. This is challenging even when you work home alone: it’s much more difficult to create a distinct “stop” time and stick to it. Work somehow finds a way to bleed into your non-work life. Try to set a specific time that you’ll commit to ending work each day. Together, see if you can come up with some sort of end-of-day ritual, like going on a walk (together or separately), or ceremoniously slamming your laptops shut.
Don’t Critique Each Other’s Work Styles
When you both work from home, you’re far more exposed to the differences in your working styles. As hard as we all try to be productive, we still need moments to zone out and goof off. Inevitably, your partner will walk in just as you’re tinkering with your Fantasy Football lineup yet again. Try not to make any comments about your partner’s working style or offer unsolicited productivity tips. Your nagging might help your partner make a few extra sales calls that month, but the level of irritability you’ll create just isn’t worth it.
Keep Your Stresses Separated
One of the most difficult things about working from home together is that you’re constantly exposed to each other’s stress. You see your partner pacing back and forth while biting their nails to shreds. You hear them yelling during a conference call. It’s almost impossible for their stress to not affect you. Sometimes you may take their stress personally, especially if they’re being grouchy with you. Their stress may wind up making you stressed in return. Other times you may want to jump in and give your partner advice or try to fix the situation. It can feel like you’re both having to deal with double the amount of stress, which just sucks.
Try to be honest about the ways that your stress affects each other. There aren’t always going to be easy ways to keep your stress separate from your partner, but there are a couple tricks to try. One is to maintain your distance from each other when you’re stressed. One person can hole up in one part of your home, or can go outside to blow off some steam.
The person who is not stressed may want to plug in headphones or relocate to a cafe, to avoid taking on their partner’s stress. Another idea is to make an agreement with each other that you’ll explicitly ask for support when you need it, so you won’t be as tempted to automatically assume the fixer role. Or just try to be clear and say something like, “I’m really stressed out right now. I’m sure you’ve noticed, and I apologize if it’s affecting you. I need to deal with it on my own, so I’m going to shut myself in the office for a few hours.”
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