Written by : Deborah Huso 

Play Nice, Fight Fair

By the time I married, I’d already been an entrepreneur for several years, but I did bring my spouse into the business… or tried to, anyway. The experiment was short-lived, something that would not surprise David and Jamillah Lamb, business partners, spouses and co-authors of Perfect Combination: Seven Key Ingredients to Happily Living & Loving Together.

Also founders of Between the Lines Productions Inc., a New York theater company, the Lambs have been working together for 10 years, and they’ve learned a lot along the way. “We wrote the book in response to our audiences,” Jamillah says. “People were always surprised to hear we worked together 24-7.” Of course, she will be the first to say that she believes all couples work together, whether they’re in the same office or not. Managing a household, kids—not to mention the relationship itself—is work.

So how does this happily married couple keep the peace on the stage, behind the scenes and at home? They follow the motto “Love like kids; act like adults.” That means combining the joy of being spontaneous, playing together and exploring with taking responsibility for one’s actions. “Don’t say, ‘We never go anywhere,’ ” Jamillah advises. “Take responsibility for going somewhere!”

Jamillah says a lot of couples see working together as doubling the opportunity for conflict in a relationship, and that can be true. But she says, “It also doubles the opportunities for growth.”

How to Love Like Lambs (David and Jamillah Lamb, That Is)

The authors of Perfect Combination: Seven Key Ingredients to Happily Living & Loving Together share a few tricks of the trade:

  • Let go of the desire to be in control. If one of you does something better than the other, then play to each other’s strengths. Don’t worry about gender roles. If your husband loves to cook, let him do it. There’s no reason you can’t mow the grass if being outdoors is more your style.
  • Appreciate each other, and remember to show it.
  • Pay attention. If you notice something is difficult for your partner, then don’t force her to do it. Notice what she likes to do and what motivates her. “Pay the same attention to each other as you did when you were courting,” David advises.
  • Don’t take the business home. “One of the things we had to learn was not to bring anger or frustration we felt against our employees into our relationship,” David says.
  • Praise first. Even if you have to criticize your spouse, watch how you do it. Point out something he does right first.
  • Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
  • Take time apart. Cultivate relationships, hobbies and joy outside of the partnership. Maintain your identity as individuals.
  • Let the little stuff go. Take a step back and remember the bigger vision for both your marriage and your business.
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