published Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Baumgardner: Some couples are together at home and at work

Julie Baumgardner

There are 1.4 million married couples in the United States who not only live together but work together.

Robin and Michael McKenna were part of those ranks for 10 years while they ran the family business in Savannah, Ga.

“My husband was working in corporate America,” said Mrs. McKenna. “We realized that we could either move around with his job or move to Savannah and help his father run the family business. We decided it would be fun to work together, and it would allow our children to grow up close to at least one set of grandparents.”

When people hear stories like this, it is not unusual to hear comments like, ‘I could never do that,’ or ‘Don’t you get tired of being around each other so much?’ or ‘How do you work together without killing each other?’ The McKennas actually found that they enjoyed working together.

“At one point, we moved into office space where my husband and I each had our own office,” said Mrs. McKenna. “One of our employees said, ‘I don’t know why you all have separate offices. You are always together.’ We laughed, but that’s the way we work. It wasn’t complicated for us to figure out how to work well together. I think we might be the exception to the rule; we actually like hanging wallpaper together.”

The McKennas learned some valuable lessons working together that actually strengthened their marriage.

“It definitely takes teamwork,” said Mrs. McKenna. “We made a list of everything that needed to be done and got busy checking things off the list. There is no place for ‘That’s not my responsibility’ when you are running a business together. We did not take each other for granted, and I think that is huge. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We learned early on that you can’t always be the one that is right, and it was important to value each other’s opinion. Even though we spent a lot of time together during the day, it was still important to spend time together as a family in the evening. We ate dinner as a family every night, and when the kids were old enough, they worked with us in the store.”

The McKennas have been married for almost 40 years. Even though they sold the family business, they still find themselves working on projects together.

“We are best friends, and we have fun together,” said Mrs. McKenna. “We entered into marriage committed to a lifetime together so we spent our time and energy focused on making our relationship work. Experiences like learning how to be together all the time and run a business together brought us closer as a team. Even though things didn’t always go the way I or we wanted them to, that’s life. We got over it and moved on.”

The McKennas have great memories from their decade of working together. Most importantly, they have come to appreciate what each individual brings to their “team.” It is this realization, tempered with patience, love and understanding, that keeps couples together and builds a marriage foundation that is not easily broken.

Email Julie Baumgardner, president and CEO of First Things First, at julieb@firstthings.org.

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