When, in 2011, Alberto and I told other people about our decision to share not only our private life, but also our professional sphere, many were quick to put us on our guard: “you’ll find yourselves talking about work all the time”, “it’s risky from a financial point of view”, “you’re bound to argue”… I have discovered from experience that often these warnings are the result of unresolved fears or decisions that people put off; so we trusted our deepest instincts that were telling us to change our lives and working as a couple. Now, years later, we are happy and proud of the choice we made, so much so that we clearly indicated this in our brand Passodue (Second Step). We are meeting more and more people working as a couple on a shared professional project and the people we interviewed [you can read the interview with Enrica Maffei] frequently told us about the importance of a companion with whom you can face the difficult times, savour the joys and celebrate the successes. A few days ago, while reading Salvatore Brizzi’s “Officina Alkemica” I was struck by this passage:
The two are no longer two. In sharing each day their “journey along the Way” … their souls act as a single entity dedicated to the “service” of the human race, even though their bodies are physically separate.
I feel these words closely reflect our own experience and that’s why I want to tell you about the privileges of working as a couple, how to turn difficulties into opportunities for growth and to manage complexity so it becomes a means of enrichment.
“Two flavours are better than one”
Over the last few years, the Italian advert for Maxibon ice cream has reminded us of a founding principle of Gestalt psychology: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”. There’s me, there is the other person, and then there’s the couple: hence, three entities, a multiplicity to which each contributes their abilities and skills, accepting the other’s excellence to offset their own weaknesses and help the relationship grow. Such an exchange requires two major resources: total mutual trust and humility to accept help. To be effective in Working as a couple, while keeping the relationship alive and maintaining a breadth of vision, it is essential to preserve your independence of thought and judgment without becoming swallowed up in the other person.
The myths of working as a couple
We sometimes meet colleagues who conceal their relationship. Alberto and I strongly believe that it is impossible, as well as unnecessary and counterproductive, to pretend not to be part of a couple that works together while also being emotionally attached. Why should such a special value be hidden or considered a hurdle? We see it as a gift that we can use in the interests of our clients. In Passodue we do not “take our work home”, we do it at home, where we in fact have our own professional studio! This allows us to better reconcile different activities, to optimize our time and to welcome clients in a warm, family environment (just that, in fact). For an optimum combination of work and affection, you must be attentive to the other person and listen to their needs, while reserving a space and time for yourself. Looking after your own uniqueness is the basis of an authentic life in any context, both in your work and your family.
Stay flexible and open to dialogue
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
The most complex aspect of working as a couple, and one which you must never overlook, is dialogue; by this I mean the daily exercise of talking to the other person to find a common language, so that each can convey clearly their point of view, their needs and their desires. You must both be aware that misunderstandings need to be clarified because you cannot “go home and have a rant with someone else”. It requires the willingness to engage to find true agreement, not a compromise that will lead to frustration, but rather a decision that will unite and satisfy both partners as explained in the article on win-win situations.
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