Marriage And Business: A Love Letter

Marriage And Business: A Love Letter

Today is Word Carnival day, that once-monthly event where a bunch of business bloggers get together to write on a theme. This month’s topic: the secret to my success.

Rather than talk about tools or tricks or mindsets or practices, I decided to have a little fun and turn this into a love letter because there really is only one thing I can’t live without: my business partner, husband and love of my life. I hope you know someone like this, too, because you really can’t succeed alone.

Dear Ralph,

We’ve been doing this working together thing for sixteen years now – married for only two more than that – and other than the gross leftover coffee sludge that you occasionally leave to grow mold on your desk, it’s been a pretty good ride.

Oh heck, who am I kidding? It’s been fantastic.

And horrible.

I’ve loved every second of it. Except for the ones I’ve hated. You’ve been my biggest cheerleader and my worst critic. You keep me going and you make me want to quit and run off to a remote mountaintop in Tibet.

And if it weren’t for you, I would not be here today. Having you on my team in every way is the secret to my happiness and business success. (And more… but let’s stay focused. Besides, a few of our readers may be yelling at us to get a room soon.)

Since I first saw you standing with your tray on the dinner line at college, I thought, “I want to give this guy my cookies.” (No, seriously. I had a whole batch of homemade cookies that I knew you’d love.)

What I never imagined was that we’d not only be married but running a business together one day. And as I look back over all those years – many filled with cookies and ice cream and apple pie and mojitos and never enough treadmill – I know that the only reason it was fun or successful was because we were together.

You’ve Always Been My Biggest Fan

I wish everyone on the planet could have at least one superfan like you. You may not think all my ideas are great but you always encourage me to try new things and to do what I want to do.

You stand up for me in the face of adversity and take my side no matter what. I’ve been friends with some of those other types of “married people” – the ones who can’t wait to get away from their spouses, who long for girls night or boys night, the ones who make fun of each other in front of other people or constantly complain about each other.

I mean, you do forget to bring me my sweater sometimes, even though I’ve asked you like six times, but when it comes to being there for me, supporting me and making me feel great about myself no matter what, I know I can count on you. Lucky for me, your love is better than your memory.

I never have to worry that you’ll “throw me under the bus” if something goes wrong. In fact, I know you sometimes take the blame for things I’ve screwed up if it means I get to save face.

I succeed because you want me to succeed. You open every door, you blow every trumpet and you keep me going even when I don’t want to keep myself going.

Your Perspective Keeps It Real

Nobody should go through life with only their own opinion to live by. I like to think I’m a pretty reasonable person, but even I get caught in the bubble of my own head. And when that happens I have you to lend a different perspective.

Being able to bounce my thoughts and ideas off you means I can make sense out of them. Sometimes you help me think things through in a way I couldn’t have done on my own. Sometimes you give me that perplexed look that means, “What the heck are you thinking? Go make me some coffee.”

Sometimes you tell me how awesome I am so I can keep on being awesome.

I succeed because your ideas complement mine, improve mine, or just replace mine when mine are dumb. Unless my ideas are better, in which case I take full credit for them.

You Have A Good Day When I’m Having A Bad One

You know those days. The server crashes. The internet goes down. It takes four seconds too long for the computer to boot up. The cat won’t stop poking your leg for attention and then that client, the one who just drives you nuts!

Someone or something needs to get thrown out a window.

Lucky for me, on those days you are calm, cool and collected. Call it fortune or the alignment of Jupiter but it seems like we rarely both have bad days at the same time. When we do, all bets are off and there are usually large quantities of Oreos consumed with no treadmill and much chastising of selves for eating Oreos – right before we go out to buy more Oreos.

When I have those days, you field the client calls. You deal with the aggravating, repeated, never ending questions. You call the vendors and get the nonsense resolved. You pet the cat and fix the internet.

When I’m having those days you say things like, “Why don’t you go take a nap?”

And sometimes I oblige by flinging myself into a dark corner with a game of FreeCell, and sometimes I just hang out and make your day difficult. You bear it with much patience.

Then when you’re having one of those days, I get to be heroic and reasonable and keep things running smoothly. It’s a good tradeoff and I don’t know how anyone survives life or business without a sane person on their most insane days.

You Do Stuff I Hate To Do

Like programming. Ew.

I remember many years ago you bought me a Dummies book so I could learn OOP – which looked a whole lot like “oops” to me but turned out to be something inexplicable called Object Oriented Programming.

You were so cute that day. All proud of yourself, like the husband who buys his wife a new vacuum cleaner and thinks it’s awesome because the plastic casing is like, orange!

You never bought me a vacuum but you did try to teach me programming, and for that I thank you. But sometimes I wish you had just bought me a vacuum.

I remember reading the same four pages over and over as you explained things about how cat equals animal but cat does not equal dog.

Did I ever tell you that when I was in first grade, my mom tried to teach me to add by putting a big bowl of pennies in front of me and saying, “Ok, here are two pennies. Now, if I give you two more pennies, how many do you have?’

Did I ever tell you that all I heard was “whaaaa whaaaaa whaaaa” like the mom from Charlie Brown?

Ok, so I’ve never been much on the “logic” side of the equation but the good news is, you are. So I never have to worry about doing things I hate to do or don’t want to do because lucky for me, those are the things you love. I happily let you have them.

We succeed together because we complement each other so well.

You Make Me Work

Getting things done is hard. I don’t care how many apps or tools you have, how many productivity books you read, how many practices you put in place or meditations you do.

Sometimes you just need another person going, “Did you finish that thing?” or “Did you answer that client email from yesterday?”

And when you say, “No,” sometimes you need someone to get mad.

I mean, sometimes you need someone to very gently and kindly remind you of your priorities and then helpfully guide you to complete them in a nice and loving way that in no way indicates getting mad.

Everyone needs to be held accountable. You’re that person for me. You don’t let me slide. You don’t let me make excuses. And mostly, I think, that’s because you know I’m better than that.

You Know That Fun Things Are Important

Sometimes things happen, like sunny days. Or everyone on Facebook is spoiling Game of Thrones so you have to watch it on Monday morning even though you seriously have to do that thing.

Sometimes it’s just Tuesday.

And you know that all of these things mean it’s ok to set aside work and have some fun.

From a five-minute game break to an all-day movie break, I enjoy every second we spend together.

I should also mention that we have fun working, too. It helps that we like what we do but it also helps that we like each other. We have fun conversations, fun meetings, fun brainstorming sessions.

The ones with ice cream are especially fun, but even the ones with kale juice are pretty good because your humor shines even through that green, grainy pulp.

Even during a bad week, I never have to dread getting out of bed in the morning because I know you’ll be there to add fun into the day.

Want To Get a Room?

I did say I was writing a love letter, not a love novel, and though there are so many other ways I could demonstrate how important you are, I’ll wrap this up by saying that if it weren’t for you, I would not be as successful and I would not be enjoying it as much, even when success looks like 14 hour days and all weekend working.

For that I thank you, and always I love you.

Now, how about that room? I totally need a nap.

This post is part of the Word Carnival, a monthly blogging event with some of the smartest business owners you’ll meet. This month’s topic: the secret to our success. Favorite book, pack of Oreos, lucky rabbit’s foot, four leaf clover, a kick-ass CRM and project management system. We all have our own must-have accessories to complement our day-to-day activities and get to the next level. Here’s a rundown of the things we can’t do without in our businesses. Read all of the fabulous carnie articles here.

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • I love you guys! Carol Lynn, thanks for your honesty and openness. I’m not sure what else to say really, but to have someone who understands you and can encourage and admonish you at the same time is an amazing thing to have. I’m sure it’s a cultural thing, but we don’t get this kind of openness here in the UK – particularly when it comes to love and emotion. I expect some of my friends would call your writing slushy and sugar coated. I totally disagree, and I really value what you’ve said. We tend to be quite cynical and negative- maybe the British “stiff upper lip” is going to take a while to shake off! I think we have a lot to learn from you Americans! Thanks again, and enjoy your nap! 🙂

    • Ian, you know we love you too, so watch out or the next love letter may be to our favorite Brit 🙂

      I think you read this before Ralph did. I banned him from reading it until it was published but since he is out at his networking meeting early today, I don’t think he’s had a chance.

      It looks like you are breaking the negative mold so maybe there is hope! Maybe there is even a balance somewhere between British cynicism and American drama. You never know what great things us SuperFreds can accomplish.

      • That’s very kind! So, has Ralph read this yet?
        I do tend to be more of a pessimist (or a realist as my dad prefers to call it), but I do believe in saying things as they are, and I think it is all too easy to going down the negative path and letting that gain control. There’s also a lot of jealousy. I don’t go in for any of that- life is too short! Having said that, I think a little bit of cynicism is good. It stops you from being sucked into dodgy marketing campaigns for a start! 😉

        • We agree on that but I tend to think of it as skepticism as opposed to cynicism (splitting hairs, maybe?) because the latter does tend towards the negative and it’s all too easy for me to go down that path. (Just ask Ralph!)

          • No, you’re right. Always good to be pedantic. Skepticism is the word to use!

    • British “stiff upper lip” be gone!

      We need you to come over to our side, Ian, because I believe you’re the exception to the [British] rule. We’re counting on you to perpetuate slushy sugar-coated openness throughout the UK. 🙂

      • We’re running a “get Ian to move to the US” campaign 🙂

        • Not sure what my wife will think of that! I’m all for visiting the US more often though!

      • Well I think the “stiff upper lip” has pretty much gone in the UK, but still there can be a lot of negativity when people are successful. Call it jealousy or a remnant of the class system, I don’t know. I have to admit, I prefer to “say it how it is” instead of adding a thick layer of sugar- but I do try and say things politely with encouragement too.

  • *snif* That was lovely, Carol-Lynn. While I agree with Ian that many Brits have the “stiff upper lip” thing going on, my British husband is an exception and supports me in much the same way.

    • Sharon, smart people find the other smart people of the world and stick together 🙂

  • Naomi Bellina

    I can hear the love and fun in your podcasts. How wonderful for both of you, to have found each other! Rejoice every day.

    • Thanks Naomi, that means a lot. We do have fun and hope our listeners do, too.

  • I’m with Sharon. *snif-snif* I had to get up from my chair during your reading and go grab a Kleenex. You really touched my heart.

    I’ve said it before, Carol Lynn, but you and Ralph go together like horse radish and roast beef, guacamole and chips, and copy and paste. In my book, you define partnership … the business kind and the love kind.

    Can’t wait till Ralph gets back from his meeting! I can only imagine his reaction. 🙂

    I’m glad you mentioned those “other” couples who always need time away from each other. (As if it’s a rule or a must or the only way to survive their marriage) I think that’s pretty sad. People always say it’s really hard for married couples to work together but you and Ralph have proven those people WRONG.

    Wishing you continued marital bliss and business success!! xoxo
    (And may your home never be without a package of Oreos)

    • That’s even better than peanut butter and jelly! I might have to put that on a t-shirt. So I missed him reading this because he read it while I wasn’t there (boo!) but as he said, I only said he couldn’t read it before today. I didn’t say he had to do it in front of me 🙂

      Ralph is a Double Stuff guy which is good because I don’t like all that stuff. So I give him my stuff and then I get the cookies and he gets quadruple, lol. See, we really do complement each other.

  • This is great! Couples that can actually work together successfully over time are a rare thing. Those that not only work together, but thrive together and don’t want to kill each other after a few hours, that’s pretty spectacular.

    Entrepreneurial life isn’t for everybody. You’ve got to have a strong partner to help you take it on.

    Thanks for sharing this behind-the-scenes perspective!

    • Glad you enjoyed! Running a business is some hard shit. Honestly, all mush aside, I wouldn’t be doing it if Ralph and I weren’t doing it together. And we only want to kill each other like .6% of the time so that’s pretty doable 🙂

  • So happy you two found each other early on. Can I say I feel a bit jealous? What you’ve got (biz partners AND married) is a rare thing. That you’re making it work speaks volumes to what I’m sure you two can accomplish for your clients. We’re all lucky to know you both.

    • Ralph was literally just out of high school when we met 🙂 I wouldn’t have guessed we’d be working together (or married, either at that point!) but I guess the stars aligned pretty well.

      • I’d definitely have to say that you guys were made for each other!

  • SandyMcD

    Delightful. Just plain smile making. Apart from relishing your love for each other, it made me know that I too have been a lucky lady. Roger and I have worked together for over 24 years now. I have yet to write him so eloquent a love letter.

    As I read each section, what I realised is that you were describing the all time great business partnerships. So much of what you commented on happens between them, they hold each other gently accountable, they really like each other and are great friends, they value each other’s skills and are proud of them, they lift each other up when they need too. I have witnessed a few and always and they’re always highly successful businesses.

    Finding such partners in business is not so easy. But perhaps people should just look for the folk they would have married if they weren’t already married, who just happen to fill the expertise and knowledge gaps!

    • Well now you have a task set out for you… love letter, next stop! I just wanted to have some fun and really, when I thought about the topic being “the one thing I can’t live without” it seemed like a no-brainer! In a way I guess you are “married” to your business partner anyway, even if not in the traditional sense. You do have to figure out how to get along, compromise, help each other, etc. And if I know anything about you, I’m sure Roger has a pretty good idea of how you feel!

  • Dorien Morin-van Dam

    Love, love, love this. I don’t know you two as well as many of the other commenters, but just from looking in and listening to some of your podcasts, I could tell you have what I have. 🙂 I also met my husband when we were very young. We also work together and even if I can not put it in those elegant words you used, Carol Lynn, it was as if I read the story of my own marriage and business partnership.

    Our story would add dogs and kids and remove the cats, but other than that, many of the same things occur and the same feelings come up.

    I love taking a nap or watching a missed show while ‘working’… ha ha ha; I thought I was the only one who did that!

    Looking forward to getting to know you two better.
    Dorien

    • It’s always a good day when I learn about another happy couple in life and business. Can’t wait to hear more about your story! As for watching those shows in the middle of the day, you know that inevitably someone on Facebook is going to tell you whose head got cut off so sometimes you need to take advantage of your self employment and enjoy 🙂

  • Not a whisper or a peep from Ralph? #wssup?

  • What a sweet, heartfelt post! It made me think about my fiance, who’s my partner in crime. While we aren’t in business together, he’s been my #1 supporter from day one, and I don’t think I could’ve built my own business without his words of encouragement. It sounds like Ralph is the perfect partner in life and business, and you should definitely count yourself lucky!

    It was great to get a look behind the scenes, too. 🙂

    • Thanks Molly! I have also been happily surprised by how many people chimed in about their significant other. It’s awesome to hear about so many people who are helping and supporting each other. I’m starting to think that if you’re in the entrepreneurial space you almost have to have someone like that. It seems to be a trend among people I know who run businesses. Anyway, it’s a good trend!

  • Wow – so sweet Carol Lynn. And you never quite veered off into the get a room territory:) Even for those of us who aren’t in business with our spouses, they do become silent shareholders with the power to inspire, support, and fund us in many, many ways.

  • Hi Carol,

    Long time no see. I’m glad I found this special post of yours, it was really a great idea and how sweet.

    How wonderful it must be to meet the right person and build a life with them. Something I know nothing about, but I certainly can understand.

    Wonderful piece.

    • Hi Sylvaine, nice to see you! I know you’ve been busy traveling and moving. Sounds like you have some pretty exciting things happening 🙂 Thanks for visiting and I’m glad you liked my post. I wanted to have some fun with this. Sometimes it’s nice to just do something different!