A Math Lesson in Working Together
Hi! I am Erika. Welcome to “Dear Humann,” a subsidiary of Two Mann, Two Sense, where you get to ask the important questions—photography questions, business questions, relationship questions, advice on how to ask someone out on a date, what is the best coffee in the world, or why the sky is blue. And us Humanns answer them with our sage and sometimes salty take on your quandaries.
Being a human is complex. Being a human in a creative field is even more complex. Being a human in a creative field that works with their spouse is even more complex. Everything about you is in play when you create. That means finding the answers to those bigger questions so that you can continue paving the path to your creative life as a photographer.
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A Math Lesson in Working Together
I work with my wife and it’s hard sometimes. Give me some advice.
From Easy Way Out
Dear Easy Way Out,
I get asked a version of this question on a weekly, if not daily basis. I am hardly the person to give marital advice. If you saw Lanny and I behind the scenes, you would have never asked me (of all people) this question. You would, however, likely take pages and pages of notes on what not to do. Have you ever heard of the study by John and Julie Gottman that can predict whether a couple stays together or divorces with over 94% accuracy?
They have studied thousands of couples, and have unlocked key determining factors by observing the couple for just 15 minutes. This study is cited often in the books and articles I read. I read a lot. So, this study comes up a lot. Every time I hear the statistic, I know exactly which group Lanny and I would be in: The 6% they couldn’t accurately predict. I am sure there are many people surprised that we are still together. We’ve actually found Reddit threads about us, and our potential breakup. Our relationship is all but smooth sailing.
But, we are still together. And, we are “happily” married. And, we do love each other, deeply. But, let me assure you, it’s not because it’s in any way easy. And, it definitely is not because there are more good times than bad.
The very fact that you said, “it’s hard sometimes,” means that you are likely better off than us. For us, I would say it’s hard most of the time. This column could be an entire venting session about how hard it is working together. Just for fun, because I like to vent and writing about it usually makes me feel better, here are some examples:
- There is a pile of Christmas decorations in the garage that need to get put away. I have asked Lanny no less than 18 times to put them away. (Are you reading this Lanny? That’s 19 times now!) Tallying how many times I have to ask Lanny to do things is arming myself with statistics for future arguments.
- There are shit stains in our toilet that nobody will think to remove other than me.
- Lanny’s latest dietary restrictions change as quickly as the weather and are equally unpredictable, too.
- When we’re teaching, Lanny constantly interrupts me or repeats what I say verbatim.
- I will see Lanny working on a photo, leave for two hours worth of running errands, come back home and find Lanny working on the same photo.
- Lanny cooks eggs every morning, and eats them within a few feet of my desk, you know, the desk where I am trying to work. But all I can hear is the sounds of moist eggs being slurped up into his moist mouth. (Shudder.) It is absolutely revolting.
Now, it’s really only fair to include a list of Lanny’s gripes against me. I’m too proud to ask him for an actual list. But, after some reflection, I imagine it would go something like this:
- Erika seems to be constantly resentful towards me.
- No matter how much I do around the house, it’s never enough for Erika.
- This morning, Erika wouldn’t talk to me while I was eating my eggs on the couch. I just wanted to have a nice breakfast with her. I even offered to make her eggs.
- When we’re teaching, Erika constantly interrupts me.
- Erika hasn’t hugged me for three days. I actually started to tally the days, so I can bring it up to her later.
- Erika’s work is riddled with mistakes, like always shooting crooked. She’s representing our brand. She needs to care more.
- Erika doesn’t appreciate anything I do.
- Erika rarely compliments me, and when she does on rare occasions, she flips it into an insult. Like the salad I made for dinner last night. “This is a great salad, Lanny. Much better than the disgusting one you made last week.”
I’ve included the list above, not because I enjoy sharing my marriage woes with thousands of people on our mailing list. I share it, so we can noramalize that marriage is hard. Therefore, Easy Way Out, working together as a married couple is going to be hard.
Sometimes I think that things would be easier for our marriage if we quit photography and stopped working together. Because as you see in the examples above, the lines are blurred between our day-to-day lives and our business lives. We live our business in the same ways we live our personal lives. The Christmas decorations hold an equal annoyance rate to me being mad about how long Lanny takes to edit photos. There is no delineation when you’re a married couple that also works together. At least there isn’t for us. It takes a hell of a lot more effort to be in this situation, Easy Way Out. You and your wife have chosen two very distinct and overlapping lives: Business and marriage. Either of those are hard enough, but adding them together blows shit up exponentially at times. I’ve flipped Lanny the bird on a wedding day. He’s called me a bitch. Don’t for a second think that those are isolated circumstances. We show up to every wedding the people that we are to each other in our 19th request for something to be done at home. It’s an accumulation of frustration that seeps into all things.
Easy Way Out, you wrote a simple request for some advice. And I have a very simple answer: It’s not how hard or easy it is. It’s about what you are willing to struggle for. If you’re not willing to struggle for it, drop it right now. It’s not worth it. I can say that with 94% accuracy.
Giving into it being hard is not giving up. It’s not settling for less. It’s acceptance. I can’t tell you it gets easier. I can’t tell you if it’s worth it. I’m not you or your wife. But, what I can say definitively is that ‘worth it’ does not equal easy.
My tally of Lanny’s annoyances far exceeds the list of what I love about him. But, it does not outweigh it. Because the reasons I love him are the weight of pure gold and the reasons he annoys me are the weight of small pebbles. That kind of math does work.
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