Marianne Murciano and Bob Sirott have been both business and life partners for 20 years.

We all know marriage is hard, very hard. For two individuals to forge a life together, they have to compromise, accommodate, forgive and overlook — on a daily basis. That’s a pretty tall order.

But what if these individuals also work together?  How much harder is that? To find out, I talked to several such couples.

Chicago broadcasters Marianne Murciano and Bob Sirott didn’t know each other when they were paired to co-anchor the morning news on Fox TV in Chicago. The working relationship came first. They went from strangers to friends to lovers over a period of a few years.  For the past 20 years, they’ve also been husband and wife.

“Because we work as well as live together, it’s more like 40,” says Bob, who adds, “the only way to keep it separate is to go to Starbucks.”

Over the years, the two have partnered on television, radio and social media. They currently broadcast on Facebook Live and Instagram Live (@havanagirl) Monday through Thursday at 7 pm (CT). In addition, Marianne writes a food blog called Suso’s Fork.

One way they manage their work life is by deferring to each other’s strengths.  Bob has more broadcast expertise, while Marianne is more in touch with social media. But they don’t make any decisions without the full agreement of their partner.

Having met on the job, they learned to work together before they were married, which they think was easier than the other way.

Tracy and Marcus Smith were already married, when they decided to purchase a ServPro francise together.  While Marcus worked fulltime in the disaster-relief business from the start, Tracy kept her corporate job, with its demanding travel schedule, until she became too pregnant to fly.

Marcus has primary responsibility for sales and field work, while Tracy oversees personnel, training, finance and marketing/advertising. The biggest lesson they’ve learned is to support each other’s decisions rather than second-guess them, even when employees try to pit one against the other.

“Team members are cautioned against complaining to Marcus about my decisions or vice versa,” says Tracy.

She admits there’s no separation of work and home life.  While that has a few disadvantages (family vacations mean the loss of two employees not one), there’s also an upside.

“If Marcus gets a work call during dinner or has to run out in the middle of the night because of a flood, I’m in full agreement,” she says. “Also, we never lack for conversation.”

Gillian and Jack Schultz were married a short time when Gillian, who’s British, was offered the opportunity to import security safes from England. Jack, who had a background in electronics, joined the enterprise and expanded it to include the design and installation of alarms, camera surveillance and access control for high-risk companies.

Keeping home and work separate was also an issue for the Schultzes. Gillian says their bathroom at home became a remote board room every morning as they got ready for work and discussed hot topics that occurred to them overnight.  At the same time, she structured the business from, the start, so they could take vacations and attend conventions together while maintaining distinct private lives.

The couple, which recently sold the company after more than 35 years, credits the business for the happiness of their marriage.

“I honestly think that if one of us had jumped into this business without the other, we wouldn’t be together today,” says Gillian.  “The ability to grow, face challenges and facilitate solutions is very powerful. Doing it together increases bonds.”

Then there’s my friend Diana, who, together with her husband, owned and operated three Computerland stores. As the business became successful, Diana was getting most of the attention and credit. IBM  flew her around the country to speak at small business conferences. She won awards as a woman entrepreneur. Customers singled her out. The store she managed thrived.  The two he managed didn’t.

Her husband’s jealousy ended the marriage. She bought him out, closed his two stores and ran the business successfully for the next 30 years until she retired.

Apparently, merging home and office is great for some: but for others — not so much. Please comment here.

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