Working with your spouse
With Luke and Mikayla
Hey guess what? You think this blog about working with your spouse is going to be all rainbows and butterflies but you’re very wrong. At this very moment, Mikayla and I just had a yelling match over who is writing or revising a blog. But the kicker was … I’m telling her to write a blog because I’m also writing a blog, and Mikayla is telling me she’s just updating something on the blog, but I’m assuming she isn’t going to revise it and rewrite it to be 2,000 words, but she’s assuming that I know that she’s going to still re-write it, so basically. BASICALLY. We’re both yelling about doing the same thing that we want done. Welcome to working with your spouse 101.
Of course, there are rainbows and butterflies, and sometimes there’s a little disagreement and fighting, but that’s working with someone you love. I mean, do any of you readers have a brother and sister? Not to compare your siblings to your spouse, but we all know the petty little arguments that turn into huge fights and then the next hour you’re hugging it out and acting like it never happened. That’s kind of sort of like working with your spouse. There are some visions you have for the company that the other doesn’t agree with and compromises have to be made. So here’s a nifty little guide or a little marriage counseling for you and yo boo.
PROS OF WORKING WITH YOUR SPOUSE (hint…they’re also the cons 😉 )
Working with your spouse: They’re your fave person
(that’s why you married them, duh). This can be both a good and bad thing. You love ’em and like ’em so much, and you love getting to work with them, but, because you love them so much, sometimes you skirt around hurting their feelings or are hesitant telling them something they need to hear that’s really important to your guys’ business and success (guilty). There have been times where I’ve hurt Mikayla’s feelings because I’m a little head strong and give some harsh criticism about her work. I think of the work separate from the artist and judge purely based on the work, but I need to remember that Mikayla edited or took that photo, and she put her heart into it and I’m not only criticizing her work, I’m criticizing her.
But at the same time, we as artists need to learn to separate from our art and see it from a different perspective. I think during art school we were tainted because they freaking destroy your work from the inside out. The constant critiques and feedback from our peers made us slowly become desensitized to our own work. You either go in one direction or the other—you become very defensive or very open about sharing your work. I am in the open position where I welcome critique and it makes me feel like it’s more of a collaborative effort, while Mikayla is a little more closed off and can come off as defensive because there weren’t a lot of nice people and they didn’t know about the compliment sandwich. Some designers in our classes were just mean and that crap can leave ya scarred.
So, sometimes when I critique things that Mikayla creates, I can come off as really mean and blunt, and then Mikayla gets defensive and the cycle continues. So, compromising and learning to see each other’s strengths as well as problem areas can be really beneficial when working with your spouse. I learned that if I’m going to be giving any critique on anything Mikayla does, I need to approach her with a compliment sandwich rather than becoming an idiot sandwich with myself and my bluntness. And vice versa with Mikayla to me. I hate it when people beat around the bush and dance around my feelings, I love bluntness, and I love it when people are straight with me. So if you’re going to critique me, tell me what’s wrong and how I can improve it.
Here’s a quote from Mikayla, “I am more sensitive when it comes to criticism from the people that I’m close to, so when Luke tells me things I need to hear (sometimes more bluntly than I’d like), that can take a blow to my feelings, and I tend to react negatively or defensively. If it were someone else telling me these things, I’m more inclined to consider the criticism and think before reacting.”
So, there has to be a separation between work and home, especially when it comes to feelings, which is a really hard thing to do. Especially because if you’re working at home together, know when to turn off the work mode switch
Working with your spouse: Lots of time spent together
Time together! It’s awesome. Well … most of the time. As I’m sure you know, there are times when too much time together is just … too much. Mikayla and I find that this tends to lead us both to forget to appreciate one another, and we start snapping and bickering. I mean, we do strive to become that one old couple you know that bickers, it’s definitely a life goal of ours. But at the moment, we’d like to not tear each other’s hair out.
When you don’t have time to miss each other, you can forget that working together is supposed to be fun and something you’re grateful for, not resenting. Here’s a quote from Mikayla, “I can find myself resenting Luke when he’s excited about continuing to work on a project, when the last thing I want to do is sit at the computer for the next few hours.” But here’s the thing—I’m a work-a-holic, and I enjoy getting things done. There are times where I have to push Mikayla to get some work done and it can get frustrating. There’s also a game we like to play where Luke likes to work too much and Mikayla just wants it to stop.
This is where balance comes in. When you’re not having quality time together, the balance is off, and so is everything else. Designate a cut-off time for working, and stick to it. Have a date night, or a nightly ritual like cooking together, or watching some TV (The Office, obvs.). Back before we had balance (or somewhat balance, pobody’s nerfect) we would go to work in the morning and come back around 5:30-6 (hour+ drive) and cook dinner, eat, then work on Agape until around 9 or 10 at night, sleep and would do this for 5 days a week. Then, on the weekends we would have a shoot or three and the cycle continued. That was not a good balance. We were super unhealthy as humans, and our relationship was taking a toll because we were becoming work partners rather than spouses.
Most importantly, make time for yourself, too. Do the stuff you love, separately. Whatever you do to destress, do it! You’ll both be refreshed and ready to get back to conquer work and kick some butt, together. I’ve written a blog in the past called 5 tips to overcome creative burnout, which talks about finding good hobbies, getting off social media, and doing stuff creatively with little to no pressure. Some of our favorite hobbies to do together, but also alone, are gardening, video games, sewing, chess, working out, and house projects. It’s great because Mikayla and I can decompress and get away without killing each other. Believe us, we know because we work at Progressive together, work in the house together because of COVID, own Agape together, cook, clean, etc., etc., alllll together. So, our alone time is essential to our mental health.
Working with your spouse: You get to create together
Quiet days with coffee, sitting around the computer together while we’re brainstorming is one of our favorite things. Throwing around ideas we’re passionate about is an awesome way to bond, and watching each other grow in the photography field, especially creatively, has been so freaking cool and fun. If you were to tell Mikayla and Luke 5 years ago that you’d be photographing pizza for a living, we’d laugh right in your face. AND if we were to tell our old selves that we’d light it all with artificial lighting, we’d also laugh in your face. 5 years ago we prided ourselves for being just natural light photographers because the idea of using any artificial lighting was lame. Oh how naive we were.
In the past 2 years, we’ve learned so much about lighting and it has helped us in so many ways. If we were to stay stagnant and not have invested in learning artificial lighting, we wouldn’t have the clients that we have today. If we didn’t experiment by taking photos of our cats and ourselves and fail together, then we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s really cool working with your spouse because you aren’t just growing as creatives, you are growing as a couple because these are shared experiences that you get to have together. There are times during weddings and events that Mikayla and I shoot where something stupid happens (trust us, it happens a lot) and we just have to look at each other, and we know exactly what the other person is thinking.
Not only that, because we’ve shot every wedding together that we’ve been a business, we know exactly where the other person is going to be, how they are going to shoot, and when to get the crap out of the way. There are times where Mikayla can give me the death stare and I knew I done messed up her shot. Mikayla can’t give that death stare to just anyone, trust me, it’s haunting.
Another great way that we create together is when one of us is not feeling creative, the other picks up the slack. There have been times where I’m like brain dead and not coming up with any promps or any direction to our couples and Mikayla steps in and saves the day, and vice versa! But the real magic happens where we’re both creating together. Not only that (SO many freaking pros to being a couple), we get to model for our couples! We can physically show our couples a pose and have them mirror us, it’s WAY better than telling someone how to get into a position where we can just BAM show them.
However, there are DEFINITELY times when we butt heads when it comes to creative decisions and directions, or one of us will set up a pose or a shot that the other doesn’t jive with or can work creatively with. We tell all our couples that sometimes we’ll bicker or argue under our breaths and not to worry about it, it’s just creatives creating. Art isn’t perfect, it’s two artists with different visions and sometimes you just gotta get through it.
But that’s okay. Differing artistic opinions can help us grow and can prompt other ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of without the other’s input or influence.
When working with your spouse, or just being partners in general, you have a deeper understanding of each other than any other business partner ever would, so use it to your advantage instead of letting it hinder you. Through working with one another, what we’ve learned in the professional field has contributed positively to our own communication, balance, and relationship overall.
That being said, we don’t have all the answers, solutions, cat videos, Office references, etc., and are nowhere near a perfect couple or team, but, we think working together is awesome, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t imagine not working with Mikayla, and if we ever have to go solo on a project, I bet we’d both feel naked. I’ll leave you on that note 😉
Let us know your thoughts, if this helped, and throw all da questions our way.
PS. I just finished writing this and I’m already over our stupid petty fight from the beginning of this blog, welcome to marriage.
Not many photo opportunities in this blog so here are some pictures of our cats.