How to Tell Your Spouse You Don't Want to Work With Them

In these tough economic times where the job market is hard, sometimes you want your partner wants you to help work your connections for them and get them a job. But what happens when you don't want to work with them? Here is one member's story, and the advice she received about how to handle it.



Original Poster:

"I am looking for some honest advice... My husband and I met at work (separate teams) and worked at the same Market Research company while dating for a few years. We finally both left the company and went to separate companies and then got happily married & had 2 kids!
While I felt that familiar tug of stay at home with kids - my maternity leave basically was about all I could handle (how do stay at home moms do it?) - took a job in at a Technology company (supplies a Market Research product) that I love.
Now, due to complicated reasons, my husband is looking to switch jobs - he loves his company and his job so this is a tremendous loss for him.
He interviewed at one company but it doesn't sound like he got the position, so he asked me to get him an interview at my company (we're hiring). The thing is...the NYC office is quite small (we're based in San Fran), I often work from home, and I have very much come to treasure my independence at work.
At home, I am mom/wife. I take care of everyone and everything.
As much as I deeply love and am committed to my husband - I don't want him working at my company. When I tried to say this he got really upset - we used to work together at the same company and it wasn't a problem and his job isn't exactly stable so why wouldn't I try to get him a job?
I've encouraged him to look elsewhere and sent him a few leads - all seem to have reasons why they aren't right for him.
The bottom line is: my company depends on people who work REALLY hard. My husband is the Yin to my super serious, hard working Yang. I would never call him lazy because he is super active - but his priorities are generally not work.
I've thought of just getting him an interview and letting them say he isn't the right fit but why wouldn't they hire him? It's not like on an interview you say...yeah work is really low on my priority list! I feel like I am in a no-win situation and this Friday is our company picnic (families invited) and I know he is looking at this like a networking opportunity.
Ok - I am feeling really torn so this email is way too long (even after editing) so I am going to stop here and ask:
Any advice?"

View the final outcome




"Just be honest with him that you're not comfortable with him working there - end of discussion - stick to your guns or you'll end up with an ulcer.
I personally couldn't imagine working with my husband
We women seem to over think and take other people's feelings more into consideration than our own happiness and I am totally guilty of doing that too until the stress started to affect my health.
Good luck and I'm sure it will work.out!"


"I have absolutely nothing to say that can help you in practicality but I wanted to offer you support as I can certainly relate to this difficult situation. My husband and I are not in the same field but if we were, there is no way that I would want to work with him. I wish you luck navigating this as I am sure it will cause you a lot of stress. I hope something surprising happens to help resolve it in a way that is mutually pleasing to both of you. "


"I tend to agree. I also think that working together when you were dating without kids (and likely had more time you spent without each other) is WAY different than working together while married with kids. You guys share so much more now, it is completely reasonable that work would be your main space apart from your family. Have you made that point? Good luck, this sounds so hard. "


"If it is really causing problems between you two when you are honest with him, I'd let him go through the steps of interviewing. You can give him advice that they don't think he is what they are looking for, and if he still wants to interview, so be it.
Let him think the company didn't choose him, rather than you "not choosing" him. It seems like he doesn't understand you not wanting to work with him; rather than this be an issue that could pop up between the two of you for who knows how long, let him get mad at the company, which he will probably get over much faster."


"You mention your work ethic is not the same as your husband's, and it sounds like that might be part of your hesitation to refer him... Is that the case?  Perhaps you can discuss how you feel your company is not the right fit, similarly to how those other jobs weren't right, in this case the reason being company culture/expectations... Is that an option for you?  It seems like if he wouldn't like the expectations and the intensely serious culture, he wouldn't be set up for success and that would reflect poorly on both of you."


"Totally agree with this -- I don't think you need to offer a ton of excuses, just that you're not comfortable with it and that you wish him to respect your feelings about that.  Explaining that you value the work/home life separation seems like plenty of reason to not go down this road.  I don't think you need to say a lot more other than that!  If he pushes, you can just say "case in point, I wouldn't feel this kind of pressure from any other job candidate"!"


"I would also suggest that it makes sense to diversify your income so you arent both dependent on one company."


"I won't repeat any of the things all the other smart, common sense, observant, honest women here have already said. As you can tell, I agree with them 100%. I can say this, there is a reason why lots of companies have anti-nepotism policies with respect to hiring. It's one thing to meet your mate or spouse while you're working there, it happens. But some companies specifically prohibit employees from trying to get their spouses interviews there. It can create conflict not just personally but somehow even financially."


You love your job and how you've shaped it to suit you, NICELY DONE!! So why shouldn't you protect that? That serious conversation definitely won't be easy but you will have said your mind. And here's one other subtle point he wouldn't have thought of: there's some ego here, he thinks he's hurt because you don't want him to work at the same company as you. But I think in a way, he should be looking for his next job without this intro from you. You support him in all he does but it's up to him to find his job from soup to nuts. That way if the job goes really well or (hopefully not) it wasn't up to his expectations, then there's no blame or resentment between you two. Having you make the intro is easy but it shouldn't be about easy, it has to be about taking your own actions/making your own decisions. You're already perceptive to you know he wouldn't be happy at your company.
No, you don't need to address anything in you, your marriage or your career. You just need to buy a bottle of wine, bring out two glasses and say honey, I love you but I'm giving you a swift kick in the ass (and that's because I love you!)."


"I often tell my husband that once he starts up his own company (looking to do some point soon) that he's going to have to hire me, and he always says NO WAY! I personally still think it would be fun, but he has brought up a lot of good points which I have pretty much come around to. One great point was that we should maintain our own spaces outside of the home so that we have interesting things to come home and chat about and teach each other, that if we worked at the same company we'd be constantly talking about work, and it would get less dimensional. Anyway, from the side of someone who thinks she honestly wouldn't mind working with her spouse (me!) I just want to let you know that honest dialog has gotten us a long way on this topic, and I appreciate and respect his point of view about it now. I'm sure your guy will come around as well, because you clearly adore him as a hubby and that very important fact will shine through in your discussions."


"There's been some incredible advice already, and I can only add - my parents worked for the same company for over 10 years and it got to the point that they were taking separate vacations just to get a break from each other. And dinner table conversation was inevitably work related, so they were effectively always working and there were no boundaries. Once my parents got separate jobs, their relationship visibly improved. I personally wouldn't want to put that strain and stress of work on my home relationship which I value as a respite from work."


"With a small local office, basic logistics may matter too. Would the company OK with both of you taking vacation at the same time? Are there ever instances where everyone is expected to meet in the San Fransisco office? And if so, what happens to the kids when you would both be required to travel for work? It sounds like workplace flexibility is important to both of you, so this may be another aspect to discuss. Good luck!"


"My husband and I worked together after college while we were young and just dating.   And it was ok for a while because we were in separate divisions. But then he moved into my division and it was tough in meetings and then we would get home and critique how the other one did. He eventually left the industry and he is now considering going back into my industry.
But going back to [previous posters]'s point...I told him he absolutely can't come work at my company. I would be too worried if something went wrong with the company that we would put our family's finances at major risk."




"Hi everyone,
Just reaching out to sum up the amazing advice I got (wow, what a response) and let folks know how things are going in our household right now.
Update: We talked I calmly said that I didn't want us putting all of our eggs in this one tech basket. It's risky and if anything happened then we would really be stuck. I also reiterated that the work culture is one of constant, non-stop busy and the company is pretty high pressure. I mentioned that the thing that would be terrible is that we would also have the same "crazy busy" seasons as opposed to being able to cover for each other when one or the other's company is being more demanding.
To my surprise, he reacted very positively to all this and said that it really made sense!!! YAY!
So to sum up here is the advice - and for the TL;DR folks: Consensus was "don't do it!"
- Several of you said that you value the "alone" time too much and see how this would really eat into that
- A few moms said they currently work with their spouses and said to avoid it if I can because work becomes everything and all you talk about
- One person mentioned their parents worked together and home life blurred with work life so much for her growing up that it was stressful
- A couple of you supported helping my husband get an interview - after cautioning him again - but felt it would be nice to work together since being together without the kids can be nice
The points that really resonated with me were that work becomes the central focus in the household so this means no more separate spheres. Seeing how this would impact our marriage and our kids, I also thought about how that would impact my work. As a really hard worker I know I would not be able to tolerate how casual my husband is toward his job (I envy his attitude but it just isn't me). On the days I am stressed I would hate to be bitter toward my husband for feeling like it just isn't a big deal.
I knew personally this would not be a good thing for our relationship - yes, my issue, maybe I need to be a better person but I'll add that to my to do list, k? - and would therefore be too big of a risk.
I want to say a HUGE thank you for all the responses! This was a very touchy subject and everyone was super respectful and honest. Many, many thanks!!"