March 5, 2021

Preoccupations: The Boundaries of Marriage and Work

LISA I’m vice president for finance and operations, and have been with the company since it started in 2003. Michael joined as our music producer in 2006, and we started dating in 2008. We married a little over a year ago.

MICHAEL As director of licensing and entertainment relations, I work with artists and music label executives to secure the rights to their content or to an artist’s name and likeness.

Initially, my desk  was right in front of Lisa’s in an open-space arrangement. It worked well for discussing contracts and other financial matters. That’s partly what drew us together, but to a large extent it was our interest in music. I now have an office to the left of Lisa.

LISA We decided to keep our dating a secret for more than six months. We were only 15 employees at the time and we were concerned about what our colleagues might think.

I’m privy to sensitive financial information like salaries, and didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or wonder if I might be sharing information with Michael. I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just a summer love, that we had a solid relationship before we let people know.

We’ve since acquired a company and added two offices and 15 employees, and maybe I’d feel differently now about telling co-workers. But it was a real concern when the company was so small.

MICHAEL I felt the same— I wanted to feel confident about the direction we were going before letting anyone know. We both have really good positions, and we didn’t want to jeopardize that.

VerveLife’s founder, Justin Jarvinen, who was C.E.O. at the time, found out about us only when he invited Lisa to his engagement party. She asked if she could bring her boyfriend, and when she showed up with me, he said he had wondered about us. But we had been careful and we took his reaction to mean we were successful.

To us, it’s normal to be married and work together. We’re both 29, and I think it’s become more common to meet your future spouse at work. It’s not an eight-hour workday anymore; everyone seems to be working longer hours. Plus, this is a fun industry and we enjoy a lot of perks. We go to concerts together, or out to dinner a lot. With the amount of time you spend together outside work, it’s easy for a relationship to develop.

LISA I know that large corporations sometimes have policies about spouses working together. Our company doesn’t, and I haven’t sensed any resentment from people in our office about us being married. Everyone seems to have fully accepted our relationship.

Maybe some people aren’t being honest, but I’ve never had issues arise. When people find out we’re married, they just say, ‘That’s cool,” or “How is that?” It’s a conversation starter.

I’m comfortable working with my husband. Michael and I know several other people our age who are married and working together.

In our case, the only drawback I see is that I can’t share certain information with him. But over all, that’s minor, and there are so many other things to talk about. Probably not everyone would say this, but we think it’s nice to work with your spouse. Our main investor and his wife have worked together for years. They’re role models for us.

MICHAEL We do everything as a twosome, from sharing our commute to working out to eating lunch. A lot of people are surprised we spend so much time together, but we work well with each other and know our boundaries.

Professionalism is all-important. While we’re at the office we’re there to work. We take it as a compliment when clients we’ve both worked with say they didn’t realize we were married. Then, when we go home, it’s time to decompress and focus on each other. We don’t want to bring work into the time that’s sacred for us. We’ve learned how to balance work and free time.

LISA Once on our commute we had a disagreement, but we talked it out by the time we reached the office. And though we like being together, we do get breaks from each other. Mike travels for work occasionally, or he’ll play sports with his friends or entertain clients at concerts. I have a big family and spend time with them by myself occasionally.

MICHAEL I don’t know what’s in our future, or how we’ll feel 10 years from now about working at the same company. I can’t see ever getting tired of spending so much time with Lisa. There are a lot of what-ifs we might face. For example, if our company were to be bought by a bigger corporation, there may be some adjustments with that. We’re just going to take it as it comes.

LISA We know there will be changes in the coming years, such as when children arrive, but we handle a lot of responsibility now. I’d like to think we’ll be up to the challenges.

As told to Patricia R. Olsen. E-mail:

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