Jay Z and Beyonce, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jada Pinkett and Will Smith . . . there are many examples of couples who are married AND work together, and do both successfully. Being partners in both love and work life surely has its ups and downs. But it can be done. A 2013 Forbes article suggests couples who work together should ideally share several commonalities – a unified vision, equal commitment to the company, individual roles, mutual respect for each other, and the ability to leave work at work at the end of the day.
Southwest Louisiana is home to numerous couples who both live and work together. Here, seven couples share their insight on how to succeed together, both personally and professionally.
Brian and Julie Arabie
Brian and Julie Arabie, of Arabie Law Firm, met at Camp Pearl, a summer church camp, during middle school. Years later, while students at McNeese, they began dating. Skip forward to post law school and marriage. Brian hadn’t intended to start his own business, but the firm he had been working for closed. Not expecting it to be permanent, he went into practice for himself, and asked Julie, who had a background in banking, to help with bookkeeping. That was over nine years ago.
The Arabies appreciate several benefits of being in business together. They spend a lot of time together, share the same goals and values, and there is a tremendous amount of trust between them. But both Brian and Julie agree there’s one downside. "Sometimes we don’t always agree on the decisions that we have to make at the office and we can’t go home and complain about it to our spouse,” Brian says. The Arabies also admit it is a struggle to find a balance between work and home life. They have a general rule – they try to discuss work matters at lunch, and home matters over dinner.
Erich and Leslie Mansell
Erich and Leslie Mansell met at work in 1991. After a whirlwird romance, they married within a year. Their jobs were eliminated after Hurricane Rita. Through an unlikely series of events, they became co-lay pastors at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where they have served together for the past ten years. Leslie cites several perks of working with her husband. "Being a pastor is often stressful. You’re carrying the load of so many others. It’s wonderful to have someone there to help when you don’t feel you can do it alone. We also get to share in the joys, the excitement, and the privileges of serving in ministry together.” But there are of course drawbacks, as well. Erich says it is difficult to break out of "work mode.” "We went on a retreat to help us reconnect. It was also designed to help us bring the Sabbath back into our lives; however, we still struggle taking that day of rest and personal time with each other. We attempt to establish time to ourselves, but it is almost impossible. The congregation and their needs are a priority for us.” Leslie adds they talk shop all the time. "I guess that’s why we make such a good team. We are always sharing ideas. It is so exciting to be in ministry together. We do get away occasionally, but we are always there for our Church Family.”
Jason and Kelly Fuqua
Drs. Jason and Kelly Fuqua met in their hometown of Sulphur as teens. They married in 2000 and attended LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans. After the many years of medical school and residency, they both decided to pursue Family Medicine and returned to Sulphur to open their practice, Calcasieu Family Physicians of WCCH. They share the responsibilities of the practice and both are there full time. Kelly says they each have their own approach to practicing medicine, and that is helpful. "We can rely on each other if we are struggling with a particularly difficult patient case, andoften can offeradvice from a different perspective.”
Kelly and Jason consider it a great advantage to be work partners. "Inever hesitate to ask his advice when needed, and he does the same. We work very well together, and we work hard to try and keep a great work environment for our staff,” Kelly says. She adds they each are usually so busy with their patients, they really don’t talk much during the day.
As the only two doctors in their practice, they do face challenges as a married couple. "It can be very difficult to be away from the office for any length of time together, whether for vacation or Continuing Medical Education activities,” says Kelly. They have three young children and they try not to talk about work at home or on those occasions when they go out just the two of them. But Kelly admits, it still happens quite often. "It is very difficult to separate your work from your home life when you are married to your work partner, but we work hard to find that balance.”
Drs. Daniel and Stephanie Weaver
Drs. Daniel and Stephanie Weaver met in 1995 at a picnic for the incoming class just before they started dental school. After graduation, they began working together at a large dental practice. They now own and work together at the Center for Restorative Dentistry. "Along the way, we purchased two offices which we have merged into our current location,” says Stephanie. After 18 years of being in business together, they appreciate the benefits of working together in the same occupation. "We perform the same procedures. So when we are explaining to one another how well a procedure went or how frustrating it was, the other knows exactly what it feels like,” Daniel says. One of the greatest challenges of working together for the Weavers is, according to Daniel, they both like to be in charge. But they have no problem leaving work at work at the end of the day. Daniel says, "We see each other all throughout the day so there is really no need to talk about work at home.”
Pat and Barbara Diamond
Pat and Barbara Diamond make up the "Diamond Difference Team” at RE/MAX Realty Pros. They met at McNeese State University in 1966, over a game of Bridge. The card table encounter led to a Homecoming date, and the rest is history. They’ve been married 45 years and have been in business together for 38 years. In the early years of marriage, Barbara was a math teacher and Pat became a real estate agent. Eventually, he convinced her to join him in the business. Each has their own general roles within the business, but both are capable of doing all real estate duties. Pat compares their working relationship to two locomotives. "I am like the one in the train yard. I work all day long getting a car here and a car there and putting together the train. But at the end of the day don’t ask me to take the train anywhere because I’m already putting the next train together. On the other hand, Barbara is like a long-distance locomotive. You give her the train and she’ll get it to its destination efficiently and on time, no matter what gets in her way!”
Barbara admits they could use a break from one another now and then, but overall, they enjoy working together. "We get to see each other often, have lunch together, and travel together for business and pleasure,” she says. In the real estate business, they don’t have set business hours, so talking shop at home is commonplace. "However, we try to set aside time to watch movies or sports together and have "date nights” so we can have personal time together. We also have separate hobbies. I like wildlife and architectural photography while Barbara likes to design and make jewelry. Working together in business with your spouse is probably not for everyone, but for us it has worked very well.”
Ethan and Michelle Miller
Ethan and Michelle Miller met in 1995 at a Long John Silver’s restaurant. When Ethan opened his business, Advanced Audio Video Technologies, he initially thought he could handle the workload himself. But as the company grew, he realized he needed a business partner. Michelle started in the business fifteen years ago by keeping the books. She now is responsible for marketing, accounting, sales, and payroll. Ethan oversees the technical staff, design systems, sales, and customer interactions. But their roles often overlap.
Not all couples in business together see the perks and drawbacks equally. Ethan enjoys talking about work off the clock at home. Michelle prefers not to. When they moved the business out of their home and into an office building, it became easier to separate home life form work life. Both agree they enjoy traveling for business together, eating lunch together most every day, and attending evening networking events.
Sonny and Sandra Duplantis
Sonny and Sandra Duplantis own and operate Holiday Travel together. They met in 2001 at Trinity Baptist Church where Sandra worked. She retired from her job there in 2003 and joined Sonny in the travel business. Sonny says they enjoy working together, though admits he sometimes "gets on Sandra’s nerves.” But working tandem allows them to have lunch together regularly. They’re able to discuss matters as they arise, without needing to wait till the end of the day. They seldom talk about work once they are home. To make time for themselves, they each pursue their own activities, for example different roles with church involvement. And Sandra enjoys shopping alone.