By Julia Woods
Is it possible to make living and working together a happy affair? “How do you do it?” It’s a question my husband, Jeff Woods, and I get asked on a regular basis.
Being side-by-side 24/7 is definitely not for the weak at heart.
Jeff and I got married seventeen years ago this month and stumbled into photography a few years later. Our greatest desire was to work together side-by-side while doing something we both enjoyed. Photography seemed to be the perfect solution. “Perfect” was not going to be achieved easily. Trying to be happily married and come together with similar visions in the work place has proven much harder than we could have imagined.
We have experienced a lot of emotional, mental, and physical strain while trying to find a sense of peace. I’ll touch briefly on our key solutions:
1. Making time for us. Two people fall in love while investing their time and energy into each other’s lives. If every night during our courtship Jeff had sat at one end of the sofa with his work while I sat on the other with my work, wedding bells would not have followed. However, once we got married and started our business, we could not understand why that same type of behavior did not create wedded bliss. After some counseling, we realized that “falling in love” is a fundamental quality that has to be sought after throughout an entire marriage if happiness is the goal. Ten years after it’s start, date night still remains on our calendar every other Thursday evening. The babysitter is set and investing in each other and our relationship is the goal. Most of the time, it is just a movie or dinner, but the results are astounding.
2. Making our business work for us. This was one of the hardest solutions to figure out. Our business controlled our lives. We worked non-stop and our family was suffering because of it. With some help in business education from Ann Monteith, PPA’s Studio Management Services, and a lot of hard work, we learned how to properly price and attract a higher level of clientele. This allowed us to work less but make more money. We now work four days a week at the office and about twenty Saturdays a year at weddings. Some workdays are very long, but play days are revitalizing for our relationship and our young family of four children.
3. Allowing each other to be authentic. As individuals, we have the tendency to assume our thoughts and passions are the right ones. However, when you choose to partner with your spouse, the art of blending your thoughts and passions is necessary. Jeff and I face this challenge both in art and business because we choose to photograph everything together. Within the business, we have come to respect each other’s gifts and give each other ownership in our respective roles.
However, about 25 percent of the business is left to joint efforts. Intermingling our creative vision and opinions has gotten easier over time, but it continues to be a work in progress.
The application of these solutions has been extremely helpful. We know that surrounding ourselves with other couples in similar life situations is vital to gain new ideas and fresh perspectives for continued happiness.
Jeff and Julia Woods have launched a marriage workshop called ”One” to help address the struggles married couples face while working together. The first workshop will be held September 15-17, in Washington, Ill. For more information, go to www.sidebyside247.com or call 309-444-8514.