Married Couples Can Work Together

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled Our Relationship Thrives on a Mission by Katy McLaughlin, she wrote about the surprise she and her husband received as they worked on a fixer-upper house they had purchased.  She expected, and initially experienced, some tension associated with the process of getting it ready for them to move in.  As the project continued they each found themselves admiring the capabilities and the work done by the other.  The article even hints at a little romance in the process.

We have often had people comment to us when they see us working together that they could not and cannot work together.  Over the years we have worked on many projects together around the house.  When we were first married, Bob built a stereo from a kit.   I was the chief part finder and read the directions while he soldered and put things together.  We enjoyed hours of great conversation together.  Her part-finding and direction-reading made the project easier and quicker for me.  When the stereo was finally all put together I taught her the meaning of the phrase “smoke test”.  We used that stereo for years and then gave it to a friend.  It still brings fond memories when I think of it.

We have done many home improvement projects together.  Usually after coming up with a plan together, I find materials, tools and help Bob when he needs help.  She likes to shop and has the patience I don’t have, to search for materials until she finds some possibilities.  Then she shows them to me and we decide what to buy.  We have painted and wall papered together but I have learned that there are some things that are better left to someone else so we hire them done.  Sometimes things can get tense – the last time we wallpapered (many years ago) we came to a mutual agreement never to do that again.

When we travel I am usually the navigator and he the driver.  Rita is very good at reading maps and alerting me to road signs.  That’s a great help to me (I don’t know how she missed that speed trap in Texas!).

We have worked together – literally.  Bob taught in the Religion Department with me at Saint Viator High School where I was his department chair.  That certainly brought with it numerous comments about who was boss.  But actually we enjoyed sharing ideas and information.  I had for many years admired what she did in her classes and enjoyed the opportunity to teach some of those things myself.  I’m pretty sure I had better mentoring than any new teacher before or since.

We wrote a book and write this blog together.  Most couples tell us they could never do that.  Again it was in the talking about our lives together, where we had successes, where we had failures, where we had been and where we wanted to go that made the project a wonderful experience.  I very much enjoyed the discussions we had and the realization that we could work together well.  It helped us to grow in our relationship.  It also helped us to sort out some issues that we had never clarified as much as they needed to be.  The blog helps us to continue that. It leads us to discussion about ideas and how to present them.  Sometimes we share the writing pretty much equally and other times we let one of us write all or most of it.  As you have probably figured out, this week Rita started this post and I am filling in/adding/commenting.

We know that many couples find it difficult to work together on home projects.  What I have learned to accept is the art of compromise.  Have some projects not turned out perfect when we were finished?  The answer is ‘yes’, but we did them together.  Have we hired someone to complete a few things that went awry?  ‘YES’.  There are some things that I have learned not to work on with Bob, namely machinery, such as the car or lawn mower.  I have learned to pretty much let him work on the landscape but I do pull weeds when necessary.  While we both spend large amounts of time on the computer it is still frustrating for both of us when I can’t get the computer, actually anything electronic, to work the way I want it to.  I just want things to work for the simple purpose they were designed to do and Bob gets frustrated when I can’t make simple things work the way they should.  We have indeed had stressful moments when something didn’t work, especially when I was teaching and the test I had just created wouldn’t print or I thought I had lost the entire document.  In many of those instances He just sent me to bed and I would find it on my bag in the morning.  I had enough frustrations of my own.  It worked better to get hers out of my space so that I could focus on the issues. At least we know our frustration points and have been able to turn some things into a moment of laughter as we are both frustrated.  Rita has a great talent for organization and I seem be OK up to a point.  My problem is that I always have something left over, that didn’t fit into my organizational plan.  Those things end up on a shelf or a desk and just accumulate there.  For this reason I’m happy to let Rita do much of keeping the house organized.  She also remembers where she puts things, so I can let her organize and I just ask when I can’t find something.

You may think you don’t work together well, but there must be times when you do.  Stop and think about it.  If you have children, you likely worked together for at least a short time on that project.  You probably worked together in finding a house, and in deciding on home improvement projects, if not in actually carrying them out. I’m sure that, if you think about it, you will be able to draw to mind ways you do indeed work together.  It is virtually impossible to never work together and stay married.  Spend a few moments thinking of ways that you have been successful in sharing things.  As Katy McLaughlin said, she was pleasantly surprised when she recognized that they had worked together and how good it was for their marriage for them to do so.

We just finished a master bath project and have put projects of that type on hold for the moment but we have been working together on our latest blog, Living Together in the Word.  I write the content, but Bob edits and proofreads and does the actual posting.  I suppose the most important thing we have learned in the process of working together is that we have each recognized our gifts and talents and the lack there of in many instances and those of the other.  In addition we have had to accept that individually and together we cannot do everything.  It has been a fun journey.  We have decided that we will be officially old when we can no longer do home improvement projects.  We suspect we will always work together to accomplish something we set out to do.  Amen!


Living Together in the Word

Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer


About Rita & Bob Boeke

Rita Boeke has experience teaching scripture and with her husband Bob has experience in enriching marriages through workshops and retreats. They post a weekly blog at and co-authored Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime.
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