My husband Brett’s face was delighted at the end of the prayer time. I didn’t feel the same way at all. It was the last day of a conference for Christian business owners and the day had ended with a time of prayer for each attendee. Brett and I, each business owners in our own right, had been invited up together. As people prayed, they shared with us that they felt we were coming into a season of “integration” of our businesses. Metaphors were used such as a pair of tongs (not a spoon and fork) serving lots of green salad and two roads that had been running parallel now becoming one highway. As we left the meeting, Brett was so excited that God wanted us to walk more closely together in our work context but I was not sharing his enthusiasm. I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach.

Fear can create the urge to hide and protect what we perceive to be our own, and yet Scripture teaches us that perfect love casts out fear. Independence can prevent us from wanting our spouse to know the ins-and-outs of our business and pride can make us unwilling to take input—especially correction.

Brett had run his business for several years. I never really got very involved, as I was busy raising our children and managing the household. But then I started my own business! I loved having the opportunity to build something. I was having fun and making a difference through our product line. I was growing a team of women entrepreneurs and touching their lives. The accolades and awards were a refreshing welcome to a stay-at-home mom.
Brett and I were both working hard, each focusing on our own businesses, side by side.

Now there was this word about “integration”. I didn’t fully understand what it meant, but I was concerned. Would my then smaller business, get gobbled up by Brett’s bigger business? I was afraid I could lose my identity and that the projects I was working on would seem more trivial compared to the big issues of Brett’s work.

We decided to take this challenge of integration seriously. The metaphor that best explains the process we went through is that of two chairs. Over time, Brett continued to invite me into the chair that he kept open for me next to his chair. He encouraged me to participate in various capacities in his business. When he was invited to speak at a conference, he would reply, “We’d love to come.” When delivering presentations that he had always given, he included stories of things that I had done so that I could share from my perspective as an equal and peer. With alacrity, we turned down conferences where men did the “real work” and wives were told they could go shopping. For my part, I had to step up and learn new skills and take an interest in some aspects of the business I had ignored. As we went through the hard work of learning how to integrate our business lives, Brett didn’t “fill my chair” with anyone else. He patiently kept encouraging me and we both sought ways to work more closely together.

Since launching my new business, Heartistry, this past year, Brett has shown his support by giving of his time, talents and knowledge. He has attended the week long Heartistry Experiences and served in any capacity in which I needed him.The greatest impact we’ve had as a result of working together has been modeling how to lead and work together joyfully.

There is a deep longing in the hearts of many people to experience the joys of co-laboring, even if it is not easy. Working with your spouse can be like holding a mirror up to the rest of your marriage and at times it is a magnifying mirror. Couples who are having problems in their marriage will find those exacerbated when they need to work side-by-side all day. The good thing is that as these issues come to light, there is greater opportunity for forgiveness, restoration and growth.

Today we view our work as part of one family even though we have “yours, mine and ours” when it comes to our responsibilities with the businesses. We each add our own giftedness and jointly carry the burden. Independence can be good at times, but interlocking arms enables us to take more ground for the kingdom of God.

We are grateful that we walked this path towards integration. There are other couples watching us, looking for those a few steps ahead to show the path. And it is our honor to serve in smoothing the way.

I love sitting in my seat alongside my husband. And years later, I’m grateful for the chair my husband kept open for me.