Working with a spouse has rewards and pitfalls

Zenoyise Madikwa

Zenoyise Madikwa

For better or worse. For richer or poorer. At the office or at home.

Those might not be the vows many couples remember taking, but more and more couples are starting companies and working together in an effort to gain financial freedom. The question is, can it work?

Many couples survive and thrive working together but others fail including Tina Turner and her ex-husband Ike Turner; Selaelo Selota and Judith Sephuma; and Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba.

Ex-lovers Arthur Mafokate and Queen Sesoko worked together in showbiz. Though their relationship ended in a shambles, Mafokate says working with a partner is not a bad idea.

"As a couple working together, you are able to watch your mutual business efforts blossom into success through teamwork. This can actually bring you closer. But it can also be emotionally straining and difficult.

"Queen and I did very well business-wise but relationship-wise we failed. I think it also depends on the partners' personalities."

Mdu Masilela, who works with his wife Sarah as his manager, says it can work. The couple met 20 years ago when Mdu was not well known.

"Working with my wife was the best thing I have ever done for my career. It was a difficult decision to make but I'm glad I made it. My wife is a very intelligent woman who makes good decisions. I do not know where my career would be without her."

Mdu says the secret is to keep things professional.

"We do not even hold hands at the office and if we have problems at home, we make sure that they do not spill over to the office."

Asked if his relationship with his fans affects his marriage, he said his wife used to be jealous of female fans but she outgrew it.

"Today she is the one who encourages me to hug and greet my female fans," he said.

Queenie Grootboom and her husband Mio Khondleka have been married for three years and work together at Kaya FM. The couple met while they were both working for an Eastern Cape community radio station.

Queenie says what makes her relationship with Mio work is maturity. She said working together allows them to spend more time together, and share another important part of life with each other.

"I sit in the same office base with him. I literally see him all the time.

"Our secret is to do things in a mature way and respect the workplace and our colleagues. We do trade kisses and hugs now and then during intervals in secret places," she said.

"We know that there is a time to play and a time to work and our colleagues are very supportive and respect our marriage."

But Jabu Stone, who has been married for 17 years and won't divulge his wife's name, says working with a partner is a no-no.

"I do not believe in mixing business with pleasure. My wife does her own thing and I do my own thing. For the past five years she has not even set foot in our business. She does not know my staff and they do not know her. Things are better that way because we do not want our work problems to spill over to our marriage and to affect our children."

Stone said he has to be warm with his clients, both male and female, without fear.

"I am very close to my clients because my business is there because of them. I must be able to give them a hug whenever I want and not fear that my wife is around.

"Another problem is that it can be difficult to confront your spouse on a 'business level' without damaging your personal relationship," he said.