Old Spice and the stubborn male pride: How to tackle this troublesome duo
Having questions, even doubts, about co-working is not only natural but healthy
A goal of this column has been to encourage other men to open their minds to the exciting possibilities of working with—even for—their wives. However, I do recognize that sometimes, that cranky male ego makes it hard to consider the possibility. It’s been seven years since I joined my wife in launching MissMalini Entertainment, so I’ve pretty much heard it all. Here’s how I usually respond when I sense a line of questioning that stinks of Old Spice and male pride:
What’s it really like working for your wife? First, let’s unpack that question. In some cases it comes from a place of genuine curiosity about spousal workplace dynamics. I have many thoughts for these men of science.
More often than not, however, this question is posed by men who wouldn’t be half as inquisitive if the roles were reversed and Malini worked for me. And it’s not simply about gender—these curious cats would probably find it unremarkable if my boss was an unrelated woman. But the concept of marriage injects a strange power dynamic that belies the deep and troubling attitudes many men hold towards the acceptable roles of husbands and wives. To these lost souls, I can only say that reporting to your wife is not a sign of weakness, or a point of shame. Rather, it is the mark of a man who loves and respects his wife for who she is, not what she is. (Note: This article may find itself strategically perched on said wife’s desk once published, but I also really mean it).
Okay fine, but isn’t it hard taking orders from your wife? The honest answer: It can be. You can’t ignore the added nuance marriage brings to a professional relationship. A boardroom showdown has very different consequences when your sparring partner not only knows where you live but lives there too. Under normal circumstances your boss has final say, and you dutifully, if not willingly, carry out their orders. When your relationship is personal, it can be a lot harder to give in and too easy to push back. An argument you’ve had at home the night before may cloud your judgement the next day. It’s important in these situations to take a step back and re-examine the company’s needs objectively. If that’s not possible, call in a third umpire you both trust. Just make sure you keep a close eye on that stubborn pride that makes it hard to be reasonable. It’s not only bad for business, it’s just bad in general.
But aren’t you jealous that she gets all the attention while you work just as hard? Yes and no. Being Malini is fun. She has a pretty fabulous life. The awards cabinet in our office groans under the weight of statuettes and glass orbs inscribed with her name. And who wouldn’t want to add a 40-under-40 to their resume? The truth is, however, Malini not only makes looking good look good, she is actually good at it. If I was the face of our company—well, there would be no company. Part of working together is recognizing that you are a team, and that each of your strengths and successes propel you both forward towards your joint goals. I would ultimately be much happier with our company’s success than I would with more Instagram fame. And don’t forget that being a public personality comes with public burdens. I am an inherently more private person than Malini, and I cherish the option of quietly slipping in—and more importantly, out of — avoidable obligations. Malini rarely has this option. That said, Malini is also more at ease in the limelight and can feed off the energy of a room, so she’s not as bothered as I would be to begin with. At the end of the day, I definitely get way more street-cred by siphoning off some of Malini’s charisma than I would if I tried to launch MrNowshad.com. So let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
Having questions, even doubts, about co-working is not only natural but healthy. As I’ve said before, it’s not a decision you want to take lightly and it may not be for everyone. It’s important to understand where your hesitation comes from—are you genuinely concerned about how it will affect your relationship or is it stoking some deep-seated fear that may have more to do with your social conditioning? Addressing your concerns honestly and objectively could not only help you identify and correct your personal biases, but it could also open up a world of possibilities you may not want to miss.
A Working Marriage is a column that will cover the practical considerations of working with your spouse. This is the last in the series.
Nowshad Rizwanullah is co-founder and CEO of MissMalini Entertainment.