Several weeks ago, my boyfriend, Derek, and I traveled together to Switzerland. We are both Hotel and Restaurant Management majors, and each year, the seniors in our major have the opportunity to travel for a week to visit Switzerland for a short study abroad excursion. The hotel we stayed at was the Edelweiss hotel located in Engelberg, a small ski village located near Mount Titlis, right by the famous Swiss Alps.
At Edelweiss, we met a lovely married couple named Peter and Suzanne. Peter and Suzanne were the proud owners of the hotel Edelweiss. Peter and Suzanne explained the interesting and challenging dynamic they faced as a couple working together and owning a hotel. They described it as a place between heaven and hell. While there were many rewards that came along with being able to work with your significant other, there were also many challenges.
Frankly, during that week, Derek and I faced our own special challenges as a couple studying abroad together for just one week. That week, we spent seven straight days and nights together in a row. From about seven in the morning until seven in the evening every day, we were with each other constantly. We were touring cities, meeting travel and tourism executives, quirky Swiss bioengineers, and eating a large array of fine cheese and chocolate. As a side note, there does actually come a point when you get sick of fantastic cheese and chocolate. On that same note, there does also come a time when you get sick of your significant other and want to rip his or her head off like you did that piece of Gruyere.
This week with Derek made me wonder: how in the world do Peter and Suzanne manage to be with each other like this every day? I looked to other role models in my life, such as my parents. My mother and father are both executives in their own fields of work (that being boutique hotels and information technology, respectively) in Manhattan who commute together from central New Jersey every weekday during the week. On weekends, my parents spend time together also working on our family startup company, ConZerge.
My parents certainly defied the odds in their marriage. My parents dated for only three months in their early twenties before they tied the knot—out of choice and not wedlock, nonetheless! At the ripe age of twenty-four, my parents were married, and by the time my mother was twenty-eight, she gave birth to me. Now, my parents are giving birth to another baby: a startup company. This means that while my parents have at least a solid eight hours apart from each other during the weekdays when they work on opposite sides of midtown Manhattan, they are now together constantly to let our fledgling company take flight.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from both watching Peter and Suzanne’s dynamic and my own parents’ dynamic, it is that you have to set your own rules. You have to be entrepreneurs in your own relationships. Each relationship is unique and special. There are boundaries that need to be set between partners who wish to play and work together. In fact, I think that the couples who work together stay together. Being in a professional relationship with your significant other teaches you how to have clear and concise communication for the sake of the business.
As Derek and I stared at the quirky dynamic of Peter and Suzanne, he and I shared a knowing glance. We knew that this middle-aged couple could be us one day. I was the Peter of our dynamic. I was calculating, analytical, and observant. While I may keep certain observations to myself, I will eventually open up and speak my mind. Like Peter, I liked who I liked, and my cards were completely on the table. When I did not like you, I was indifferent. When I liked you, I loved you and cherished you dearly. Derek, on the other hand, was a Suzanne. He is bubbly, delightful, charismatic, and overtly quirky. He also likes to shout things like “yooooo-hoooooo!”
When I said goodbye to Peter, he kissed me on the cheek three times. He smiled at me and said,
“Thank you for always smiling and laughing. Thank your for appreciating mine and Suzanne’s presentations.”