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Civil Disputes: Arguing Innkeeper Style

Despite the fact that I love my husband, there are times I want to wring his neck. I’m sure he would say the same about me. After all, we live together and work together – we’re bound to have our differences. But, as I tell my interns, who also live and work together, it’s important to keep the fists from flying at work and to leave personal issues at home. Easier said than done. There are occasions when an argument erupts at the inn, but we have learned over the years a few rules of combat so as not to alarm our guests:

1. No yelling. Granted, “am I the only one around here who knows how to change a bloody (our English interns taught us this supposedly “bad” word) light bulb?!” holds a lot more caché when screeched across the room at full volume, but learning how to whisper-yell is key to keeping brawls under wraps. (As a side note, James is not the only one who knows how to change a bloody light bulb, but he is the best and fastest at doing the hard to reach ones, so frequently gets requests to do so. Sometimes, my timing is off.)

2. Obscene hand gestures must be disguised. Now, I can’t reveal our secret signal in case you happen to stay at the inn and notice us using it. But remember that Friends episode when they strike their fists together instead of “flipping the bird?” Something like that would suffice.

3. Fight it out in private. Designate a fighting zone at the inn, preferably a padded sound proof room far away from guests. And steer clear of the kitchen. Too many knives.

4. Agree to disagree. Generally James and I see eye to eye and work exceptionally well together. I’m assuming that’s the case for the majority of husband-wife innkeeping teams or they probably wouldn’t have attempted to go into business together. But no matter how in synch two people are, you can’t possibly agree on everything.

5. Choose your battles. I’m quite certain James had no interest whatsoever in replacing the creepy portraits that used to hang in the sitting area. But he humored me and the sitting area is now a better place because of it. Likewise, I feign concern every time he uses the phrase “fiscally responsible.”

6. Accept defeat. Two years ago, I desperately wanted to give the foyer a facelift, but my decorating argument didn’t hold much water against putting the money toward roofing work that needed to get done. As much as I hated to live another year with those creepy portraits and wallpaper which was not my personal taste, the image of a leaky ceiling in the middle of the summer was enough to shut me up. For a year anyway.

The bottom line is, arguing is to be expected and in many ways, is a good practice. We all need to clear the air and vent every now and then. But when work and home mesh into one, as is often the case for innkeepers, it’s important to lay down some ground rules…unless you want to scare away your guests! If you’re considering buying and running an inn (or any business for that matter) with your spouse, here are a few articles on the subject:

How To Work (If You Must) With Your Spouse

Work & Life: Working With Your Spouse

Working With A Spouse In A Small Business Partnership

The Benefits of Working with Your Spouse

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