Image: Lily Chew

Love is more than rose-tinted romance—it’s also about sticking together when things get rough. In this three-part series, three women open up about the hurdles they had to overcome with their spouses.

When Lily Chew decided to start education centre Lil’ but Mighty with her husband in 2015, the couple had “realistic” expectations about the challenges that could arise from working together.

“While we knew that it would not be easy, we also knew that we would always make our relationship a priority. We wanted to be partners in marriage, parenting and work,” she explains. The 36-year-old heads the company’s programmes and curriculum, while her husband takes care of business development and administration matters.

Still, there was a point where working together put a strain on their marriage.

“The tension between us was the highest when we opened our first centre – the conversations at home started revolving around work, and I didn’t want to be his co-worker at home. Plus, I felt like the things he needed assistance with were extra tasks for me.” It didn’t help that they would also bring their disagreements at work home.

“We try our best not to argue in front of our three sons, but it has happened before. Thankfully, we stopped pretty quickly and told them afterwards that it was wrong of us to have raised our voices at each other.”

Now that they’re a couple of years in and have five centres together, they know to minimise conflicts by avoiding work talk during family time, and taking a step back when discussions get heated. And no, they don’t get tired of being around each other round the clock.

Credit: Lily Chew

“Working together has allowed us a level of commitment to each other that would not have been possible if we had built our careers separately. Being around each other constantly also helps our relationship, and we believe that a strong relationship between parents is the best gift for their children,” says Lily.

Her advice for anyone thinking of working with their spouse? Don’t forget to maintain intimacy in your marriage.

“Being intimate is an act of love and allows a couple to be vulnerable and honest. Don’t let working together take over your role of being a spouse to your partner. Your relationship should be the priority in every situation, and growth should not come at its expense.” She also stresses the importance of communication.

“It is key to being aware of the expectations you have of each other. I have learnt to communicate deliberately with my husband instead of assuming that he would know what I am thinking or feeling. I think that really helps to prevent a build-up of any negative emotions or untruths, which can really strain the relationship and hurt the other aspects of our lives, including our business.

This story first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Her World.