I have always wondered how relationships survive when a married couple work together all day, go home together, live together.
What is the secret?
Although we have been married 48 years, we could not work professionally together. Whether it's assembling a piece of furniture or wall-papering a room, we do not function well as a team. One of us would kill the other if we had to spend all day side-by-side making a living.
So what makes these relationships work?
I asked around and found some secrets.
Take Joan and David Insley of Insley Films, who live and work in Fells Point. The fortysomething couple make commercials. They have been married 21 years and have one son.
Joan explains: "Well, we have different jobs within the company. I am the producer and Dave is the director.
But we both have even dispositions. In fact, we're pretty much alike.
"I do the marketing and the meal planning. Dave has more of the professional duties since we've had a child."
And David Insley says that he gets to be with his son a lot more than most fathers because of the close working arrangement.
I notice that Joan and Dave laugh a lot. Is this one clue?
They seem to roll with the punches in a business that does not provide straight regular income. They have fun and love their work.
Joan has another clue. She says, "It's feeling comfortable with one another -- that's the secret."
Then there are Mary Ellen and Frank Evans. Six years ago Frank and Mary Ellen bought a grocery store, called "The Store" on Frederick Road in Catonsville.
Mary Ellen and Frank work next to one another daily. They are in their 50s and have two grown sons.
It was Frank's dream when he was 15 and worked at the neighborhood grocery to one day own it. He is living his dream.
"We love our store," says Frank. "And sure, we get away from each other. I play golf, but we take vacations together. I think having a very good marriage helps."
"If I disagree with Frank I just walk away, we don't argue . . . but we can read each other's minds." explains Mary Ellen.
Sam and Betty Edlavitch have a photography business in their Pikesville home.
Their five children are on their own, and Sam and Betty are having fun.
Their eclectic house is lined with professional photos of brides, celebs and Betty's paintings. In the basement is the photo studio and dark room.
How do they get along?
"Great" they tell me.
Betty paints, Sam gardens, Sam fishes, Betty reads. There is a great deal of laughter in their conversation, and anyone can see they are still in love.
Betty says the answer is: "If we disagree, then we say, 'Is this important?' In other words, is this issue important enough to argue over?"
I asked Dr. Bruce A. Baldwin, a Wilmington, N.C., psychologist who runs a consulting firm with his wife. Their work includes counseling stressful husband and wife teams.
"What is the magic formula for couples who work together?"
"No matter how good the relationship, they need separate areas of responsibilities, sharply defined," the author and lecturer says.
"But the key is mutual respect. Sometimes people who are the opposite complement one another working and living together, yet I've found that couples who think alike do better."
Dr. Baldwin adds that in the return to cottage industries -- a phenomenon of the '90s -- more couples will be working and living together.
The secret then? Three ingredients: love, respect and compatibility.