“Help! I’m Dating My Duo Partner!” Or: How to Balance Work and Personal Relationships
By Scott Charvet
February 13, 2016
Working with a duo partner can be a fun and challenging experience. At first there’s the anticipation and excitement of considering all the possibilities your collaboration can achieve which fuels the giddy energy of your first rehearsals. You make time for each other to discuss new ideas and get pumped when you meet up to play together. Everything is going well. Then, BAM! Your boat gets rocked by a 25-foot-long shark called “disagreement.” Unlike in a trio or quartet, you don’t have a tie-breaking vote or a majority rule to decide how to play this passage or that passage, when to end that fermata, or who made the mistake that time. You have to face these problems head on and deal with them. And if you can’t, well at least you can end rehearsal and chill out, in your separate homes, away from each other until next time. But what happens if you’re dating your duo partner, or better yet, living with them? How do you handle the heated emotions that can come with a working relationship and not let them spill over into your personal lives? That, my friends, is a challenging part of the whole “dating duo” experience, but not an impossible one to conquer.
In our time so far as musical and life partners, we continually try to be successful in both our working relationship and our personal relationship by reminding ourselves to keep those two lives separate. It should be simple: when we’re rehearsing, we’re co-workers; when we’re at home, we’re baes. Co-workers should be able to cooperate on projects and freely discuss ideas to find the best solutions for success. Baes should focus on emotions, cuddles, and what to eat for dinner. Unfortunately, that’s all easier said than done sometimes.
Since music is such an integral part of who we are, it’s hard not to take our jobs as musicians with us everywhere. We want to bring our life experiences into our art. We want our work to empower us as people. We want to have fun with what we do and not be robots who “clock in and clock out” every time we play together. So, yes, sometimes emotions run high in rehearsals; I will definitely be the first to admit that. There have been times when I just can’t seem to let go of something that happened at home, or I hang on to criticism too long, and the whole rehearsal experience just sags in energy. Taking criticism too personally is probably the biggest, most challenging roadblock to face as a dating duo, because you have to be able to turn off your natural emotional responses to someone who would otherwise be sensitive to that part of you. On the flip side, it can also be hard to leave any disagreements during work hours at the door when you just want to relax for the night. We’re far from perfect in handling these kinds of work/personal struggles, but we’ve found a few ways we think are helpful in dealing with them, since, ya know, there’s really no escaping.
So, how do we deal with those struggles? Here’s what works for us:
Designating a work cutoff time
For us, around 6 or 7pm is when we decide to be done with work for the day and just focus on winding down. We also try to reserve some time on weekends to spend together and recharge our batteries. Relaxation time is not only important for our individual work-life balance, but it also gives us the chance to be present in our love for each other, especially if we experienced a particularly stressful or challenging rehearsal that day. Knowing that we’ll have that time to just hang out makes our work together that much more appealing and fulfilling.
Inevitably, we will criticize each other at some point in either area of our lives, but if we can minimize accusations and personal attacks, we will have a much more rewarding partnership. Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements (e.g. “I feel like this is happening,” instead of “You are doing this.”) helps us keep our emotional responses low and keeps us from feeling defensive, both at home and in rehearsal.
Understanding the division of responsibilities
Since we really care about what we do, we each often try to take equal control of any given situation. Event planning, script writing, website development, etc.–we just want it all to be perfect, and we both want to help. Unfortunately, we’d only get half as much stuff done if we both had our hands on every project. Delegating tasks not only helps us be efficient but also allows each of us to have that control we want. It requires a lot of trust on both our parts, but understanding this division of responsibilities is important to keep us from stepping on each other’s toes.
Remembering why we’re doing this
Most importantly, we continually return to the reasons why we are a duo in the first place. We started Just Duet because we were both interested in creating a musical experience that was different from the traditional way of doing things, and we started dating because we’re both weirdos with similar senses of humor who respect each other’s thoughts, opinions, and values. Above all, we want to have fun with our lives. That’s what we think of when times get tough for us, and that’s what keeps us going. That’s what makes us feel good about our duo and our life together.
As I mentioned earlier, we are far from perfect in keeping our work and our personal lives separate, but I feel like we’re making great strides. Implementing the above strategies seems to be working for us, as far as I can tell. At least, it’s a great place to start.