Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are hard at work co-producing a new film together, By the Sea. They fell in love at work, on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. More than 10 years later, they're still creating together.
Like the couple known as "Brangelina," lots of spouses choose to partner creatively, from raising children to building businesses. I'm one of them. I run my agency Write2Market with Jean-Luc, my life partner. For me and the many entrepreneurs working with our spouses, it's a source of deep joy. And terror. Along with the considerable rewards, you face significant risks.
The last decade of Brad and Angelina headlines offers us a few insights into what it takes to react to the risks and reap the rewards.
1. Drive each other beautifully crazy
Couples can inspire each other to do their best work.
Says Angelina, "You get together and you're two individuals and you feel inspired by each other, you challenge each other, you complement each other, drive each other beautifully crazy."
2. It's OK to be bad--at home
The tabloids make a lot of Angelina's troubled, wild past. Every entrepreneur I know can relate to having a wild side. Often, this is a side that's hidden at home--and that can create trust issues between spouses. Not at "Chez Brangelina."
On 60 Minutes, Angelina recently put it this way: "You know, I still have that side of me, it's just in its place now. It belongs to Brad or it belongs to our adventures."
With a partner who knows all sides of you, you win by having a partner with full perspective on what makes you tick--and how your ticks manifest. Instead of needing a "release valve" away from home, a trusted partnership can give you the freedom to find yourself in place.
Angelina says, "I'm still a bad girl." Brad responds with a huge smile, "Yes, she is, but that's not for public consumption."
3. Couple first, company second
After 10 years, six kids, a major charitable foundation, and a double mastectomy, Brad and Angelina recommitted to each other by getting officially married last fall.
Life partners who are great at mixing love and work make sure the No. 1 business they're in together is the relationship.
Brad told CBS This Morning, "The work has gotten better because I worry less about it--it's family. Family becomes the source of joy or worry. It takes any pressure of self absorption away-it just evaporates. It makes it freer."
4. Get creative
When Brad is promoting a movie or on set, Angelina and the kids are there, and vice versa. The commitment to being together has led the couple to invent their own definition of family life. Home is defined as being together--not a place or a school environment.
"[The kids] are used to a bit of jet lag and moving to a new location," says Brad. "As long as we're together, the home is intact. They pack their own bags and are responsible if they leave their chargers behind."
They're ditching traditional roles that don't work for them. "I think we have more moments where I say, 'I'm going to be a better wife, I'm going to learn to cook,'" says Angelina. "And he says, 'Oh honey, know what you're good at, know what you're not.' He knows my limitations."
Shauna Martin, CEO and Founder of Daily Greens, a cold pressed juice company in Austin, is putting this kind of approach into practice, too. Her husband's business does all of the creative for her company. "By establishing some boundaries and ground rules, my husband Daniel and I are making it work," she says. Among their rules, they don't directly discuss project work, letting their staff handle assignments, and they don't let work chat invade their family time during evenings at home.
5. Accept different roles
Recently asked about any conflicts on set with Brad while filming By the Sea, Angelina responded that she and Brad had no conflicts, but that sometimes the actor and the director had to come to terms. It's a subtle distinction. Brad, acting in a film written and directed by Angelina, is in a specific role.
Couples great at work and love know they have multiple roles with each other. Know when you have which hat on. Be ready to clarify.
6. Discuss the worst case
When they officially tied the knot after a decade together, Brad and Angelina signed a prenup.
Reportedly, the couple is worth $425 million. How those assets would be distributed in the case of a breakup is already outlined in detail. When you're working with your life partner, it can be tempting to keep your head in the clouds and focus on the positives. Creating an understanding of the negatives, though, only clarifies and strengthens the many reasons you're together. Plus, it makes a divorce less messy.
There's a lot of glamour surrounding Brad and Angelina. However, when you consider the prenup and the physical challenges of the commitment to being together, there's also a level of grit and groundedness. It gives us a great glimpse into what it takes to be successful at work, and in love, with your spouse over time.