Team Helen-Robert celebrates 10,000 days of official existence today. (Translation, we got married 10,000 days ago. Further Translation that’s about 27.4 years)

Often Teams get likened to Family (which is problematic and a whole other conversation/blog). We are a family of two that can be truly likened to a high-functioning Team.

During our engagement, we had a purposeful time of Forming (Tuckman’s Group Development Model: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) that set the tone and intention for what our team was and how we’d do this thing called “marriage”. Spoiler alert: We recognised that ‘Marriage’ is a societal construct, and that we could redefine it as we wanted to suit ourselves. (Which was problematic for family, friends, colleagues – and a whole other conversation/blog).

While our engagement was short (10 weeks), we made time for and gave priority to, a series of long intense conversations covering a range of topics. For context: We had known each other as friends for seven years prior to the flame of love igniting. I thought there could be a risk that we assumed we actually already knew each other – but I recognised that we were changing the nature of the relationship, thus lots of things would inherently change and we would do well to explore these and make conscious choices.

We even wrote down our decisions in a document that we saved digitally to keep the precious information safe and to make it easy to edit and amend. You could think of it like a Charter for our Relationship. Some things we wrote down were more principle-like (abstract), some were more specific. The document wasn’t important, it was the shared understanding: the knowledge we created that literally lives in our synapses.

I truly believe that this conscious act created the foundation for the extra-ordinary relationship we have.
We have only looked at the document once since it was written. Turns out that the writing was more about crystallising our collective thoughts (and making them more than vapourware) than it was about creating a record that could be used as a governance tool. What was important was the conversation, which continues to be alive and revisited many times in our relationship as needs be. [Side note: When we did look at the document again – it was about 7 years later and we had a good laugh at some of our decisions that were a bit idealistic.]

About 12 years ago (aka known as 4,700 days) our relationship morphed further to extend into a business partnership. We had a similar conversation in forming our business about what our business team would be and how we’d do this thing called business. There was a discussion about who had responsibility for which aspects of running the business, and how it might sit alongside our ‘domestic’ relationship. I know there are many who would say that they could never work with their spouse/life partner. I’m the opposite, I have a dream collegial relationship with my spouse/life partner – it has true equity. [Side note: Which includes the relevant occasions when I get to ‘boss’ him around and call the shots of the parts of the business that are my responsibility.]

My quiet husband has been such a fan of how we did things, that he proactively takes the opportunity when he can to share with people in the early stages of their relationships about the power of our actions and choices. He invites them to have the foundational conversations, without any judgement about where those conversations arrive.

It is my fervent hope that in sharing my story, you are inspired to act now. To invest your energy, attention, time and motivation in reaching out to someone important in your world and arranging a meaningful conversation to enrich the bonds that exist between you.

What foundational conversations could you invoke today that might improve your relationships at home and at work?


Helen Palmer is Founder and Principal Change Agent at Questo. Like Winnie the Pooh, she ‘sits and thinks’ … and imagines how people (particularly in team contexts) can make a better life for others and themselves. She likes to share those thoughts with the possibility that they inspire and initiate meaningful change.

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