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What are the pros and cons of having a life partner from the same field?

I remember that in my first year at college, the professor told us that his wife is also a software developer, and a few decades ago when there has been a tough period of 2-3 years in the software field they both had been unemployed and had experienced some hard times.

Of course I am not asking about this economic downside, as it is a general conclusion for a family working in the same field, and is not related specifically to programming. I am asking about any other possible downsides of a family where both people are programmers.

To all developers married to developers - I am not asking if it is "horrible" or something like that, of course it's not, just if there are any specific issues (all kinds of relationships has some specific issues, and at the same time are immune to others).

And yes, I am asking about a male developer married to a female developer, I am clarifying to avoid jokes like "I believe that 2 developers can get married in some states" and so on :)

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Nice question, /me grabs a bucket of popcorn –  s.m Feb 20 '11 at 12:41
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@s.m: Thanks for bringing it up. Now we also know with 2 developers married all coffee and popcorn in the house are in great risk. –  user8685 Feb 20 '11 at 13:32
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Programmer + programmer = kid + Aspergers. I personally prefer nurses. wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html –  Job Feb 20 '11 at 13:53
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@simpson, just because you do not like it, does not mean that it is not true. I bet that if both of you are not that smart, or have other talents / people skills, then you are ok. On the other hand, if you want a chance to have a child genius (with a fair risk of having one with Aspergers), then being two programmers is the only way. I would not over-think this, however. If you think that you love the person - just go for it. Life is a gamble and we have little control over it, even though we prefer to think otherwise. –  Job Feb 20 '11 at 15:15
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@Job, there is something in that article that makes it very irrelevant, and not connected to a developers marriage discussion. They say there are 450k people with this disorder in US, out of 300M. This means that even if it was somehow related to this discussion (programmer's stuff), the chances are less than 1/600, plenty of disorders are with a higher chance. Also, these scientific studies are often wrong, because there are too many factors in the environment for the scientists to really prove they are right. In 2001 they say X, and in 2011 it appears that the cause of Y is quite different. –  simpson Feb 20 '11 at 15:29
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marked as duplicate by Jonas, Anna Lear Feb 21 '11 at 0:17

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11 Answers

I am in this situation :) My husband is also a developer and we actually work at the same place (it's a big company). We dated for about 3 years before we got married then we have been married for another 3.

Marriage is work, no matter who you marry.

With that said, here are a couple of pointers for developers married to each other:

  • When you are at work, (if you work together) keep your relationship at work at a professional level. When we are fighting we always agree to shelve it until the day is over. If we cannot, we go for a walk, but we do not argue in front of our coworkers.
  • Try not to take your work home too much. If you have work related things to discuss, you should have a cutoff point at some point, like 6pm when you change the subject from technology to something else. It is a good thing to be able to bounce ideas off each other or vent to each other. However it cannot be constant because you will burn off.
  • You should not get angry at each other about technology. There are many situations when I feel strongly about something and if I were talking to just a coworker, I would keep the argument going. It is different with married people. If you have a professional argument with your partner, it will escalate to anger a lot faster. You should not allow this to happen, because it will eat you alive eventually. When my husband and I feel that first 'spark' of irritation, we tell each other 'Hon, I started to feel angry, let's cool down and try to talk about it later'. We have a mutual understanding about this.
  • Nurture common interests other than your profession. My husband and I are into exercising and doing a lot of outdoorsy things, like water sports or hiking. This helps us form bonds over other important things so being a programmer is not always in the center of attention.

Anyways... if you are a programmer and you love another programmer you should not hesitate about taking the relationship to the next level.

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It seems you have sorted it all out :) Any problems in the competitiveness area, as suggested in one of the other answers ? –  simpson Feb 20 '11 at 14:15
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Yes there is. I am not only a programmer but used to be a professional athlete :) I have to watch it basically and tone it down. Realize when I need to stop. It gets easier over time. –  c_maker Feb 20 '11 at 14:17
    
this is interesting, I would ask you why/how you switched from a pro athlete to software development (these two couldn't be anymore distanced), but it would go off-topic :) –  simpson Feb 20 '11 at 14:19
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it was a natural progression :) I'm from Europe -> got athletic scholarship -> was always good at math -> did not speak much English -> CS fit well -> started liking it -> started loving it -> gave up athletics -> here I am. –  c_maker Feb 20 '11 at 14:26
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lol :) Your husband is lucky, cheers ! :) –  simpson Feb 20 '11 at 14:38
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All other things being equal, it is better to marry someone in a different profession. Marriage is difficult in the best of circumstances. Having a part of your life to yourself provides an escape and a welcome break when there are stressful times. Otherwise you will both often have often-unwelcome opinions on how to run each other's professional lives, in addition to personal lives. These opinions can lead to self-destructive behavior in bad times.

At an extreme, a dynamic language programmer and a statically-typed language programmer, married to each other will have negative opinions about each other's work. To a lesser extreme, two Java programmers married to each other will have opinions -- not necessarily negative -- about how the other should handle career development at work. There will be plenty of room to second-guess.

In contrast, visualize a neuro-surgeon married to an embedded-systems programmer. Neither will have any opinion -- other than respectful and supportive -- about each other's professional lives.

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I can only tell you my personal experience:

My wife and I dated for 3 years, we met at a company we worked backed then, we then moved to a different company at the same time just a few months before we got married. We've been married for a little over 2 years, so all in all we've known each other and been together for a bit more than 5 years.

For the good parts:

It's awesome to be able to talk to your partner and they know exactly what you mean and what you are talking about. Even better, they can you out with suggestions if you are stuck trying to figure something out.

We get to share a lot of our stuff like books/tools/toys and we also learn a lot (technically) from each other.

For the risky parts:

Make sure you set a limit as to how much you talk about work and technology, otherwise you'll always be talking about and it gets to be boring.

Always remember you are two different people with different skills, strengths and weaknesses so don't compare each other.

Be always professional at work (this is very important!)

At the

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A little piece of advice, straight from my doctor: computer specialists have lower sperm count than any other profession. Why is that? 2 factors: work sitting down and wearing jeans. Jeans keep the testes too warm and too close to the body.

My doctor's advice was simple: buy real slacks, you stereotype.

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...and that's a bad thing? –  Brian Knoblauch Oct 11 '11 at 12:15
    
@BrianKnoblauch If you want kids, yes. –  MPelletier Oct 11 '11 at 13:38
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If you are both really specialized, you can have what in academia they call the two body problem. Real profiessional opportunities are few and far between, and you will end up with her having a dream job offer at one location, and his dream job is a couple of thousand miles away. Then you have some decisions to make, like whose career takes second fiddle -or do you live apart and only see each other on holidays etc. Of course the two body problem isn't specific to a particular field of study/specialization, it has more to do with both people having careers that offer a narrow choice of work locations. The quote I liked was: "If you get a BS, you can choose which city you work in, get a masters, and you can choose which state, and get a PhD, and you can choose which country to work in".

Also if both spouses are very career driven, and you want to have kids, that can present a problem, as that usually requires one of them (usually the female) to scale back her career.

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Why should not there be some downsides? But perhaps you should think about the downsides not to married the one you love!

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I find that it's in (the western world anyway) men that we're brought up to be a little self-conscious about our ability to provide for our families. That's our one job: Ensure that everyone has what they need to live a long, happy life. No matter what we end up doing, that's what we strive for.

With the background aside, it is important to understand.

When you have two individuals who are engaged directly in the same field, typically within the same space (though neighbouring spaces may more or less apply as well), quite often you may find one individual or both striving to be a little bit better than the other, skill wise. Or build up their knowledge based on the experience of the other, while the other persons skill set doesn't go up quite as fast.

As such, one can feel a little inadequate professionally and sink into a depression. This RARELY applies to females, however it is a serious risk in men. This is also a very difficult thing for women to understand, but it's a very serious risk to men.

The same risks ultimately come into play when a man loses his job, and is unemployed for a stretch of time (in my experience, more than a month); so it's not limited to just the OP's question.

Ultimately, you should be with whomever you are happiest with, regardless of your career paths, but try and understand that 99% of the time, she won't be trying to make you feel any "less of a man" if you are viewing her as being a better provider (either by skillset, or monetary reimbursement in her job). Do what you need to, to move past any of those feelings if they crop up, they're not good for men.

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When two people exercise the same profession and join in a union, the highest danger here is that they won't be able to help but to compare each other's skills and compete with one another even subconsciously. Eventually, one of them, usually the female, will have to give in. And I suppose it is a hard event psychologically for a profession which requires an independent mind.

Absolutely by all means avoid working in the same place. Seeing his/her partner being laughed at and ridiculed among colleagues (inevitable from time to time) will lower her/him in their eyes eventually. It is better to avoid seeing each other at work, at least go to different departments. I would even generalize that and say avoid seeing one another exercise the profession in any context, professional or personal. Programmers are known to have strong opinions about everything and there are no two programmers on this planet who would agree on everything. Better avoid risk getting into a professional argue.

P.S. I once had a girlfriend (seriously) I met at the university, we studied on parallel courses. I'm not sure what she felt about me professionally, but I couldn't help but see her being smarter than me (I did just general CS she did hardcore applied math stuff) and later being more successful than me by building valuable professional connections. Eventually she left me for the reasons of me not being able to keep up with her, starting with the studies following professional life and finally emigrating. I think I wouldn't like to repeat that experience, better have somebody with a different background at your side who may not have a full picture to look down on you but will instead respect you no matter what and you would regard her with the same esteem.

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Working in the same place has so much potential for badness. There is the obvious if it goes under you are both out of work, but also what if one person gets laid off and the other still has to go to work, just not a good idea. –  Zachary K Feb 20 '11 at 13:19
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I agree that working in the same company would be a show stopper, but are you sure about the comparison problem? As I see it, there isn't any objective measurement about the success of a developer: a salary comparison is a joke (it is business related, not programming related), years of experience means nothing (a lot of mediocre developers having 10+ experience), complexity of the project you are working on is irrelevant (you work on what they give you), and as for the quality of the code itself, if the 2 people are in different companies they can't see each other's code. What do you think? –  simpson Feb 20 '11 at 13:21
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I think competitiveness depends so much more on your personalities than on doing the same profession. You could be in entirely different professions and still compete on who earns more, or who has the most respected job. –  testerab Feb 20 '11 at 13:28
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I just do not think this past girlfriend was the marriage material to start with. She would not be happy with anyone. –  c_maker Feb 20 '11 at 15:57
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Don't forget the upsides to working at the same place. My wife used to work as a developer at the same company where I worked. It was great. We got to drive to work together, eat lunch together, etc. –  Ken Feb 20 '11 at 18:34
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Simpson, it could be worse. You could be married to a tester. ;)

Seriously though, my partner is a programmer, and I'm a tester. We work in fairly different industries, but it is interesting to be able to discuss things together - generally we do need to explain a bit of background, but we have enough shared knowledge so that isn't too tedious. It means we get to tap each other for ideas about solving some work problem we're stalled on. We get to buy shared cool toys to play with together (got a EZ430-Chronos watch on my desk right now waiting to be opened...)

Downsides? You could end up on different sides of a programming language war.

I'd agree that working in the same place could be a problem - it means you tend to bring work problems home too much.

Unless you both go into exactly the same field and work for the same companies, it's going to be difficult to compare your progress - so I don't think that's an issue.

But overall: hey, you found someone you want to marry? Whatever the downsides, they're pretty small compared to that.

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I like the sharing of cool toys part :) –  simpson Feb 20 '11 at 13:24
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+1 for: hey, you found someone you want to marry? Whatever the downsides, they're pretty small compared to that –  Nifle Feb 20 '11 at 13:34
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+1 for You could end up on different sides of a programming language war. I know a married couple who disagree on Emacs/vi. :-) –  btilly Feb 20 '11 at 14:16
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Also worse: married to someone in the Marketing department. –  mkelley33 Feb 20 '11 at 15:33
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+1 for the opening line... from the developer who is married to one of his own QA folks. Yes, my wife tests the code I write (along with a half dozen other QA folks). That can be... interesting. (many years ago while we were dating, she was in support and supported the customers using my code, that was far worse.) –  cabbey Feb 20 '11 at 20:30
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I don't think there is a problem in marrying a person who is also a developer, or like any other kind of job. Its much more fun actually to have a person , who you have the same interests, it makes the bond even stronger. i think the only worry for me is that of working at the same place & doing the same thing, cause sometimes relationship can hinder work efficiency, and sometimes work just gets into you ,and it can ruin your relationship, but even to think in those terms its premature, and i do think you should strive everyday to make the life of those who you are working with, as enjoyable as you can, cause with great relationships, more can be achieved

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I would recommend against working at the same place. And if you are worried about a downturn in the tech economy pile up a bunch of cash just in case but these seem pretty small issues if you found a woman you want to marry.

oh and Mazel Tov

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