The Business Plan Approach to a Happy Marriage and Building Your Dreams
Living with someone is difficult. You are confronted with situations that will at some point piss you off. That point usually comes right after the honeymoon period. You start arguing over insignificant little things like, not putting the cap back on the toothpaste to larger issues like lack of communication, amount of sex, hanging out with friends/family, need for space etc. Many couples end their relationships because they can’t manage these things yet they love each other. I have had failed relationships because of an inability between my partners and I to deal with these issues effectively.
I have tried many strategies/techniques over my lifetime to not only build relationships with my partners, but to move forward together. I’ve read books, some good, some fluff. I’ve even been to a marriage counsellor. Gee, I’ve even checked out what Dr. Phil had to say. With all these resources, some advice were good, some I even practiced (at least for the first month) but all in all, there wasn’t one approach that really worked.
Then I thought, what if I got a little pragmatic. In my current relationship, I thought what if my wife and I were able to put touchy feelly things that Mars and Venus can not agree on and made it tangible and quantifiable? With this, we developed a business plan to help us. I know what you are thinking. A business plan? Sounds kinda corporate, kinda cold. Especially when a marriage is based on love and not on return on investments.
Hear me out. A proper business plan is able to take a corporate ‘Vision’ and break it down into actionable steps to achieve that Vision. It is a dynamic guide that helps to move the company forward. If you think about it, a family is like a business. The home is the place of operation and the family members are partners (no, not employees). You need to deal with finances, ensure the home is operating effectively and efficiently; and, the members all get along etc. So, why not have something that guides it?
Our success is based on a very detailed ‘Vision’. In business, the successful company is the one that sticks to their guns and don’t stray from their Vision. This allows them to stay FOCUSED. Decisions are made based on the degree to which it relates to the Vision. For my family, the business plan really helps us keep true to our path together.
Here’s what we did. At University, my first year professor was able to simplify the business plan into five questions. We used these questions, with a little modification, to help us develop our plan.
1. Where are we now? This is where we took stock of our life. This is the easy part because it’s literally taking an inventory of our current situation – the jobs we have, cars we drove, money saved (owed), things we did, where we lived, the things we owned etc.
2. Where do we want to be? The Vision. This is the most important but fun part, and requires you to dream (a lot). For those of you who believe in the Law of Attraction, then you’ll really like this part. We wrote down and made pictures of how we want our life to be. We saw a home in the country, a couple of dogs, things we did together, work we enjoyed etc. We made it real. We used all our senses in creating this Vision. We could smell the wet dogs and the fresh country air. We saw the Sun over our property and we could feel the cool breeze in mid fall as we took our dogs for a walk. We could even hear the song birds singing in the back ground. We made this as real as can be.
3. How are we going to get to where we want to be? Once we took stock of our current situation and where we want to be, it was a matter of filling in the gaps. We let the Vision guide us and did not subject ourselves to an unrealistic timetable. As long as we did something to move forward, we were one step closer to attaining our Vision. We realize the Vision was not something we could reach overnight. So, we broke it down into digestible chunks. These chunks were ‘actionable’ items that kept us moving forward.
4. What do we do to ensure we get to where we want to be? Our Vision was so strong that it kept us focused and our plan kept us moving forward. But what will keep us on track? In business, this means having the right resources such as management, leadership, budgets etc. For us, we looked at the issues that mattered to us (as individuals and as a couple) and broke it down into actionable items. The issues we addressed included things like communication, number of times we have sex, our roles and responsibilities, rules of engagement (our nice word for fight), finances, how we spend our time etc. For example, under roles and responsibilities, we broke down the household chores and assigned them. Items that required more work (ie. making meals) are further broken down and it’s done in partnership. You can almost say this was our ‘Partnership Agreement’ as part of the business plan.
5. How do we know when we get there? A good business plan should be dynamic and fluid – it should adjust according to situational changes. With this, we consistently monitored the plan. We touch base monthly – see what’s working/not working and made minor adjustments. At the end of the year, we take the time to review our accomplishments and plan for the following year.
So, does this work? It’s working for us. Our relationship has grown stronger and we are living in the country, with two dogs, doing things we want to do and as a bonus, we have a beautiful son to enjoy it with. I won’t lie to you, we still disagree from time to time but the fights are short and any hurt feelings are quickly gone. The Vision really helps us put things in perspective and keeps us focused. We no longer let the ‘fight’ take over us and take on it’s own life.