In the business world, company mergers occur on a regular basis and these require both a vision and a design plan to fuse two existing entities into one. A clear description of the vision of the new company, along with a comprehensive plan of action, decreases stress and conflict, conserves time and energy, and expedites the evolution of a fully functioning new organization.
Your marriage has also been a merger of sorts, meshing two individual lives into one successful and smoothly operating relationship. Developing your marriage begins with a unified vision of the entity you are going to build.
Let’s suppose you decide to start a business with someone. You form a partnership and invest every resource you own in that business. You draw up and sign all the legal documents and begin to feel excited about getting your business up and running! But before that can happen, you’ll need to nail down exactly how you want your business to look and operate. Let’s say it’s a restaurant you’re opening. What’s on the menu? How many staff will be hired and who will do the hiring? What hours will each person work? What will the job descriptions involve? What about staff training? And finances? Policies and procedures? Who orders supplies? These are just a few of the many questions you will need to answer before you first open the doors.
We can apply this business scenario to something a bit more relevant to your relationship. How about the plans you and your spouse made for your wedding? Some weddings are very simple and others are quite elaborate. As a couple, how was your wedding design chosen and who implemented the plans? How were those decisions made? How were tasks delegated? Were you happy with the teamwork and the outcome?
Now think back to your decision to marry. You probably had a picture in your head about what marriage would be like. The variation in these expectations is endless–anything from a cozy family in a little house with a white picket fence to a dual-career couple living in a downtown high-rise. How does the picture you held in your heart during your engagement compare with your current reality. If today you were able to create your ideal marriage, what would that ideal look like? Compare your vision of that ideal with your partner’s vision,and take note of where they are similar and where they differ. Are there any surprises?
Your goal as a couple is to come up with one agreed-upon vision, and this is an important step. Can you imagine what it would be like to work for a company that expects employees to meet opposing goals? Living in a marriage with conflicting expectations is just as difficult.
HERE’S ONE COUPLE’S STORY: A VISION BUT NO JOINT PLAN:
Diana and Steve’s marriage recently ended in divorce. During their time together, their marriage reached a crisis point when Diana, having stayed at home to care for their son,stated that she was bored and ready to resume her marketing career. Steve was ready to add more children to the family and admitted he saw Diana’s role in the marriage as being a traditional stay-at-home mom. He was against her pursuing her career; she refused to discuss having more children until their differences were resolved. It seems that both of them had assumed– rather than discussed– the kind of ‘business’ they were planning and building together. They had a vision for their marriage, and that was to be happy and enjoy life. But they had not taken the next step of working through the important mechanics of joint ownership that are crucial in any marriage, just as they are in business. Unfortunately, when they began this work, they discovered the action plans they each had developed to guide their progress as a family were distinctly different.
In working together on this goal, just about any relationship you design will represent a 50/50 partnership because you both will be agreeing to a shared vision and plan for your marriage. The visions and plans that are truly shared do not and will not move forward without the consenting vote of both owners.
Once you have generated a single shared vision, the next step is to translate it into action by creating a working plan together. This plan should be designed to make things happen, to strengthen and solidify your partnership, and to help you achieve your goals as you move forward into the future.
Here are some concrete tips for designing your plan of action:
1) As you design your plan, make sure your steps move you forward at a speed that allows you to see progress; if you dawdle along too slowly, you may become discouraged.
2) Be discerning about what’s important and what’s not; while grand ideas are key, don’t forget the many smaller points. Set priorities– you don’t want to be planning forever!
3) Focus on contributing, not on critiquing your partner’s contributions.
4) Be sure you include discussion on the division of chores. Nailing down an effective way of consistently taking care of these responsibilities is essential to the success of any company relationship. Someone has to take out the trash!!’
5) Brainstorm often and be innovative in finding steps forward.
6) When planning, write down a description of your ideal marital vision and refer to it often.
7) Don’t take a backseat to your partner. The success of fulfilling your ideal vision requires both of you to act as visionaries.
8) While planning is certainly work, forget perfectionism and remember to have fun! This is your own, unique ‘company!”
9) Set specific meetings for specific topics; for example, make your vision the focus for one session,cover strategizing at another, plan operational tasks for a third.
10) Continually look for those things that are in the best interest of the marriage; keep this idea current.
No, marriage isn’t supposed to sound so hard and unattractive. But the goal is to get a foundation for your partnership and build forward. It’s easier to ‘do your homework’ before the wedding than after.