Many couples choose therapy because they want to strengthen a relationship that is already moving forward. Still others find therapy when it is almost too late. Regardless of what state their marriage is in, couples do come in. And the fact that both partners make an effort to choose a therapist, locate the office and find the courage to walk in and sit down shows some level of motivation and an interest in change. This potential for change, no matter how small or tenuous, is an important element in bringing a marriage back to life.
Therapy primarily focuses on either the intellectual identification of problems, the underlying emotional disconnect between the couple, or both. Some couples need more help at the cognitive, problem-solving level, while others need to focus on emotional connection through effective communication and emotional self-management skills. Most couples need help with both of these tasks.
In Marriage is a Business, both the intellectual and emotional levels of a relationship are discussed. This book is different, though, in that it uses a model somewhat outside the realm of psychology to define a structure and foundation for marriage that is often seen in the business world. In fact, the approach in Marriage is a Business asks you to view your marriage as a working business. Your rational thinking is used to create a foundation for your relationship based on a business plan to which you both agree.
When marriage is envisioned as a corporate entity, focus is placed on factors that have been proven to optimize growth and success.
Emotional self-management doesn’t have to be difficult work; it’s just a different kind of work. And if self-management skills were studied and learned during childhood like history, math, and science, we would not find them hard work at all. Unfortunately, emotional health is not taught in schools–or even in many homes– although it certainly needs to be. As children, we are expected to behave, but we are not taught how this relates to emotional self-management. And how can children successfully behave when their feelings are dictating their behavior? Generally, if children are taught at all about emotions, they are told to control, not manage, feelings. Consequently, people can enter adulthood (and adult relationships) without much of a clue about how to manage their feelings.
The current rate of divorce in our country, for first marriages, has been and continues to stand at 50%. At what point will we seriously view this to be a significant social problem? Too much emotional devastation, through divorce, continues to negatively affect too many men, women, and, of course, children. I have heard many of my clients declare, “I think people need to know all this before they get married,” or “I wish I had known all this awhile ago,” and “I don’t know what happened or what to do. “”Marriage is a Business” was written to dispel the unwanted lack of information expressed in those statements and teach people how they can successfully enter into and maintain a marriage. Nothing more complex than that.
Our culture remains persistently unaware (or perhaps avoidant) of how few marriages last and make it to the traditional “til death do us part” wedding commitment. To achieve a lifetime of rewarding marriage, both partners need the tools, the commitment, and the discipline to integrate management of their thoughts, their feelings, and their relationship. I believe that with these elements in place, a marriage can flourish and bring much joy into the shared lives of committed couples.
“Marriage is a Business” is set for publication December 2012.
By far the most common reaction to “Marriage is a Business” is one of slight skepticism. Who wants to apply business techniques to marriage? Isn’t it comparing apples to oranges, board rooms to bedrooms, profits to passion? The fact that few can see the similarities between running a successful business and navigating a successful marriage attests to the current lack of realism in our culture’s view of how to achieve a happy marriage.
With over 20 years of work as a therapist, I have worked to define and refine tools that I believe make the most difference to couples whose relationships are in trouble. My vision for helping couples achieve strong relationships centers on handling the business of marriage very, very well, and this requires a lot of self-discipline, a strong work ethic, and yes, some business savvy.
Psychology is the study of the individual, in all its glorious complexity. This complexity is found in all the features that make each person unique, for instance, our complex brain and elaborate emotional system. To attempt to discuss the full range of human intricacy is far beyond the scope of this book. In fact, discussion of the abstract and infinite ways psychology impacts our lives could fill countless libraries.
The goal of this book is to reduce such complexity. This is accomplished by first looking to the world of business–a world filled with concrete goals, defined processes, and recognizable structures designed to work together to produce a successful outcome. Commonly used business practices familiar to many in today’s workforce are presented as effective tools for managing the daily requirement and conflicts of married life.
Roughly ten years ago, while working with couples, the idea of viewing marriages as being similar, in some basic aspects, to companies was formed. I’ve never been a ‘business type’ and had only a handful of business classes during college. So basic means basic! Each couple was asked to visualize the relationship as a working company, for example, a common fast-food restaurant or some other business with which they were familiar. From there, the idea kept growing. I’d add to the vision and couples gave their ideas as well. The business model helped them to “see” the dynamics of their relationship, then “see” the conflicts or problems that needed addressing and then “see” solutions that could help them.
The idea for Marriage is a Business originated nearly ten years ago, through my work with scores of couples. Somewhere along the way, marriages became likened to companies, basic tenets of company ownership helped couples better understand their relationship conflicts and the ideas for the book and its main focus were conceived.
With little free time to invest in writing, the book took four years to complete. Both Karin and I forged forward, setting biweekly or monthly goals to keep the pace going. Our goal was to publish this Fall and we are pretty well on target!