Psychology, in all its glorious complexity, is the study of the individual. This complexity is found in all the features that make each person unique– our complex brain and elaborate emotional system, for instance– and then is amplified by environmental influences. 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.
Rather than exercising such a broad reach, 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 requirements and conflicts of married life.
A Business Model?? Really??
By far the most common reaction to MARRIAGE IS A BUSINESS is one of slight skepticism. Why would anyone try to apply business techniques to marriage, or any kind of relationship for that matter? 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.
My approach to establishing an effective foundation for a marriage that works comes from over 20 years of work as a therapist. In that time, I have defined and refined the tools that I believe make the most difference to couples whose relationships are in trouble. These tools are not emotion-based therapeutic improvisations or pathways for exploring past traumas and hurts. While they and other valid therapeutic approaches all have their place, my vision for helping couples achieve a strong relationship 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. I believe this book fills a gap that has been left by other self-help and therapeutic approaches. It highlights the importance of being able to manage one’s self and one’s relationships, and addresses problems and obstacles others do not.
Over time, there have been innumerable requests from my clients for “something in writing.” Some felt a need to have a reference in hand as they negotiated the challenges of daily married life at home, while others wanted to pass on information to a friend whose marriage was struggling. Thus, this book was born to fill a concrete need expressed by the real people with whom I’ve had the privilege of working, in the belief that it represents a similar need within the larger population with its persistent 50% divorce rate.
A Psychological Primer
Along with practical skills, a good marriage also requires a certain level of self-awareness and the ability to balance and integrate our thoughtful selves with our emotional selves. Thus, a second crucial element of this book is a simple, easy, straightforward understanding of how individuals can manage themselves psychologically, both as independent selves and within a relationship.
The basic psychological concepts presented here are limited to thoughts and feelings, and the interplay between the two. Only when a person comes to understand this interplay within themselves (i.e., learn psychological self-management) can he or she then explore more complicated psychological issues. My business model requires people to keep their intellect continuously switched on as they manage their emotions through adulthood and learn how to integrate thoughts and feelings. When people decide to include marriage in their lives– an important yet complex life option– this integration of heart and mind must be extended from internal self-management to external relationship management.
When exploring any new field of knowledge, one must learn the basics before advancing to more in-depth material. Thus, this book is meant to serve as a psychological primer with information that is fundamental to more advanced psychological knowledge. To explore any additional psychological complexities would tax the novice reader of marital self-help material, add unnecessary confusion, and perhaps even sabotage any new understanding the reader might glean from the information presented. As a result, readers will not find discussions of the roles of love, sex, intimacy, or other typical relationship topics in this book. Of course, these psychological themes are important to building a deep, high-quality relationship. However, this book was written specifically to help readers master a simple, basic, initial step toward self- and relationship management.
Too many divorces continue to take place; too much emotional devastation continues to negatively affect too many men, women, and, of course, children. I have heard time and time again 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.” This book 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.