Planning. It seems like we are always planning. I feel like I’m always planning. Do you feel the same?
I bet that you:
Plan holidays, birthday parties, and get-togethers with your friends and family.
Plan dates with your boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other.
Plan your calendar and schedule with all the things that you need and want to do, the places you need to be and maybe even the food you want to eat.
Plan your home – how you want it to look, feel and function with colors, décor and updates and upgrades.
Plan for your education and career.
Plan for your wedding – maybe even months or years for a single day!
Plan for your baby’s arrival.
For most of us, we are planning almost every aspect of our lives. Planning gives us a sense of control and in many cases, also gives us something to look forward to, right?
Except the one that arguably matters the most. The one that we intend to last for the rest of our lives. The one that will outlast any vacation, career or raising of the babies.
Most people fail to plan their marriage. I know, I know. It doesn’t sound very romantic to plan your marriage, but you know the old adage “fail to plan and plan to fail”. Interesting that this is one area in their lives that folks don’t typically plan and the failure rate is almost 50%.
Things that make you go “Hmmmm”.
As someone that has been divorced and talked with so many other married and divorced people over the years, it seems that there is a subconscious belief that the love and joy that we feel for our partner gets “locked in” on our wedding day and gets put on autopilot. It may not be felt or seen immediately, but it happens to many couples (I daresay the majority of couples). Many people (myself included) have had this very idealistic vision of marriage, and then we stop there.
Now, I’m not saying that planning (or failure to plan) is the only reason that marriages will ultimately succeed or fail, but it is definitely integrated with other reasons and that when you cultivate planning into your marriage, it will naturally support and strengthen your relationship in many other ways.
Let’s explore how this works.
Let’s start with the idea of planning. Planning is two-fold. It’s first the giving of forethought to the experience you want to have and then it’s the action taken to make that experience a reality for you. Simple, right?
Let’s use something simple like planning a date night for the upcoming weekend. First you think about the experience you want to have – maybe it’s outdoorsy, romantic, or playful (or all of the above). Then you take action, by blocking off your calendar, buying tickets, making a reservation or shopping for the right gear. And viola! Your date is planned and now has a high probability not only of happening, but for you to actually have the experience and outcome that you deeply desire.
That’s all planning your marriage really is! It’s simply taking some time and energy to give it forethought and to take action to make your dreams and desires a reality.
Let’s make this a little more applicable to real-life marriage.
Let’s plan your finances. I know, not the sexiest part of marriage, but typically one of the toughest and the one that either gets lots of attention or no attention.
The first part of planning is getting clarity on what you want the experience to be, so then you can direct your forethought into making that happen.
Let’s start with getting clarity on your finances by answering these questions. You can ask yourself these questions first or open up a conversation with your partner and discuss on-the-spot:
What do I want my relationship with money to feel like? Ex: safe, peaceful, not worried, freedom to enjoy life with it.
What would bring me peace and joy in our marriage when it comes to managing and discussing finances? Ex: reviewing our finances together 2x/month? Discussing purchases over X dollars? Having our own bank accounts?
What are financial goals or milestones that are important for me to reach in the next year? 5 years? 10 years? Ex: buy a home, take a international vacation, have a child
What do I want my day to day experience with money to be like? Ex: I can go to the store without a calculator, or saying yes to invitations for concerts and athletic events without looking at the budget.
What am I willing to do or not do to achieve my goals?
How do my goals, beliefs, values and expectations compare to my partner’s?
How do we create a partnership with our money so that we both feel respected, valued and supported with our goals and desires?
By answering these questions, having this conversation with your partner, and then putting into action the things you decided would be supportive for both of you when it comes to your managing your finances, you’ve just planned your marriage in terms of your finances.
Perhaps this is what you learned: You learned that you both would prefer to keep separate bank accounts with an equal dollar amount going into each account every two weeks and that money can be spent however each chooses, without needing to check in with the other. The remainder of the money goes into the joint account to pay for bills, investments and family travel/entertainment.
Maybe you learned that while you want to “live the good life” now because you love your job and are fine retiring at 65, that your partner would prefer to live more frugally so he/she could retire at 40, so therefore you’ve agreed on the goal of both retiring at 50. Making that plan has now given you the opportunity and clarity to determine the amount you need to invest each year to make that happen and then the remainder can go to “living the good life” for both of you.
Perhaps you learned that you hate doing spreadsheets, and your partner loves them, so you’ll let the physical money management up to your partner, but that you want to review your finances once a month and want to be part of the budgeting process 2x/year.
Can you see that value in “planning” your finances not only for you, but for your marriage?
So what are some other benefits of doing this?
First of all, you’ve opened up dialog and emotions around an important topic in your relationship OUTSIDE of triggering emotions, like opening the credit card bill to see it was maxed out, or realizing you have no idea where your money is going and feeling left out. This allows for more rational conversation and each party to be heard and validated.
You’ve created deeper understanding and intimacy with your partner on this subject and better communication skills with each other by asking and answering these questions. The more depth and clarity you can get around each of these questions, the more you’ll each be able to understand why the other thinks and feels the way they do, why these goals are important to each of you, and then it’s much easier to be enrolled in making BOTH of your dreams come true.
You’ve created a plan to be able to achieve your financial goals together, so that neither of you is feeling sabotaged by the other. When you have a plan that you both agreed upon, it’s easier to hold each other accountable, but without the resentment that may show up when you’re each fighting for what you want at the cost of the other person.
You’ve deepened your partnership, which is the key to a solid marriage. Working together, both feeling valued, heard and understood is so important to a strong partnership, even if you decide one person is better at managing the budget spreadsheet than the other.
Now, things come up and the plan needs to be revisited, modified and adjusted, just like anything else in life. Planning isn’t about “one and done”, but about periodically revisiting the topic to make sure you’re still on plan, or to change it if it’s not working.
Doesn’t this feel so much better than letting life take you by the horns and tossing you around, without any control or direction and then wondering 10 years from now why you haven’t achieved your financial goals and most likely blaming your partner for all the reasons that it didn’t happen?
Now, this was a super high-level example, but hopefully you get the point.
Consider what it might look like to “plan” other areas of your relationship, such as household management, dealing with extended family, career, nurturing your marriage, nurturing each other, taking care of yourselves, life goals and dreams….
How could your marriage flourish and what might be possible if you took a little time and energy to plan your marriage?
If you are interested in what this could look like for you, but need more guidance and support, feel free to reach out to Allison at allison@relationship-revolution or check out their program ‘Beyond the Wedding’ at www.relationship-revolution.com/beyondthewedding