How many days, hours, weeks or months did you spend or do you estimate you will have spent planning your wedding? Did you know that the average US couple spends 200-500 hours planning their wedding. To put that in context, that is five to thirteen 40-hour work weeks to plan a single day of their life! How many hours do you spend planning a birthday party or a vacation? Think of all the time spent planning your career – from determining “what you want to be when you grow up” to where to go to school, and years of academics and/or apprenticeships learning all that you can so that your dream can come true. In total, you spend a lot of time planning for the important things in your life.
Ultimately, you spent all that time planning because you had a very specific experience you wanted to have on your wedding day, at that birthday party or vacation or pursuing your career. Clearly, you weren’t about to wing it and hope that it all worked out.
Now, think about how much time you’ve spent planning your marriage. You know, the longest commitment you’ll ever make in your life (at least that’s what we believe when we say “I do”). For most people, once they say “I do”, they subconsciously believe that they’ve just locked in the perfection of their dating and engagement time together, and that there is no reason why that would change. While most couples step into marriage with rose-colored glasses on, even those that realize there most likely will be some challenges ahead are many times guilty of not planning their marriage. When you don’t plan something, you are ultimately winging it. And I believe “winging it” is one of the single largest causes of divorce.
I’m sure you’re wondering how in the world do you even do that? How do you PLAN a marriage? How do you plan for the next 40, 50 or even 60 years together?
The answer is based in these two principles of planning anything: You give whatever you’re planning INTENTION and ATTENTION.
Let’s use planning a wedding as an example, since most understand the importance of this day. As a couple, you first created the most significant intention – to become married, and to do this, you had a wedding. Once you became engaged, you spent time dreaming about and envisioning what that wedding day will feel, sound, taste, smell and look like. For brides in particular, they may have spent YEARS doing this.
This is creating the INTENTION. This is creating the master plan of the day. It’s not vague. It’s full of a ridiculous (but necessary) number of details. Yes, it might change and evolve as the planning happens, and as you get new ideas, or realize an idea is too expensive, or just isn’t really what you thought you wanted. But through the whole process, you have the experience you’re dreaming of – in detail - at the front of your mind.
Then, to make that dream come true, you give it ATTENTION. This is the actual execution of the intention, of the plan. This is tasting all the food before choosing a caterer, getting quotes from the florist, finding the best DJ, and shopping for the perfect dress or suit. The experience of doing all those things give your wedding day more meaning. You know the effort, time and money that was invested to make your dream come true, and hopefully, you also had the time of your life planning your wedding. Hopefully, giving it attention was a super-fun experience in and of itself.
Now, certainly planning a wedding will have its challenges. Not everything will go smoothly. There will be bumps along the way but creating alternative solutions or compromises can be empowering and because you didn’t let those bumps derail you from your intention, you’ll have this sense of accomplishment, wonder and excitement on your wedding day.
Now imagine this: Imagine if planning a wedding was sheer torture. Imagine there was nothing at all enjoyable about it. How do you think you would feel showing up to your own wedding if the last 200-500 hours of planning it was the worst experience of your life? It’s almost guaranteed that you’d show up angry, frustrated and just wanting to get the whole darn thing over with, right?
Or what if you had a vision of your wedding day, but didn’t bother to plan it at all? What if you had this idea of what your wedding would be in your head, but never shared it with your partner. What if you planned it all by yourself and your partner hated it? What if your partner planned it all and you hated it? What you neither of you planned it? In that case, there actually wouldn’t even be a wedding, because there wouldn’t be a time or place or officiant, as even the most fundamental aspects weren’t given any attention. Where you be then?
Now, let’s think of your marriage in a similar way. While many couples may have an idea of what they’d like for their marriage, they are way too general. They might think “We’d like to have a house in the ‘burbs, and couple of kids, a good-paying job and go on a vacation each year.”
That’s a great start, but if you planned your wedding that way, it’s the equivalent of saying “we’d like a venue, a DJ, and florist and some food.” That would not make for the wedding of your dreams.
And this, this lack of planning, this lack of giving your marriage INTENTION and ATTENTION is why I believe most marriage fail.
When you are intentional in your marriage, everything falls into place so much more easily.
When you are intentional in your marriage, you are constantly connecting with your partner about the specific experience you want to create in your life together, and then you give it attention to make it happen. You’re communicating on a consistent basis, working as a team to make your dreams a reality.
Because you are intentional, you are talking about all the important aspects of marriage – partnership, romance and intimacy, careers, finances, parenting, spirituality, support, dealing with extended family etc.
The natural bi-products of intention is teamwork, partnership, and emotional intimacy in all these areas to actually make those intentions come to life.
And here’s a cool thing: Once you create the specific intentions, the “how” often becomes very clear. Once you have the intention, how to give it attention almost become a no-brainer, although this is where your commitment becomes the lynchpin for whether it happens or not.
Let’s tee up an example. This will work whether you are newly married or married for 20 years. Because being intentional is all about creating the future, what has happened in the past is irrelevant for this exercise/experience. (If you’re marriage has been bumpy and you’re struggling, I do recommend getting some support from a therapist or coach to help heal the past so that you’re not carrying that baggage with you into the future). If you’re willing to theoretically start with a clean slate, this can be an especially powerful experience for people who have become disconnected in their marriage.
So, how does this actually work? I’m going to take a specific area of a marriage to give you the gist, and then you can do something similar for all the areas of your marriage.
Let’s take your finances, one area many couples struggle with.
Let’s say you and your partner had an in-depth conversation and you came up with the following:
Your intention in your marriage for your finances is that you are always open, honest and transparent about your financial decisions and that you make large (over $500) financial decisions together. You have agreed that there will be a joint account in which all household expenditures will be paid. You also each have your own private, personal account that you allocate $100 each week into in which you get to spend freely, without discussion with your partner. You intention is that you will save/invest 20% of your disposable income and create an emergency fund of $20,000. You both agree that having time away is important for the health of your family and marriage, and so you also will set aside $100 each week for a vacation fund.
All right, you get the idea. I know it doesn’t sound super-romantic to be that detailed, but when you are, what needs to happen (the attention) becomes crystal clear. Now the steps to make that happen are straightforward. You need to each create a checking account as well as joint account. You need to set up a savings account for your emergency fund and another for a vacation fund. You need to set up auto-transfers to put the appropriate amount of money into each account. Maybe you set up 20 minutes each week to look at your expenses and the balance in the joint checking account.
Here's the gift in all of this. You’ve worked as a team to create this vision - these intentions for your marriage. You’ve also created a relatively easy-to-execute plan, because you now have clarity of the outcome you desire. And, because you’ve invested the time up front to be intentional, there is so much less to fight over, which frees us more time and energy for more fun aspects of your relationship.
Imagine if you didn’t have that plan. What if one of you was trying to save and invest, and the other was spending like crazy? What if you didn’t have mutual goals and dreams, and you didn’t have a plan to manage your money? It’s like showing up to your wedding when you let someone else plan it. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, for both of you. There will be disappointment, anger and frustration. This is what ultimately pulls couples apart.
Now imagine your life and your relationship if you work together to set the intentions for your marriage. It’s a completely different experience. It’s like planning the adventures of a lifetime. Yes, there will be detours and potholes in your journey. There will certainly be challenges. You’ll have to look at the map to see where you are, how far off course you got, and where it is you ultimately are going. You might change your destination from time to time, and all of that is absolutely perfect. All of the potholes, detours and challenges just add to the story of your life, but they don’t have to take you away from the ultimate intention you committed to – to create a beautiful, loving, happy life together through marriage.
The only thing that matters is that you’re doing it together.
And a if this all sounds too overwhelming, or you don't know where to start, there is good news! You don't have to figure it out all by yourself, because Austin and I already did! Because I believe so strongly in the power of these principles, I've created resources, from simple to extensive, to support you in integrating intention and attention into your own marriage. Check out the resources below, and if you have questions, you can always reach out to Allison or Austin.
Create a Relationship You Love – a self-guided masterclass to set your intentions and create specific ways to give it attention
Beyond the Wedding – a 12 week guided program to walk you through each area of your marriage and support in the intention-setting and attention-giving with specific tools, exercise and topics of discussion for each specific area of marriage.
Allison Orlovsky is a relationship coach, architect and expert. After her second divorce by the age of 35, Allison committed herself to personal development and ongoing learning so that she didn’t continue to make the same mistakes in future relationships. She also dedicated her efforts to not just creating a good-enough relationship, but a great one, full of all the passion, partnership and play she could imagine. She and Austin have been playing and experimenting in this space for almost a decade and are constantly learning, growing and evolving as individuals and as a couple. If you’d like to learn more about Allison and Austin and how to work with them, you can find them at www.relationship-revolution.com