Our guest columnist today brings a perspective to marriage which I have not heard anywhere else. John Curtis provides organizational development services to the public, private and nonprofit sectors nationwide. Prior to serving as a business consultant, John was a full-time marriage counselor. He is married with two children and three grandchildren. Curtis is the author of "The Business of Love," and more recently "The Mission of Love." The former is secular while the latter is Christian-based. In both books, Curtis makes the case that marriage should be treated as a business. He suggests couples should have a shared vision statement, a logo, a clear understanding of job descriptions, etc.
Lifestyle balancing is a constant battle when the hectic pace of simply living can pull us in many directions including disconnecting us from our spouse. Work, children, church, finances and hobbies are just a few of life's other top priorities that may compete with marriage. Is it possible to juggle it all successfully, should you even try and, if so, where do you start? Let me begin to answer these questions by stating the obvious, if you want everything else in life to work, make your marriage your priority.
One way to show it's your top priority is to talk about your commitment to your marriage often, and, by the way, men can do this as well as women. Despite the false, stale stereotypes, men really can talk about commitment, we may just use different terms. For example, the best way I know for a guy to grasp what commitment means is for you to imagine that the next car you buy is the last car you'll ever own for the rest of your life. This is the meaning of "commitment," at least in terms a guy understands. Husbands do matter, since both spouses have a role to play in the care and feeding of a modern, committed marriage.
So let me offer you two strategies to stay connected to your spouse. One strategy is the big picture approach, the other is about little things to do daily. I suggest you start by building a long-range plan for your marriage. Ask your spouse for time to meet when you both can be fresh and focused. Describe your vision for the future of the relationship 1, 5, even 10 years down the road and ask your spouse to do the same. Be sure to really listen to what your spouse tells you.
This is an actual example of a vision statement from a couple married seven years and with three children:
"Our vision for our relationship is one where we will have complete trust and honesty, free of fears or anxieties and full of acceptance and support. We each will be devoted to helping one another reach our full potential through the ever-increasing exploration of who we are as partners and parents, and by expressing our individuality. We will be close to God, who will bless us with lives full of deep meaning. We will continue to explore our world and include our family whenever possible. We will seek financial serenity, free of material burdens while living a rich and full life."
Look for common goals in your vision statement and put them in writing to refer to when you're feeling disconnected. The example above has stated goals about trust, acceptance, being partners and reaching financial serenity. These goals are like checking your map or GPS while driving; it's a simple way to ensure you're still on the right road to reach your destination. Think of your plan as a "work in progress" for creating the future of your marriage. Set specific targets about work, education, money, leisure, religion, sex, whatever you want to accomplish together.
Think about it, if you both work full-time, the odds are that between the two of you, you're spending at least 80 hours a week at work. I think you'll agree that it's not too much to ask that you dedicate a few hours to plan the future of your marriage. One way to feel a powerful connection is to build a relationship plan complete with a vision statement, then put it in motion and feel the satisfaction of reaching major milestones together. Keep in mind that you can do this if you are newlyweds or have been married for many years. Commitment to your marriage is a personal decision that you can do daily through your words and actions.
Now, for the little things, start by developing the daily habit to use alternative ways to connect. Email your spouse, leave a note, text them, send flowers, leave a voice message about how much you miss your spouse. Let him or her know you don't like the distance and do something daily to close the gap.
Remember, feeling distant can even happen to couples who spend every minute together. Connecting with your spouse is not so much about time together, it's about what you do to feel connected when you are apart.
I'm back, and as I have often stated in this column, I do not believe marriage takes work, but rather it takes focus and intentionality. So the concept of treating your marriage as a business appeals to me in many ways. I'll be discussing more about this with John Curtis tomorrow on my weekly radio program TWOgether as ONE. It airs on KLJH 107.1FM at 6 p.m. I sure hope you can join us and that you'll consider getting a copy of "The Business of Love" or "The Mission of Love." I've got a hunch you'll be glad you did.