The Partnership Mission Statement


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

So. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were on Oprah* yesterday, and when they started talking about their marriage business plan, and I totally perked up my ears. Had it been someone less interesting than Will Smith, I’m sure ‘marriage business plan’ would have gotten a serious eye roll, but I had a feeling they were on to something. Which they were. What they were talking about was not making your marriage a business, or say, making lots of money with your partner. What they were talking about was the idea that it’s hard for a partnership to survive on just liking each other, or hell, on LOVING each other. And it’s hard for a partnership to survive on convenience – you earn the money, I’ll watch the kids, say. For a partnership to survive over the long haul, you need to feel like you’re going somewhere together. You need to feel like you have a purpose.

Of course, I loved it.

I’m generally skeptical of *love* driving a marriage. Yeah, I know how that sounds. But here is the thing – emotions are fickle. One day they are playing by your rules, and the next day – WATCH OUT. I mean, my mom’s tried and true marriage advice is always, “Good days and bad days? Try good years and bad years!” or “You know you love them when you find yourself thinking, ‘if you you don’t start making THAT BREATHING NOISE farther away from me, I might have to kill you.’”

Which? Right. That’s what we call realism.

So I really like the idea of the partnership mission statement,** even if it’s of the more unwritten, free-form kind. When friends of mine take me away for the relationship talk (you know the: ‘you’re in a happy, stable, long term relationship, whadda got?’ talk) I always say that part of the reason I married David (and I suspect part of the reason he married me) is that he makes my dreams seem do-able… and then he makes me do them. Like I’ll be whining about wedding planning, for example, and then he’ll say, “You should start your own wedding blog. You should call it A Practical Wedding.” And then he’ll make me do it. Or when I’m whining about not knowing what to do with my blog next, and how I want to redesign it, he’ll make me follow through and re-design it. And TRUST me, I do the same thing for him, wanted or not. I give a good swift-kick-in-the-pants.

So that’s why we work, long term. It’s not just love, though love is nice. But that fuzzy-love-emotion does not pay rent while you’re in law school, that’s the love-as-ass-kicking-goal-setting action. We both expect a lot from each other, and neither of us likes to be disappointed. Which doesn’t mean that we don’t both fail all over the place, and not live up, and whine. Because sweet baby jesus, we do. But then we encourage the other person to stand up and keep moving. And stop whining.

So for us, our marriage mission statement has evolved over our five plus years together. We have general goals, they keep changing, and we keep discussing them. Then we have specific goals. I’ve talked about how pre-wedding we both wrote out life lists, and then we compared them, and marked down the goals that were the same. That was helpful. Some of the goals are really serious (law school, say) and some of the goals are really frivolous (drinking whisky in Scotland, say) but it helps us to know what our goals are, and more than that to know that we both really value, and EXPECT, each other to keep on working to reach them.

So for us, that works. Most days. And on the other days, the days we want to kill each other, I just remind myself what my mom says, “GOOD YEARS AND BAD YEARS.” And realize that even though I want to KILL him, we keep on building a pretty good life together.

And usually, that’s enough. -ish.

*Yes. For the uninitiated, I totally watch Oprah. Maggie Mason has this great bit about watching Oprah and then in mixed company saying, “I saw…… on the…. TV” and most of the women in the room giving the knowing nod. I’m totally a knowing nod giver.

** A term first introduced to me by reader Hannah, she of the birthing of the baby family.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • http://2000dollarwedding.com Sara E. Cotner

    Yes, yes, yes to everything you said here, Meg! I generally try not to pimp my own blogs on other people’s blogs, but I feel compelled to share that Matt and I started this process here: http://www.feedingthesoil.com/2010/01/family-mission-statement.html. We’re still in the drafting stages, but it’s been a really helpful process. Once we’re finished, I would like to stick it up on the wall or something (but definitely in a format that lends itself to more revision). I think it will always be a work in progress. Thanks for this insightful post, Meg!

    • http://onecatoneperson.blogspot.com Angie

      This is great! My fiance and I did something similar when we started planning our wedding. We developed a set of pillars that is helping us plan our wedding. It’s HEAVILY inspired by Sara and her wedding goals. It’s really worked so far. One day we actually considered inviting 150 more people (long story), but then he said, “that doesn’t really go with the pillars.” And I agreed, so we didn’t do it. MAGIC! I try to thank Sara all the time on her blog, but you two (yes, you Meg and also ESB) have been inspirational in our planning.

      I’m all for mission statements and creating a common vision. I also agree that love is not enough, but it’s a very good place to start. LOVE THIS POST!

      • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

        Pillars…that’s brilliant.

    • http://www.bearandhoney.net jules

      Thanks for the link, Sara! It’s a great example of how to approach the “mission statement” idea. :)

    • http://www.verhext.com verhext

      This is so great. I just read it outloud to my fiance and he yelled COOKIES & WIINE! THIS IS A COOKIES & WINE FAMILY!! YOU WANT TO BE PART OF THIS FAMILY, YOU EAT COOKIES & WINE!

      Ahem. Um, no. We need to eat well and exercise. Yes.

      I’ve always been a huge fan of Intention writing & checking in for myself — it helps a lot, and of course makes perfect sense to do as a couple.

      • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

        Cookies and wine?! May I be a part of that family? My partner won’t mind, I’m sure…

      • Rizu

        I wanna be in the cookies and wine family too!!! Your dude rocks.

        • http://www.verhext.com verhext

          We really did eat cookies & wine for dinner. Oh dear!

          We talked more and decided that on our trip back home to VT next week we’ll start laying out goals & intentions – I already have a “life goal” list so we’ll so how well it meshes! (Pretty well, I think!)

          I even started thinking about using parts of this as vows at the wedding!

          • http://www.verhext.com verhext

            umm, we’ll SEE how well, not SO how well. What?

          • meg

            Um. I kind of want you to write about this after. I’m fascinated already (and owe you an email. It’s been a long week)

  • S

    I love this! I’m adding to our list of summer projects.

    I also love the acknowledgment that happy, healthy marriages include driving each other crazy. One of my favorite lines about marriage comes from someone asking her grandmother (married for 60 years) if she ever thought about divorce; the response was “Divorce? Never. Murder? Every day.”

  • Angela

    YES! THIS POST! You have no idea how much I can relate to this, Meg. I am currently planning my October wedding, working full-time and going to school. My fiance is already done with school, but he also works full-time and whenever I get home, dinner is basically ready and my fiance calms me down and I help him calm down from his day. Just making our dinner when I get home proves to me that he is my #1 cheerleader (and you’d believe it too by the other things he does, especially how he has helped so much with wedding stuff). Whenever I tell him that he should just eat dinner when he gets home, he always tells me that he would hate to eat dinner without me (“It’s more fun to share!”) and he would never want my dinner to be cold. And he ain’t no “Here’s a microwavable burrito, Babe!” kinda guy, he’s a “Here are your rosemary and lavender crusted lamb chops with side of garlic mashed potatoes” kinda guy. He even loves doing this at 9:30 at night! I don’t know how much my dad is paying him to keep me off his hands, but I’m glad he is. ;) Anyway, his actions alone make me want to be better for him and myself. It makes me realize that I do want to start a family with a man who supports everything I do and makes me want to push myself as much as I do and he lets me push him to pursue things that we both truly believe he is worthy of having (higher pay, better jobs, etc.). So I will end this long comment with one of my favorite quotes: “If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” – johann wolfgang von goethe

  • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

    hm. i think in your mondo-post someone asked for a post on what love is. kind of a giant topic i guess, but i think it could be interesting.

    for me, love isn’t that mushy feeling. that’s… attraction, mixed with chemistry, mixed with butterflies and memories or something.

    love is consciously setting aside yourself for the other person. meaning, setting aside what you want/feel./think for the other person… which in the best (can i say that?) marriages doesn’t have to happen for the big things (ie, law school and scotland) but usually happens for the small things (toothpaste and toilet paper). for example, when i’m really annoyed with josh, that’s when i most need to say “i love you.” because i’m not feeling that mushy feeling- and we need to verify to one another that love is still there, even when we don’t feel it.

    /tangent

    will and jada always astound me with their marriage advice. aaand they usually are pretty well-dressed, which is extra points in my book.

    • http://onecatoneperson.blogspot.com Angie

      Will and Jada are fly. And did you see Willow’s side shave? FLY!

      http://www.essence.com/images/mt/willow_article.jpg

    • http://www.bearandhoney.net jules

      I often try to remind my fiance that when I am feeling edgy and pushing him away, that is when I most need to know he loves me (and it’s probably also when he needs to know I love him.)

      • Ashley

        That is so me and that is a hard thing to explain to someone who when he’s edgy and pushing me away really wants to be left alone, but we’re working on it and it’s getting better and i love him all the more for trying so hard to understand my seeminly backwards ways.

    • Tricia

      Scott Peck’s book “The Road Less Traveled” is all about this idea of love as action and attitude rather than emotion. It is well worth reading.

      • Beth

        Someone who plays off of Peck and others is bell hooks, in her books “all about love” and “communion: the female search for love.” I highly recommend them!

  • Katie

    I had a friend in college who watched Oprah all the time, and one time some subject came up in a conversation and he said, “oh yeah! We were talking about this on Oprah the other day.”

  • elemjay

    Hmm is it too late to ask for community insight on how can marriage support both partners’ growth? I’ve got the acceptance and tolerance thing down. But I really don’t know how to help my husband in growing. E.g. he has moaned about his job consistenly in the 6.5 years we have known each other but has actually applied for about 3 jobs during that time – how do I (lovingly) help him get a grip on this??

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      I KNOW.

      for me, it was a matter of helping josh get excited about job searching- because, to be honest, it can be a pain in the butt. not to mention, in this economoy (i get sick of saying those three words together any more).

      so i helped josh redo his entire resume- and kind of make it design-y and cool (he’s a graphic designer). we bought business cards and some funky thrifted ysl ties (yes. i bought ysl ties for 99cents each… hollerrr)

      that has done loads more than any amount of nagging i used to do.

      • FK

        Brilliant!

    • Marina

      Heh, my husband is going through EXACTLY this right now–and I ask directly. “What can I do to support you in your job search?” Because maybe the answer is proofreading his resume, or telling him encouraging things, or making sure he exercises so he has the energy for the job search, or, I don’t know, buying him a nice pen to fill out applications? But I would never know until I ask, and plus it can even be different on different days. Or maybe he’ll say one thing at first, but a week later he’ll say, “You know, actually it’d be nice if you did the exact opposite of the first thing I asked you to do.” I just have to go with it.

      • Kim

        My fiance is going through this too…I’d love to have a family business plan, but I’ve already asked him for help on wedding-related to-dos while he’s already in the midst of a job search (i.e. he applies for a new job every few weeks when money gets tight). I guess I’ll have to save this for a rainy day.

        I try to support my fiance as much as possible, but he’s a distractable procrastinator, so it’s tough getting him to do anything unless he wants to concentrate on it. On days when he feels like he wants to make a larger contribution, he’ll look for a full-time, full-paying job (he has two part-time jobs right now). But lately, it’s been tough to get him to take action.

        I’m trying to use positive reinforcement – i.e. fawn over him if he applies for a job, taking him out for ice cream if he gets an interview (at least that’s the plan), but there isn’t too much to congratulate him for at this point. He seems stuck, again. Any tips, anyone?

        • http://www.wifetacular.com Michelle

          we are also in the husband-job-searching boat, and, well, it kind of blows. Maybe it’s just my husband in particular, or maybe it’s all men in general, but he gets so down in the dumps so fast about this job search that it’s really been hard to try to find different ways to support him. It’s true about this marriage stuff that we are really both in it together. Currently, our marriage mission statement is Get Husband New Job, and I need to think some new idea to up his self-esteem and confidence to conquer this awful job market.

          • Meg P

            Just on the topic of husbands/fiances without jobs, I totally understand this basket and how frustrating it can be:

            My fiance doesn’t have a “proper” job, he’s studying at the moment, and part of me gets really stressed that we don’t have much money to work with. But in our grandmothers’ day (well mine anyway) part of what bonded couples in the early stages of marriage was that when they got married the woman would quit her job to start making babies and living on one income was a shared hardship that inevitably made their relationship stronger.

            When I started to see our current situation as laying the foundations for dealing with future hardships by bringing us closer together I realised how lucky we are to be going through this now.

          • Marina

            … I REALLY don’t know if this will be helpful, but I just asked my job-searching-husband what I should tell y’all about what he’s doing to not get too depressed. And he said he’s been making me tea every night when I get home from work, and everyone else’s husband should do that too.

            … I dunno, I’m going to guess that makes him feel like he’s done something that’s at least useful to someone? And I’m definitely pretty effusively thankful about it, so maybe that helps too? Eh, I really don’t know. That was kind of random.

        • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

          i think building toward a bigger goal than just a paycheck is pretty key. josh is stuck in a retail job- not utilizing his degree. or his skills. or his years of experience (he’s surrounded by 17-year-olds).

          but mapping out, “ok. here is what i REALLY want to do with my career.” and then designing a roadmap to get there really added some gusto… some purpose, even. so his motivation is not just, “oh crap, we’ve been late on the rent every month,” but also a small step in a bigger plan.

          again, those dreadful words… but, in this economy, we’re at that awful point where he’s ready to take ANY job vaguely related to his passion/degree. and THAT’s what blows for him. the fact that he’s getting turned down by jobs that he was just settling for, anyway.

          this is a generalization, but guys typically don’t like failure. (umm, who does?) and they see it in those very black-and-white terms. failure vs victory. so to try day in and day out and get nowhere makes josh feel not just useless, but like a major failure and disappointment (not true!). when he can look at this fruitless job search within the scope of a grand evil scheme to take over the design world, it’s not SO depressing. it’s not failure. it’s just one step in the long, long process toward success.

          the other piece is like i said above- making the job search less like drudgery. not only did we revamp his portfolio and wardrobe, etc but when josh DOES make an interview (or at this point, even get a call back) we go out for a beer. celebrate the little (itty bitty, teensy weensy) successes.

  • Sarah Beth

    I love the idea of a mission statement!

    But I must say, while love alone is not enough, it’s pretty damn important. And I don’t mean the swooning, googly-eyes sort. That is a phase. (And something that can reappear in marriage, but is still too fickle to rely on.) Love is what keeps you from becoming homicidal over your partner’s most annoying habits.While I usually shy away from quoting theologians, I think C.S. Lewis says is in a most eloquent way:

    “If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

    • Rizu

      I am going to try to use this reading at our wedding, if the church will let us.

  • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

    This post reminds me of a movie that is beloved by all the women in my extended family. In the beginning of *Moonstruck,* Cher wakes her mother (Olympia Dukakis) to tell her she’s engaged to Johnny Camarari. Olympia says “Do you love him?” and Cher says she doesn’t, but she likes him. Olympia says “that’s good because when you love them, they drive you crazy.”

    At the end of the movie, when Cher gets engaged to Johnny’s brother, Ronnie, and she’s standing in the kitchen surrounded by her whole family staring completely googly-eyed at her new fiance, the following dialogue happens:
    Olympia: “Do you love him, Loretta?”
    Cher: “Ma, I love him awful.”
    O: “Oh that’s too bad.”

    1. If you haven’t seen this movie, go. Now!
    2. Love isn’t easy, or pretty, or enough. Having a business plan can fill in when love turns to drive-me-crazy. Great idea!

  • http://www.palindromebride.blogspot.com Melinda

    Your mother’s advice is quite similar to what my grandmother said on the occasion of her 50th wedding anniversary. The grandchildren had asked her what the secret to a long marriage was and she answered, “Well, sometimes, you’re just not going to like the other person very much. Sometimes it’s for two days and sometimes it’s for two years. But when you compare 50 to 2, it doesn’t seem so bad.” I couldn’t understand this before marriage, and I’m sure I only understand in part (since it’s been less than a year of marriage), but I’m starting to see how working on a marriage is caught up in the work that goes into showing them love even when you don’t feel it in your heart.

  • jolynn

    UM, again, LOVE YOU. Seriously, this is how I live. Love is great, and all, but hell f*ckin yes to the realism. (And ok, I really like love.)

  • http://socybride.wordpress.com Tamara

    I love Team Practical. You are so there for me, even BEFORE I need you. And I needed this conversation today.

  • http://allthingszilla.wordpress.com Bret Turner

    My fiancée and I were in fact just recently talking about writing a mission statement and even (though we hadn’t used this word yet) making a business plan for our wedding and our marriage in general. I think it’s a great idea. I was just reading about my favorite athlete (Oakland A’s Jack Cust) and how when he was younger his father and him developed a “Baseball Business Plan” for him to find success as a professional athlete. Needless to say, it worked.

    And yeah, I agree that love isn’t enough to drive a marriage. Though I’m not married yet, so I couldn’t say for sure. But I will say that love is the thing that, in my relationship, always keeps us on track and rights us when we’re wrong. Always keeping the fact that we love each other in the forefront of our minds has been key, so much so that we made a rule that we can never deny the other a kiss regardless of the circumstances, and that we can hold hands during a big argument if we want. I think that a great relationship can be driven by love, but not always directly – sometimes it’s the mere remembrance of love that can get a couple through good times ands bad.

  • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

    This post speaks to why I’m so happy and confident in my relationship. We push each other to do the stuff we say we are going to do. I’m pretty sure I would have given up on grad school if it wasn’t for Mr. Beagle. I’m sure he wouldn’t be building his own photography business on the side without my help. We need each other to achieve our goals, it’s as simple as that.

    Also, we push each other to be more fulfilled people, not just in terms of goals, but in life. Exposing each other to things and ideas we would never have had. This is another reason we work great together. Helping each other achieve goals and new life experiences.

  • http://www.bearandhoney.net jules

    Hallelujah, yes!

    Having been with my hubs-to-be for awhile now, I can absolutely tell you that this is a major reason I know marriage will work with him. He loves and adores me, yes, but he also fundamentally believes in my dreams — often before *I* believe in them.

    Thank you!

  • Katrina

    I really loved reading all the comments to this post. I think i needed this today

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    Thank you. I definitely need this today, as I contemplate leaving the job I love dearly to accompany my husband across the country to his amazing grad school offer. He pursued the opportunity because we agreed on a pillar of being closer to family, which it would do, and yet now I have to decide what it will take for me to be able to walk away from my career and try to reestablish myself in a somewhat small town that may not have much job availability. Reinvent myself careerwise in a way that allows me to freelance? Perhaps. But thinking about us as the team is what makes all of this worthwhile.

  • http://www.alosangeleslove.com Becca

    So much to say in response. But for now, just yes. We’re not building our marriage on love. We’re building our marriage on conviction, passion, shared goals, separate goals that we both support, an understanding that life is oftentimes hard and awful, and the more important understanding that we’re going to work hard to keep this working as we push through to the good years.

  • http://www.koruwedding.com KoruKate

    I wish I had been able to see this Oprah but I’m glad I got to read about it. Marriage is a scary prospect with the high divorce rate. Long before we got engaged, my then-boyfriend & I sat down & talked about our hopes, dreams, goals & expectations to confirm they complemented one another. Maybe the next step, months before our wedding, is our partnership mission statement.

    I’m still new to this blog & I have to say again that it’s so refreshing to find a wedding blog that reaches past the tulle & flowers to tackle the real side of engagement/marriage. Kudos!

  • http://newlydomesticated.blogspot.com Newly Domesticated

    I love this idea and I’m going to try to convince my fiance to talk about our life goals, despite the inevitable eye-rolling. I spent last night helping him edit and rewrite a cover letter, and I’ve spent too many hair-pulling nights nagging him about how he needs to think about his next career move. In times like that, it can be so easy to get frustrated and think we would be better off alone, but you’re right, this is what love is about. I’ve been thinking lately that marriage vows should be less about “You complete me” and more about “I’m willing to hitch my life to yours and make you my business partner in this thing we call life.”

  • ElfPuddle

    Thank you. Thank you.

    I gave up a nearly-perfect teaching job in the Midwest to move to the Deep South to be with the monkey I’m engaged to. (He couldn’t even think of moving…the custody arrangements of baby monkeys made it unthinkable.)
    1) I don’t do well in hot weather.
    2) I love cold weather.
    3) I love endless horizons.
    4) I. LOVED. MY. JOB. (And they loved me…I was head of the department and teacher of the year.)
    5) I love Mr. Monkey.
    6) I want to spend my life with him.
    7) I love the baby monkeys and I make a wonderful Mama Monkey.
    So I moved.
    And now my professional life is tatters. It took me a year after moving to find a school that would hire me (Y’all ain’t from here, are ye?). And now, two years later, they aren’t having me back next year (no money in the budget). Now I have to start this process all over again.

    And Mr. Monkey is still supporting me, still helping me, still loves me. Not only does he boost my spirits when I get down about finding an f*ing job in this f*ing economy, but he reminds me why I search for a teaching job instead of giving up and joining former students in the burger-flipping industry. (Don’t get me wrong, I love burgers and need burger-flippers. However, I went to college to do something else.)

    All that’s to say, YES. Marriage is not all sugar and roses. It’s the hard stuff, too. And that’s why we do it together.

  • Marina

    On the one hand, I tooooootally agree with this. Realism = FTW, and basing a partnership on more than googly eyes = extra FTW.

    But on the other hand. I have had the honor and pleasure of watching my parents’ relationship change and deepen during their 30 years of marriage. And they are gaga in love–they kiss each other every evening when my dad gets home from work, and I’m not talking about a peck on the cheek. They joke with each other and cook each other dinner and go on bicycling winery tours. Their marriage is full of love.

    And the thing is, that’s been very purposeful for them. They went through a “bad years” patch when I was 8 or 9 or so, and I think since then have made a very deliberate goal to do things like kiss each other every evening, and joke around, and do romantic things. I don’t think emotions are as fickle as all that–I think they thrive in some enviroments and wither in others, and one of the wackiest things about emotions is that the thing they thrive on most is themselves. The more I love my husband, the more I am able to love him.

    So I totally agree that goals should be part of a marriage, and I also think that maintaining and deepening love should be one of those goals. Perhaps that’s my marriage mission statement: I want to wake up every morning and think, “Today I am going to love my husband.” Perhaps I will be in a bad mood, or sick, or stressed out the wazoo, or perhaps he will. But I want to still take a deep breath and kiss him, tell him I love him, thank him for being my partner, and let myself FEEL love for him, no matter what else is going on.

    (Er, and I hope none of this sounds like I’m directly disagreeing with you, Meg! I mean it more in the spirit of an addendum than a contradiction.)

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      totally.

      i think the mushy love often comes as a result of the hard-time-love. the grit our teeth and buckle down cause we’re in it together love serves as the soil and food for the mush. when you’re first gaga in love, it’s the result of maybe attraction or whatever. but later on, you can be 50 and saggy and still have that spark or those butterflies… now rooted in a firmer foundation.

      meg’s point that we can’t rely on the googly eyes to pull us through is way valid. but reminding ourselves why we ever were googly-eyed… and reminding him that he still makes us that way… that stuff can’t hurt.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        This is an excellent point in relation to Marinas post – Marina, your parents went through that hard patch and came out of it obviously determined to work on their relationship. This means for a while there, they werent googly-eyed in love with each other. Its great that they are again now though, especially in these divorce ridden days!

  • Emily

    I’m not a planner, so a “business plan for marriage” sounds awful to me. I completely get the benefits of having shared goals, or supporting each other’s personal goals, and making a plan for that. I like that. My parents were not able to do that, leading to much heartbreak and eventual divorce. However, I also love the riskier, thrilling side of marriage that doesn’t have plans, where each person in the couple has their own vision for their lives, and while parts might overlap, other parts don’t…but you agree to be tethered to one another as you each seek, sometimes together, but often separately, a meaningful life. A marriage where you are safe and comforted, but not necessarily on a team. Maybe this is just another way of talking about plans without talking about them. I’m not sure.

    • Lisa

      I’m half with you on this one Emily. I’ve been struggling for a while with the idea of pre-marital counseling and formal life plans, and I am really just not a planner either. I’ve always aspired to be one, but it is not something I get enjoyment out of. I’m pretty young to be getting married (23) so I was sort of hoping this skill would come with age and maturity, but I’m starting to realize that this is who I am, and really, who my FH is as well.

      We do have core beliefs as a couple, and share a general life philosophy, but…ok, our honeymoon is a cross country road trip where our only goal was to not plan anything and just adventure about. This is us. And NOT planning things, NOT having mission statements, is delightful to us. We identify plans and missions and spreadsheets with work, and that is not what we want to bring home as a couple.

      This does not mean that we don’t support each other’s goals. I’m going back to school full time in the fall, and he has been extraordinarily supportive. I have been cheerleading for his ideas for an independent video game design studio. But it’s not something we need or want to have written out that we as a couple are obligated to do this.

      When hard times come along, which of course they always do, one of our tactics for maintaining closeness is instituting a sex week. It’s exactly what it sounds like, having sex every day for a week (at least). It helps maintain closeness and remind us of the love that carries us through. It’s a hell of a lot more fun than a marriage business plan, but different strokes for different folks and all. All the freaky people make the beauty of the world, doncha know.

      • Paige

        HA! sex week = awesome. i think my fiance and i are similar to you and yours. we love to travel and frequently backpack less developed countries with very little planning set in place… so we shall see how this translates into our future marriage…

      • meg

        First of all, I don’t thinking have a partnership mission statement (or just a shared sense of mission) has anything to do with being obligated to accomplishing things, or even about knowing where the road is going to take you. But it does have to do with having some dreams together, and something bigger than yourselves that you are working on/ for.

        Because here is the thing – sex week is good. Sex week is good for times when you’re annoyed at each other, or even pissed at each other, and trying to remind yourselves that you care and work past it. But there are so many HUGE things that come in a lifetime of marriage that sex week isn’t going to touch. A partner having serious mental health issues, or a parent dying, or having to declare bankruptcy. And in those times when it feels like your life (and by extension your partnership) is falling apart, for MANY of us it helps to know that we have a shared sense of purpose. That there is a reason we’re working as a team.

        It helps, if in no other moment, in the moments of serious sacrifice that come with marriage. Because trust me, if during our darkest times in law school, the times when I felt like I was sacrificing my dreams and days to get us through…. if David had suggested sex week to make it better? Yeah. I would have told him he would DEFINITELY be having sex week, because he was going to go f*ck himself ;)

        So it’s good to have something you can hang on to for moments like those. Not to mention for fun things, like Scotland.

        • robin

          YES. Thanks, Meg.

          (And. LOVE that you are a sort-of-secret Oprah watcher. Watching this episode on Tivo now.)

        • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

          Haaaa! Nail on head and soooo funny with it! (“Exactly!” wasn’t enough for this one!)

        • Lisa

          Well, my dad was diagnosed a few years ago with bipolar disorder. They’ve been through bankruptcy, serious mental illness, death and life shattering moves, and I won’t say there haven’t been bad years (they’re just coming out of several bad years now, and divorce was definitely discussed at several points). But somehow they stuck with it.

          I was talking with my mom about her doing a reading for the ceremony. I wanted her to do something from The Little Prince, but she insisted on Corinthians. For her, it is not a dry piece of bible read at every wedding ever. I was nervous because my fiance and I are staunch atheists, but when I expressed my concerns, here is what she said to me:

          “I went back and read the poem. No mention of any deities at all. It is really a beautiful poem. And last night as I sat and listened to Daddy, because he was manic and a little afraid, and I really thought about it. The greatest gift is love, but it is really self-love, because you really have to be able to leave yourself in order to love another person, and not one us can survive well without love, it is kind, it is not boastful, it simply is, and I would really like to read that poem.

          By the way Daddy went to the Dr. this morning, and will be ok, but I still have to accept and learn to live with an illness that will probably always come and go. This I do for love.”

          Believe me, they did not have a mission statement when they got married. I just want to give a shout out to love in this conversation, because I really do agree with you all with the plans and the goals (we’ve got goals too that we work towards together!) but if you don’t have love at the end of the day, you’ve just got a business partnership, and that is not what I want in my marriage.

          • meg

            Well, but that’s exactly what we’re talking about, right? Your mom is driven by something bigger than her. Sounds to me like they absolutely have a mission together. That’s not sex week keeping them together, that’s not googly eyed love, that’s kick-your-ass kind of love…. that’s love as ACTION, which is ***exactly*** what we’re discussing.

          • Lisa

            Just a reminder Meg, you DID say “I’m generally skeptical of *love* driving a marriage.” Whereas I would say that love DOES drive the marriage. I’m not talking about googly eyed love either. We aren’t really disagreeing here. Just clarifying.

          • meg

            Yeah. But I think you’re taking me a little out of context there.

        • Paige

          Just want to note I’ve never taken part in sex week (altho might give it a try). And definitely have big life goals set in place with my fiance. But I do appreciate the mix of some things planned and some things unknown. I want to be able to tackle the big moments and hardships, but also want to appreciate the random times and how we were able to overcome them without a plan set in place. I guess I’m a little confused how people plan for everything and why it’s so important to have a mission statement. Are too many boundaries a bad thing? I just don’t want to take all the excitement away. Is it ok if you have great communication when dealing with difficulties that you don’t need something drafted on paper? I’m all for writing down goals and comparing (we do it alllll the time). Just don’t quite understand the “marriage business plan”. Maybe I’m too naive… Maybe I should give it a try…

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        hm. maybe i misread the post, but i didn’t feel that the mission statement was a detailed plan of what’s to come. like, yeah. meg said she and david listed what goals they have an junk. but i kinda thought that was a side-project or parallel thought.

        i think of a mission statement as more of a purpose, i guess. like a “here’s why we’re together and what we’re working towards… not just because i like hanging out with you and you look pretty hot in those teeny american apparel swim trunks.”

        mission statement for me and josh sort of fleshed itself out as this all-glueing-idea that his purpose in marrying me is to care for me and make me a better person. my purpose in marrying him is to care for him and make him a better person.

        the outworking of that is fluid and changing. right now, it’s a matter of helping josh pursue a design career. but maybe one day work in design won’t be a goal any longer. it’s still the underlying purpose. and having that underlying purpose is good to continually draw yourself back… when we’re having a fight or not seeing eye to eye, we can readjust our focus by asking, “does this align? am i caring for josh, and helping him become a better person?”

  • angela

    Wait….I’m with you for most of this post, but bad YEARS? Like, you really don’t get along or like each other for YEARS at time? I don’t know how I feel about this…mostly, I’m curious and want to know more from the married ladies. (I’m single, and “just like it around here.”)

    I understand that, realistically, there would be bad years, but does that still make “forever-marriages” the healthiest relationships for humans? Very interested to hear more about this from the insightful and intelligent women of this community.

    • meg

      Heck yeah, bad years! I think most families have bad years (I think most humans have bad years). Lucky ones don’t, but we can’t expect that. I mean, sometimes you’re just feeling a bit over each other, but then there is death, health issues, unemployment, small children, extended family issues, etc. It’s easy to think those things won’t affect our partnership, but I think that’s wildly unrealistic.

      I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think divorce is a good thing sometimes (we’ve had friends we prayed would figure it out and get divorced, as they dragged each other further and further down). But I think we’re sold a very unrealistic set of ideas about always being happy with our partner. Because? No one is even happy with *themselves* all the time, let alone someone else.

      I don’t think marriage is the healthiest relationship for all humans, but I think it’s healthy for lots of humans, bad years included.

      • http://artfuldodger.livejournal.com Hayley

        I agree — and “bad years” go beyond 2-person married relationships, they happen in life in general, they can occur to a whole family unit, I think. As a rather extreme example, my family moved to a different state when I was a teenager, and everyone in my family was off-kilter for about 3 years. We were all going through a similar experience, which included a lot of loss, a lot of anger, upheaval…things that are a part of life, and while there were good things that happened in those 3 years…..as a family unit, they were 3 Bad Years. The 3 Bad Years were the direct result of moving, yes, but have there been other Good Years and other Bad Years outside of that? Sure.

        And to quote Rebecca Traister, “I’m just not sure that “happiness” is supposed to be the stable human condition, and I think it’s punishing that we’re constantly being pushed to achieve it” (http://www.salon.com/life/feminism/index.html?story=/mwt/feature/2010/05/10/screw_happiness). I think a goal of always being “in love” is unrealistic, just as I think the goal of “always being happy” is unrealistic….and unpleasant, really, because while being in love and having fun are good, nice, wonderful things….I think that if that’s ALL we ever experience, we’re missing out on the larger spectrum of life’s offerings. Both the good and the bad. Yes, those 3 Bad Years within my family were tough on all of us. But we stuck it out, and right now, my little baby family with my husband is in a Good Year phase, and when the time comes for a Bad Year or even plural Bad Years…I’ll be ready to stick them out in hopes of more Good Years. I hope.

        • meg

          I like this bit from the Screw Happiness piece: “Unhappiness is propellant; disappointment and dismay prompt us to work for a better grade, to ask for a promotion or seek a new job, to search for a more affordable or comfortable abode, to go out at night and meet someone new, to try to get pregnant or decide not to have another kid. More specifically, the elements of life that make us sad or upset or bored show us what we do not want; they give shape and specificity to what it is we do want and perhaps the motivation to work toward it.”

          Because UH-HUH. I think unhappiness, or happiness, are such good and honest teachers. We’ll think, “blah blah blah I should get pregnant” and then our inner self pipes up and says things like, “No way! I’m really happy right now.” Or, “I’m frankly getting sick of going out all the time and not having kids, and I’m sort of unhappy and that sounds wonderful.” And those sort of inner guides are so much better then all the “You’ll seeeee’s” and the “You really shhhhoouuuulllllddd’s” that we’re sold.

          Also, on the same line of thought, looking back, some of our worst times really have lead to some of our best times, or best decisions, or f*ck, just DECISIONS already. I mean, when we got together I was not well. Seriously. I was ill. And we didn’t know what it was or when/ if I’d get better. Who starts a relationship like that? Well. We did (we were separately best friends and knew each other inside and out, I should add. It might have been nuts otherwise). And the fact that we were able to steer out of those choppy waters into smoother waters together made it seem like, yes, this could be a long haul thing. Or David was unhappy with his job, and then we figured out maybe law school was the thing. Or other big and small moments of hardship.

          But yes. I’m not sure I’d wish a lifetime of happiness on anyone. Ain’t no strength in that. And besides, if you’d always been blissfully happy together, what sort of coping skills would you have when things started going wrong at 75?

          • Marisa-Andrea

            “But yes. I’m not sure I’d wish a lifetime of happiness on anyone. Ain’t no strength in that. And besides, if you’d always been blissfully happy together, what sort of coping skills would you have when things started going wrong at 75?”

            And there it is right there. One of our own partnership “pacts” if you will, is to embrace ALL of the experiences of life TOGETHER because we both agree, that is what makes life rich, true and meaningful. Cheesy, but hey — there’s no gain without pain. Lol. But seriously, I agree — perpetual happiness while it sounds nice in theory does not actually provide for a richer and fuller journey together. I’m thankful for the tough times because exactly — some of our best decisions were borne out of those tough times and sometimes those tough times just teach us HOW to get THROUGH something TOGETHER. That’s a lesson all of its own.

    • Marina

      I’ve only been married for 10 months, but I’ve been living with Zack for 5 years, and even in that span of time we’ve had periods of several bad months in a row. So I can easily imagine that over 50 years, there’ll totally be some bad years in there.

      I guess the thing for me is… “getting along with” and “liking” each other isn’t everything. A long term relationship should still have a solid foundation even when those aren’t part of the every day. And for me at least, deciding to get married was deciding that that foundation was strong enough to survive not having the “getting along with each other” part for a few years here and there.

      Plus, I have found that the periods right AFTER the bad periods are generally really damn awesome. ;) So, yeah, I think forever marriages are totally worth sticking through the bad parts to get to the awesomer parts. Like other smart ladies have said, the things we learn during the bad parts make the good parts better.

  • Darcy

    During the pre-marital weekend retreat our favourite part of the entire weekend was when we were sent out to create a marriage mission statement over lunch. The instructions actually said to order wine and dessert with lunch and hash it out, recognizing it is a living document and will change during the years. Brilliant.

    Also, I suggest a post on “Family and/or Oprah Wisdom”. One of my favourite memories is coming home from university to have my mom sit me down and explain that Oprah’s show was all about things women wished their mother had told them. I was very excited to hear the wisdom of the ages bestowed upon me. She looked me straight in the eye and said “Someday you will have chin hair.”

    • Mama Giggles

      lol Yes you will

  • MegsDad

    I still remember the basic idea of the sermon our friend David Green preached at our wedding: Love is an act of will. I have mulled over it for years, and found it to make more and more sense.

    And let me second the recommendation to watch Moonstruck.

  • Saartjie

    I’m struck by two (seemingly) divergent “schools” of marriage: one that is actually producing a written, solid document of their marriage plan; and another that baulks at the idea of being tied to particular plan.

    As awesome as the crew who have written out a proper “marriage mission statement” (or similar document) sound, I also think that a couple can have a strong set of goals and principles without actually setting them out in point form. On the other hand, however, to not know what those principled goals are must be incredibly overwhelming for a marriage. To use a cheesy sailing metaphor: I’m all for stopping in at whichever remote island or shore one might pass (or learn about) along the way, but to just be tossing around in the great big ocean of life without a route in mind leaves one (or two!) far too susceptible to squalls and currents. And shipwreck = bad.

    I think of our marriage goals a bit like customary law (er, I’m a lawyer in southafrica) which is not based on statutes and precedent but on principles that are developed, learnt and thus instinctively known by each member of the community. By its nature, customary law shouldn’t be cannonised because if those principles are too strict and solid, there is no room for manoeuvre and development as the community changes (or, say, erm, the country adopts a progressive constitution). This gives a certainty which is tempered by flexibility.

    So maybe a marriage plan should have the same certainty without rigidity? In our new marriage (we’re a long way from 50 years!) we know our plansandgoals intimately and constantly remind each other of them because *we* give life to the goals we have chosen. But we (i.e. both partners) can also adapt The Plan as we go along.

    • Paige

      I guess this kinda helps with my doubt earlier about making too rigid of a business plan vs too lenient of setting goals. I’m still not really sure where the ‘happy medium’ lies. Probably different for every couple and can’t really expect anyone to know the answer, right?

  • http://projectsubrosa.blogspot.com Cate Subrosa

    “I’m generally skeptical of *love* driving a marriage.”

    I just wanted to “Exactly!” this line. (It’s a pity you can’t put those little “Exactly!” stars all the way through your posts, because you know we’re all nodding along here… guss it would get kinda messy though :p )

  • Mary

    Your blog is just so damn PERTINENT! My fiance and I are probably older than most everyone here and he is 10 years younger than me. I think the first time I spoke about my “pre-him” retirement planning, he didn’t really grasp that. Now we talk about it all the time…”our life” now and “our life” post-my-retirement and “our life” post-his-retirement. And then we die. We always end the conversations about Our Life with….”and then we die” and then we always laugh. Because it’s all very surreal yet it doesn’t get any real-er.

    If we don’t have “Our Life Business Plan” in place – I can’t even imagine being married! I mean….I love him, he loves me….but we have GOT to be on the same page with goals and dreams and life, the things we want, the things we could care less about! Life!! Yes, things will shift and change and the whole thing is always going to be somewhat fluid….stuff happens. We both recognize that our wedding day, our marriage ceremony, our vows, our rings….these are all symbols of our committment, our love, our life. OUR LIFE! It’s not “my life” or “his life” it is OUR LIFE. We are living that now and we will continue to live OUR LIFE, defined by our ideals, as outlined in Our Life Business Plan.

    Great post!

    And then we die. *smile*

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  • http://www.brisbanebookkeeping.weebly.com/ Brisbane bookkeeping

    Yeah, I see the point of it all… thanks for sharing :)