Final post in the Leadership in Relationship series.
It may be news to you that the unbelievably high divorce rates in the U.S. have finally tapered off. This is mostly being attributed to the fact that fewer people are getting married.
And yet, with all the choices and information about relationships we now have available to us, I am still surprised by how many people jump into serious partnerships — business, close friendships and yes, marriages — without laying any groundwork to see if the other is on the same page about the future.
I know you’ve seen it: Friends who confuse a good business idea and camaraderie with a working partnership, and end up losing a great company and the friendship. Co-workers that bond over shared experiences on a work project, but without clearly defined expectations for relating outside the workplace, soon crash and burn. Romantic couples who assume that wanting a family is enough commonality to create a satisfying relationship, only to discover gaping discrepancies in shared values after the children arrive, or in the best cases, when the nest is empty.
How do two people create a life or a joint venture that can withstand the vicissitudes, the ups and downs of loving and living?
A simple leadership skill: Arrive at a common vision.
Businesses need a vision or mission statement for success, why not valuable personal relationships? Although it is essentially simple, sometimes creating a satisfying vision for your business or personal relationship is a lengthy process. Shared vision may also require ReVision every few years. You can create a shared vision in three steps:
1. Establish values: Because Shenee and Mike met at a nutrition/health retreat, both assumed the other was into a healthy lifestyle. 10 months into dating, Mike was shocked by Shenee’s unwholesome, sedentary lifestyle. She had gone to the retreat via a friend’s prodding to explore; he had gone because it was in line with his life values to do so annually. They parted ways.
Their story clearly illustrates how assuming common values can be a costly mistake. If you are already in or moving into a committed relationship, I invite you into an engaged discussion about what each values most in life. Listen. Ask questions. Note the differences and find the bridges between you. Notice places where there are clear divergences that could be or are problematic.
2. Ask the BIG questions: When approaching major life mergers, we seem to have mastered little questions, like What kind of food do you like? Do you want a TV in the bedroom? But in our haste to get to the business of marriage or get a business off the ground, we overlook the BIG Questions that need to be asked in order to arrive at a Common Vision for the venture.
Questions like: How do we want to feel in this relationship? What do we want our lives / interactions to look like? How do we, as a couple, want to think about time, money, sex? What structures will we put in place to keep the system running well?
3. Come up with a joint adventure or common task that captures the essence of what you are doing together that you could not do alone.
Andrew and Jane each had big visions for a family, and by the time they met and fell in love, they got to it, boom, boom, boom! Wedding, pregnancy, three kids, extended family — life was busy. When the kids were in high school, they began to have more time without them. They felt like strangers. They realized they had little if any conversation that wasn’t about their three kids. They courageously saw that their initial venture for the relationship was ending, and that if they were going to make it, they had to create a new one.
They decided it was time to help each other “raise” the potential of the other. They took the skills they were already good at and focused them on nurturing each other’s talents and buried dreams.
Other vision tasks I have heard from couples that move me range from the practical to the esoteric: Create a beautiful home; explore the nature of togetherness and aloneness; create a community and / or serve a community; travel the world; explore the connection between spirituality and sexuality.
You may be in a successful relationship with a vague sense of why you are together, but have never articulated it. You may be struggling in a relationship that you value. If you are reading and resonating, I encourage you to invite your partner into a rich dialogue about what you each think the common vision / shared task in the relationship might be. If you feel totally overwhelmed at the prospect of having these conversations, well, there’s a reason why many avoid them. But taking the risk, having these conversations and really fleshing out the answers is a bond enhancing / team building process.
Once you have arrived at a common vision, it can become the constitution of the relationship. Both partners can return to it again and again when things feel off. In drawn out fights, in crisis, you can be a leader in any relationship by remembering and serving the vision first. It will remind you of what you have really signed up for, bring you back on task, or signal that a new vision is needed.
Once you have established the vision, then you can more clearly work out the roles you want to play. See Role, Role, Role in the Hay, the 6th article in this series, for more information about that.
Blair, Great advice. I like the way you have shared this series. Thanks.
Thanks, Dan! Your support of this series has been much appreciated!
This has been such an insightful series, Blair! I love how you have weaved leadership and relationships together! This post really shows the importance of couples understanding each other’s true values and ways they want to live their lives. As an empty nester now, I can attest to the fact that a couple needs to have a solid footing to enjoy each other without all the kid stuff and a change in routines. Thanks for all your wisdom!
Thanks, Terri! It is so refreshing to hear from people in partnerships who have been able to keep a vision alive or refreshed. Thanks for your reflection about the series. Your feedback means a lot to me.
Blair, great post! I also like how you weaved leadership and relationships into this post. I especially loved the part about asking the big questions. The big questions get underneath that easy layer and into the real values of the person in the ‘relationship’. Thanks for sharing. Great stuff!
Cynthia, thank you! I agree, the big questions are waiting under there.
Awesome way to put the capstone on this series. I love the way you always weave real-life examples into your blog posts and give your subjects names. It helps all of us relate even more to your great advice.
Tony, thanks so much for your feedback. My subjects are very generous and I always change the names and sometimes the circumstances a little! Thanks again.
Love the questions Blair and how you you have brought the important aspect of leadership in every aspect of life including relationships.
Thanks, Lalita! In my experience leadership skills work great at work and in love!
[…] will help you reverse, minimize and fix it. In my work, I often interpret the boredom as a call to take up the hunt with your partner for a third thing — a family, a business, a deeper connection, a hobby, a theme, […]
An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing
a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me
dinner because I stumbled upon it for him… lol.
So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your