Plan Your Marriage’s Ideal Future (Part 2)

12 Sep 2011, Posted by Melissa Thoma in Articles,Multi, No Comments.

Plan Your Marriage’s Ideal Future (Part 2)

In which Melissa completes the D.O.S. with Martin

By: Melissa Thoma   |   10/12/2011

It has been a while since I wrote my last Business of Marriage column. folded in the Great Recession and we’ve been busy transitioning the column’s home to a discrete blog where I hope to provide more substance and opportunity for conversation. After we made the switch, I looked up and was shocked to realize half the year had zoomed by! I’m not sure where that time went, but in looking back to the D.O.S. Conversation I had with Martin, I was gratified to see that we have already activated a number of ideas that arose from our talk.

If you’ll recall from Plan Your Marriage’s Ideal Future, the D.O.S. Conversation is a strategy tool we use with our clients to help them plan for the coming years and create an ideal business/marketing plan to address those goals. It works so well in business, I decided I’d pursue a D.O.S. with my husband and partner.

Quick review:

“First, we ask our client to visualize in detail an immensely satisfying future for himself or herself — casting the frame three years ahead. We then ask them to inventory the greatest dangers they face in reaching this bright future. From there, we investigate present opportunities and inventory the strengths they perceive now within their current organization. As we create a marketing communications plan for clients, we define strategies to systematically remedy dangers, capitalize on opportunities and leverage strengths.”

Realizing that this sort of conversation would be a big benefit to any partnership, I conducted a D.O.S. conversation with Martin and here is what we determined:

Dangers to achieving this picture included some powerful material. Supporting and caring for our parents might put this future at risk. (A good reminder to formulate a plan with our siblings for this eventual reality.) Furthermore, as we experience an empty nest, we could grow apart rather than regain our identity as a couple — becoming “more partner, less spouse.”

We also talked about the danger associated with either of us or a child becoming sick. This exploration might not sound like fun, but we found it motivating to seriously consider measures we could take now that would lessen these risk factors.

Next, we identified many opportunities for ourselves as a couple. There will be fewer child-rearing expenses and less responsibility, as well as more freedom to explore personal interests such as traveling and writing. We love to mentor, and we foresee opportunity to be a powerful influence in the lives of young people in our area schools and universities.

Naming our strengths — including health, relative wealth and great friendships — was humbling and encouraging. Our ideal future is achievable. It is well within our ability to realize, even through the dangers that threaten to throw us off course. We just need a clear plan and path.

Now, it can be therapeutic to get all this stuff out on the table, but the real power of this work is to inspire and energize a “plan and path” for designing your own future. And that is just what we did.

Recognizing that we were likely facing a near future with parents who might need our support and care, we had substantive conversations with our mothers, both of whom are determined to live well, long and independently. Martin’s mother made some adjustments to her estate and will based on the conversation she and Martin had. My mother invested in a newer, safer car. We have a clear understanding of what they want and need from us in these later years and that gives us a sense of focus and purpose.

I know that you are thinking that Martin and I really couldn’t be much more tied at the hip as business partners, parents and spouses. But the truth is, we, like all our friends with empty nests are having to redefine our relationship. We need more than work and the kids to talk about at night. We need a sense of coupleness that will make our post child-rearing life together more vibrant. Right now, we’re training together for the St. Louis Rock and Roll Marathon for me, half marathon for him. It’s a start!

What we have really focused on is reevaluating our family budget with an eye toward the long-term…money for one more kid to get through college, for travel, for retirement and debt repayment. We’re recommitting to living debt-free, and to putting back everything we can for the future.

Inspiring—all of this forward motion really can be traced back to that D.O.S. Conversation we had while driving to a business meeting across the state. So many things in business and marriage result from deep conversation and taking the time to ask and answer hard questions.

Set aside a few hours, or catch your significant other in the car or on a plane and ask the D.O.S. questions. It’s a powerful framing conversation in business. And as I’ve just learned—in the Business of Marriage as well.