Despite the odds, my husband and I have been married 20 years. I don’t refer to “the odds” lightly. As many know, almost 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce. About 50 percent of marriages experience infidelity. What most people don’t know is that for parents of special needs children, the test is harder – they divorce at a rate as high as 87 percent.
We have known this statistic since I was pregnant with our first child. Our OB/GYN told us this when we were considering whether to have genetic testing. So, when it was clear that we had “challenging children” before they were five, we knew we had to make an extra effort with our marriage.
Our marriage has been tested by a lot of the external forces other people face – like in-law dynamics and financial stresses – and we have had the added complexity of neurodiverse children who have spent several years in crisis. So, as we celebrate this 20-year milestone, we are celebrating a LOT. We have stayed committed, faithful, and in love.
We have beaten the odds and not just survived, but also thrived. I am proud of both of us and our marriage. And “the odds” are that our future is looking good – divorce rates decline the more years you have been married and we have lots to look forward to with exciting careers and fun plans for our retirement. There are a lot of parallels to what has worked for us and what works in professional relationships.
The Right People on the Bus
Hiring the right people can be as hard as finding a life partner. My husband and I were not the types to get stuck in long-term relationships that we could see were not going anywhere. By getting those people “off the bus” we were more free to look for the right person to get on our bus. By the time we met in our thirties, we had both had quite a few “temps” that had come and gone. Who should you be kicking off the bus, or putting in a different seat? How can you better screen your new hires and onboard them to be successful employees?
Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. We have gravitated toward friends (married or not) who respect our marriage. So many of my husband’s friends are quick to tell me what a great guy he is, and I love hearing stories of how loyal, helpful, and/or funny he is. A client of mine recently realized that one of her support people was not really that supportive or positive. Where do you go for a supportive environment? Who can you talk to that encourages you to build things up, not tear them down?
In both marriage and business, effective communication is crucial. Clear and open communication helps to avoid misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and ensure that everyone is on the same page. We make a point of spending time together, face-to-face, and one-on-one, to catch up on things big and small. How often do you meet with the people you work with most closely? Is there time to catch up informally, take their temperature, share some empathy, and ask for support?
Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, whether personal or professional. Building and maintaining trust is essential for the longevity and stability of both marriages and business partnerships. Because we were in our thirties when we met, we had past relationships and friendships. One of the ways we established trust early was to make sure the other would not be sabotaged by inside jokes or anything else. How do you make sure your supervisors, co-workers and employees know that you have their back and their best interests in mind?
Successful marriages and business relationships often involve collaboration and teamwork. Individuals must work together toward common goals, leveraging each other’s strengths and supporting each other during challenges. My husband is better at solving problems by himself. So, after we assemble all the gear needed for a trip, he packs the car, and I make sure he is not interrupted. Different people are capable of different levels and types of collaboration. This looks different in every relationship. What is your collaboration style?
Shared Values and Goals:
Similar values and goals contribute to the success of both types of relationships. Alignment in values and long-term objectives creates a strong foundation for mutual understanding and cooperation. In recent client conversations, it has become clear that this is an area most companies could emphasize more. Do each of your employees understand how their specific job role contributes to the overall corporate mission? In an era when ESG is gaining traction, this is even more vital.
Life, like business, is unpredictable. Both partners in a marriage and individuals in a business relationship should be adaptable and willing to adjust to changes and challenges that arise over time. If you have a solid foundation of trust, communication, and commitment, it becomes easier to adapt and “pivot” to use that Covid term.
Effective problem-solving skills are essential in marriages and business partnerships. The ability to address issues constructively, find solutions, and learn from challenges contributes to the resilience of the relationship. My husband and I are great problem-solvers, even if we come at it from different perspectives. We don’t look at problems (or odds, for that matter) as insurmountable, but rather as something that needs to be named and tackled head on.
Mutual respect is a fundamental element in any successful relationship. In both marriages and business, individuals should respect each other’s opinions, contributions, and boundaries. It is easier to find things to respect about someone when you proactively look for them. It is also important to respect the relationship itself, and to understand the dynamic of the “Third Entity.” It is hard to disrespect someone when you can name the top ten reasons you value them. What do you value about the people you work closely with? What can they value about you? How can you evolve to be more deserving of respect?
Both successful marriages and business relationships require commitment. Commitment involves dedication to the relationship, willingness to invest time and effort, and a sense of responsibility towards the well-being of the partnership. This commitment is hard to decipher in an era where employees think of jobs in terms of months, not years, and resent coming into the office. How can you, as a leader, create an environment they want to commit to, and an office experience they want to be a part of?
Just as businesses aim for continuous improvement, individuals in a marriage should strive to grow individually and as a couple. Learning from experiences and actively working towards improvement strengthens the relationship over time. My husband and I encourage each other to spend time doing things that nurture us, even if it means spending time apart. We come back with more energy for everything in our life, including each other. How do you encourage your employees to stay in their growth zone?
Our marriage is not equal. It is balanced. It would be ridiculous if we split all our family responsibilities 50/50. We are different people with different strengths and weaknesses. So, we capitalize on our strengths and divide and conquer. We also strike a balance between personal and professional aspects. Both marriages and business relationships require responsibilities to be balanced and individuals to manage their time effectively, ensuring that one aspect does not overshadow the other. How do you create balance within your co-workers in terms of responsibility, as well as in work-life?
Congratulations to all of you who have had long and fulfilling friendships, marriages, work relationships, team memberships, artists’ communities, neighbors, or anything else like that. There are so many reasons that relationships don’t have longevity – some are logistical and practical, some are emotional baggage, and some are beyond our control (it does take two to tango!). To stick with a relationship of any kind takes work and can be incredibly worthwhile.