My husband and I grew up in homes where the order of life was spoken and lived out; God first, family second and work third. Biblically speaking, we would say God first, marriage second, children third and work fourth. We tell married couples that the best gift you can give your child is a good marriage. Academia from the family studies research world will say to you and share statistic after statistic that children, communities and individuals are happier, healthier and wealthier if they’re happily married. It’s one of those things we know intuitively. Happy marriages are a good thing! We teach our students in middle and high school success sequencing; finish your education, get a job, get married and then have children. Another thing we intuitively know is that divorce is awful; it’s painful no matter the circumstances or reason. I’ve never met a couple that’s excited about getting a divorce…NEVER! Everyone, at a minimum, has a sense of sadness and failure.
Everyone who gets married is usually happy, hopeful and excited about the future. Couples are all in, and the planning of the wedding is usually very detailed. Think about it; it’s not just any flower, it’s particular flowers; it’s not just any dress, it’s a dream of a lifetime dress; the guest list is painstakingly considered; the music must be magic, and the RING! OMG! The RING! And then there’s the honeymoon. The emotional and financial investment in pledging a life together with the phrase till death us do part is more than involved. So, why aren’t we as proactive about sustaining our marriage as we are about the wedding day?
Over and over, couples of all ages attend our marriage workshops, seminars, and intensives, and that’s a beautiful thing and should be an annual investment in your marriage. But what we also see over and over are couples that have “slogged” through their marriage—no real plan about how to maintain the relationship. Most couples think good marriages just come naturally; they evolve with the stages of life. Couples that have been married for decades will tell you that marriage takes work.
So, I’d like for you to consider if your success sequencing is out of order? Do you maintain God first, marriage second and business third? We often see business first, children second, and marriage third or sometimes at the bottom of the list. Do you treat your spouse and your marriage with the same care, concern and focus as you do your business?
Do you have a plan?
If you decided to open a business and make a significant financial investment, would you allow it to evolve, or would you have a business plan? Would you ignore problems and sweep them under the rug, or would you bring a team around the issue and solve the problems? Would you allow your employees to treat one another disrespectfully, or would you call them into your office and address the problems? Do you give them praise and reward them for their efforts, or do you rarely affirm them for their accomplishments? Would you expect to open on time or show up when convenient, or do you set expectations? Would you attend seminars and always look to increase your knowledge or assume that there’s nothing new to be learned? Would you lead your business, or would you hand it off to someone else? Would you read about market trends or go with the flow? Would you associate with like-minded people to develop business relationships or never have time to spend with other business professionals? Do you look for ways to expand your business, or are you satisfied with a small market share? Would you hire a consultant to help you build a business plan for 3, 5,10 years or play it by ear and see how it goes? Do you go to the office for a couple of hours each week, or do you give it 40+++ every week? Do you always make room in your schedule for your most important client, or do you make them wait for weeks for a place on your calendar? Would you ever read the customer reviews or ignore them because what other people think doesn’t matter. These questions seem ridiculous to the business owner that’s invested their life, time and finances into growing a successful and rewarding business. Of course, we’d never put our company at risk, and we’d do everything we could for the business to flourish!
Do we do that with our marriage? Do you have a plan for how to settle problems, or do you sweep them under the rug and allow them to run havoc in your marriage? Do you lead the marriage in your perspective roles, or do you hand it off to others? Do you associate with couples that encourage you in your marriage, or are you out and about without your spouse, often with people that aren’t married or they’re unhappy in their marriage? Do you have an agreed-upon plan for your future, or are you just playing it by ear? Do you praise your spouse and bring them an occasional gift, or do you assume they already know and don’t need anything? Do you seek counseling or coaching when your marriage needs help, or do you ignore it? Do you show up when you say you will, or are you always late and cancel plans? Do you ask your spouse’s opinion and share your dreams, or do you think it doesn’t matter? Do you allow your children to speak disrespectfully to you or your spouse, or do you talk to them about it and set some rules? Do you regularly make space for a date night, or has it been months since you’ve been on a date? Do you expand your marriage in the areas of trust and emotional intimacy with adventures and lively conversations, or are you satisfied with one or two-syllable answers: yes, no, fine?
Sequence for success
All couples struggle from time to time, but couples that struggle more often than not, usually have their “Sequence of Success” out of order: Work first or children first, and the marriage and God are generally not in the top 5. Typically the marriage is toward the bottom, and God isn’t even on the scale.
I challenge you to treat your marriage with the same love, attention and care you give your business. Don’t put your relationship at risk. We all need to step back and evaluate our most precious relationships, and if we’re out of order, we need to resequence so we’ll live a life well-lived. God first, our marriage is second, our children and families are third, and our business is fourth.
Live the Life South Florida exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education, beginning in middle school through senior adults. We are educators, coaches, and pastoral counselors. If you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to consider participating in a Live the Life workshop as well as exploring a class with Life Essentials ([email protected]). If you’re looking for a clinical counselor or therapist, we are blessed to have many in the South Florida community. We’d be honored to provide you a list of highly qualified and reputable individuals. Visit livethelifesoflo.org
Read more articles by Lisa May at goodnewsfl.org/author/lisa-may/