“When we obtain a marriage license and get married we do so without an expiration date; we opt into “forever after” with no renewal date in mind. What would be different in our relationships if we entered into the commitment of marriage with a 5-year or a 10-year option to renew? Would the perception of a” business of marriage” harness or hinder our power to stay married? ” ~ Randi Levin Coaching
I don’t think in my lifetime that I had ever thought about the “business” of marriage and the idea of opting in and out in quite the same light. A child of divorce myself, it has always seemed counterproductive to me that we enter into a contract with another person that we believe will last forever. I love the idea, and I am married over 3 decades myself, yet as a transformational coach, one thing that I know for sure is that we all change and if that is our truth, then is forever a given? If we assume something will always be there so we tend to it with the same rapture and care that we do when we feel an evaluation of sorts is pending? A recent discussion with a girlfriend unearthed some of the ideas that I am sharing in this post. They make sense. Here is why.
With a quick flick of a pen, we enter into investments, business deals, leases, and mortgages. We sign contracts when we rent apartments and when we decide to buy our homes. Seeking a commitment of employment? Then perhaps you have a 3-year deal or a 1-year opt-in for additional benefits in place? Most of the contracts that we sign have end dates attached to them. We lease an apartment for a year, sublet for 6-months, lock in employment for 2-years, lease our cars for 3-years, and even purchase a home with a 15 or 30-year agreement to pay. At the end of our lease, or our employment agreement we then have the option to renew, or to terminate, or to renegotiate our deal. Why? Life changes. We pivot.
So, why is marriage such a different agreement? The bigger question is, with an option to renew in mind, what, if anything, would be different about how we viewed divorce and our ability to thrive within our marriages? Could this new perception of a marriage that is not entered into for eternity, actually support us in working more productively together over time?
While I do not claim to have all the answers, here are a few top-of-mind hacks that surface when we reframe our traditional stance on marriage:
1) Communication expands. It is often a lack of communication that leads to the initial unwind of a marriage. We “think” that we know what our spouse is feeling or what’s on their mind—yet over time we all change. The concept of renewing our marriage after a set number of years opens the door to continued communication from an “in the moment vantage point.” When we are meeting each other where we are now and not where we were or where we hope to be, our interactions are grounded in the moment and in reality.
2) We measure growth. As humans, we are more likely to take action when there is an expiration date looming. We may assume less, take nothing for granted, and respond differently to the daily to-do of married life. When we are in action, we are less likely to bore one another and more likely to stay engaged and mindful of successes. Growth is the measurement of those successes. Individual wins and joint celebrations. When we measure growth we let go of the fairy tale of marriage and step into the reality of working on our marriages. Just like a business contract, once we sign on the dotted line the work itself is ahead of us. When we get married, the marriage becomes our personal relationship “work.” There simply is no autopilot. Measuring growth allows us to get less caught up in the overall concept of married life and to become more focused on the small steps and successes captured within the moments of that marriage.
3) Gratitude breeds renewed energy. Taking your partner for granted? Having an option for renewal could actually infuse our thoughts, adding inspiration into our day-to-day. Divorce has for many become an easy way to let go of what is not working—perhaps without actually doing the work involved to make it work. This mindfulness tweak places us at the center of our own reality. Are we enjoying today? Where are we abundant? Are we doing the work involved to honor the contract we signed? Are we appreciative of what we already have?
4) Marriage is a business! I said it! You are not Cinderella and Prince Charming. This is a business. The business of love. The business of trust. The business of respect. The business of friendship. The business of living your life in unison with someone else that is a completely separate person from you! You and your spouse are separate members of the board of directors of your own marriage.
You both get to vote, you both get a say in decisions. You will never be one person…because you are two people and you both come from different backgrounds, different parents, and different experiences. The same way that you would embrace diversity in the workplace, you need to honor diversity within the confines of your marriage. It is that independence, that ability to be who you are and still be Mr. & Mrs. that will allow you to be a shareholder in the business of your marriage, and to show up ready and at 100% of yourself each and every day.
Can this make the difference? Is an option for renewal enough to change the fate of a rocky marriage? Not always. Yet this shift in perspective enables each of us to enter into the “business of marriage” with a renewed focus on communication, and an updated outlook and mindset on gratitude, energy, success, and self-esteem. If we remain committed to forever by celebrating every moment in the moment, we become committed to the daily success of our marriage and to the growth that leads us toward wanting to renew for more. Or not…
Randi Levin CPC, founder & CEO, Randi Levin Coaching- is a nationally recognized transitional life strategist, author, speaker, and reinvention expert. Utilizing a “what’s next mindset” Randi applies her Signature GPS Coaching System supporting her clients in transforming their lives and living the legacy they most desire. A child of divorce, Randi believes that we live one life…with many chapters! She is a contributor and featured expert for HuffPost, Thrive Global, The Three Tomatoes, and Women for One. Randi is a contributing author in the book Get RESULTS! -In which she speaks from the heart regarding her own mid-life reinvention.