The column “Can this marriage be saved?” in my mother’s Ladies Home Journal was one I read with interest every time it came in the mail. I loved the magazine with its readable short stories and the recipes that I would try out, but this “marriage” column always piqued my interest. I’d read the wife’s story. Then the husband’s story. Then I would try to figure out why “yes it could” or why “no, it could not be saved.” Then I would read the counselor/columnist’s opinion to find out. Was I right or wrong? As I recall I was a pretty good guesser. I was 12 years old, the built in baby sitter for my sister and brother, the sou chef to my mother, and her chamber maid as well. The writing was on the wall. I was being trained for marriage and needed to learn how to be a good wife to a smart man, and a good mother to smart children.
How to do this involved learning everything I could from my mother about household management, cooking, taking care of children, paying bills, and cleaning—while maintaining good grades. I also learned to let it all hang out. In my family, arguments were loud and passionate and then they were over and everything was better. It never occurred to me that I might choose not to marry or that there were other ways to deal with conflict. I saw myself as the support system to a family system, where I might work, and I might have ideas, but it was the MAN who was in charge…but I could disagree with him—loudly—and that was OK.
So of course I met Prince Charming—and he actually looked like the Prince in Cinderella. And we married and he finished school, and we had two children and, after eleven years, all was said and done. “No, this marriage could not be saved!” And so we divorced.
Then I met husband #2. He was not Prince Charming. He was a colleague. My loud loquacious, passionate East Coast style had not changed. His soft spoken mountain man demeanor was ingrained in his personality. We clashed! I cried. I despaired. He was silent. He was removed. He would not engage. I was at my wits end. Can this Marriage be Saved? We had to do something. I had an idea! Why not use the methodology we used in project planning to make “saving our marriage” a project? We would apply the same step by step approach in which we had both been trained by GTZ. He agreed.
We set aside a Saturday. The children were gone. We sat down at the dining room table. Each of us took a set of cards of a different color and each wrote problem statements, one “problem” at a time. They were random ideas about the marriage, about each other, about our life.
All of the cards (about 25) were then laid on the table, as it were. Each of us read our cards to the other. What we discovered was that by stating these emotionally charged issues this way, our mate’s reaction was much more objective. We could really talk about our problems—somewhat dispassionately. We then sorted them into categories, agreed on some objectives, and committed to work on the ones we could do something about.
We were amazed at how the process allowed us to speak objectively and honestly and pointed us to specific steps to take. By concentrating on (and writing down) individual issues, needs, obstacles, and ideas and then analyzing, organizing and choosing from them, we ended up with a realistic personal plan in the same format as a project plan.
Several months later, when we reviewed our plan’s Objective Tree, we were astounded at how many of our objectives we had achieved. We saw how much we had accomplished! The process had focused on “what to do” and “how to do it.” It had eliminated pie in the sky possibilities, while allowing us to deal with our emotions.
“Yes” was the answer to the question, “Can this Marriage be Saved?” In fact we have just celebrated our 31st anniversary! And this is also how the LEAP (Life Experience Action Planning) method was born.
Read more about LEAP and planning your future in ten simple steps. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase your copy of LEAP FOR LIFE and read more about LEAP at www.tap-trainingassociatespacific.com and facebook.com/LEAPlanning