A few years ago I had the unfortunate experience of having a very nice couple, who I was advising, tell me that they were going to get a divorce. Of course, as a Financial Planner who sees a lot of couples and with such high rates of divorce across Australia, it was a situation I was going to run into eventually. But when it happened, it took me by surprise.
According to a recent news report, some 50,000 Australians get a divorce every year. Apart from the incredible emotional impact divorce has on the families involved, divorce is also incredibly costly. The report goes on to say that divorce is costing the Australian economy over $14 billion a year. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a situation that mostly creates losses for those involved.
The issue with this particular couple divorcing for me was that it was so hard to understand how they would actually end up making that decision. Every time I had met them I found them to be such a loving and friendly couple both towards each other and everyone else. They spoke to me terms of their future and their long-term wishes and goals. I couldn’t fathom how that had changed. Their decision to divorce was so unreal to me I was in shock for quite a while.
Eventually of course, they went through a lengthy and expensive divorce process. As part of that process, they also ended up, naturally having to choose which one of them would stay with me as their advisor, as I could not keep consulting them both.
The end result of their split was that both of them ended up less happy and less wealthy.
This whole experience lead me to a shift in thinking on relationships. The lessons that I took away from this was very much worth sharing. I decided I should do some learning in regards to marriage in case I could somehow help others who were having the same experience.
It was interesting as my wife at first refused to attend any courses on relationships with me. “We’re doing fine,” she said. But I was still driven to try and understand the reasons underlying why this great couple I knew, would go through a divorce. Slowly I began to understand from talking to them that they had grown apart.
I did some reading and enrolled in a course that involved basically sitting down with your partner and talking to them about what your experiences were in your marriage and sharing some good information about how marriage ticks.
What I took away from this course was probably one of the most important things about being husband, a spouse, a father and a business partner.
The key to succeeding in ANY relationship, is to be constantly creating yourself in that role.
Now this may seem quite simple and basic to most people reading but what I know from being a father of 3 myself is that after marriage, the mortgage and having children, we tend to be inclined to generally play the father role, the employee or the business partner role very well, and even still play the social roles. But often the area that ends up being most neglected is what happens between you and your spouse. It seems to be the first thing we give up focus and energy on, when our attention is needed more in another area.
A neglected relationship is NOT a created relationship.
So from that learning I’ve made it a bit of a personal mission to remind people I know, that they need to keep creating their relationships. That is, you need to get up in the morning, put on your husband or wife “hat” and start creating that role again fresh each day.
That means putting some effort into your relationship with your partner. Organising a date night. Surprising them with an unexpected call just to ask them how they are doing. Getting them a small gift or card, not just on Valentines Day or their birthday or wedding anniversary or anything.
Also, it means sticking to your agreements that you have with them. Don’t go chopping and changing them. If you promised you’d do such and such for them, then honour it. Or if you have a standing agreement that you always ring to say you’ll be late, then make sure you do.
The problem with marriages and relationships is that we can tend to put them on “automatic pilot” and think they will just keep running all by themselves. But marriage is a created relationship. So it has no automatic setting. It was created by you both in the start, so you both need to keep creating it every day.
A marriage is not a blood tie, like family. (You will always be your parents’ child no matter what happens, but whether or not you’ll always be your partner’s partner, is a matter of how long you keep creating that relationship.)
The same applies to parenting more than one child. You need to make sure you spend some time individually with each of your kids. In fact let all people know you appreciate them and most of all just keep on creating those relationships.
Hope this helps a little towards you having more rewarding relationships. And remember more rewarding relationships are not just emotionally better, they are also financially better too.
Until next month, create yourself a better relationship with everyone around you, including your financial adviser! ☺