Corporations and organizations spend time and money on developing strategic planning processes. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there? It seems only logical to do it for the most important institution of all—marriage.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I started a tradition we keep every year on the first of January. On that day, we sit down and revise our plan for the next 12 months, which is based on a document we developed more than 15 years ago. We call it our strategic plan for marriage.
Here’s how it works:
1. Create a Vision Statement
Determine what ideals you want your marriage to be based on. We formed our vision statement on what scripture says about marriage since it serves as our foundation. How do you want to treat each other (even if you aren’t there today)? What is your vision of what could be?
2. Develop Individual Goals
List anything you want to accomplish as an individual, such as fitness goals, artistic endeavors, time to invest in certain relationships, work or business priorities, educational pursuits and anything else that applies. Maybe it’s how many jars of grape jelly you want to can this summer or how many books you’d like to read.
3. Develop Couple Goals
Next we write our goals as a couple. There are the things we want to accomplish together – projects around the house or related to our businesses or relationships. It also includes reminders, like not making commitments for time or money (over a set amount) without checking with each other first. This ensures we are always in agreement about our desire for a simpler a lifestyle.
We look at the calendar for the coming year and mark down what holidays or events we plan to host, vacations or trips we want to take and special days we are aware of. Most importantly though, we make plans to set aside some days just for us to be together.
The word “budget” sounds restricting to some people but we find it can be freeing when you know the parameters in which you have to operate. We try to anticipate areas we might be spending more or less and adjust the budget accordingly. This is always based on anticipated income, but we know that can be adjusted if income changes by going up or down.
6. Charitable Giving
The last piece of our document addresses charitable giving. We look at the organizations and ministries on our charitable giving list and anticipate an amount we wish to give to that group for the coming year.
After our initial planning session, which can last a few hours depending on how much there is to discuss, we try to revisit the document two or three times during the year, just to check on how we’re doing.
There are obviously some years of total interruption like the terminal illness and subsequent death of a parent, or any number of completely unexpected and unplanned events. But the document isn’t really for planning every step of the year—it’s to give us a general idea of where we want to go and a way to get back on track when something does happen.
My husband and I both love this process and we have appreciated the results. Instead of wandering aimlessly through the last 15 years, we have been intentional about our goals and our love and service to each other, our families and our community.
Angela Correll is the author of the novel “Grounded.” www.angelacorrell.com