Frequently Asked Questions

Marriage is personal and private. It’s the original Do-It-Yourself project. Couples manage to live together, raise a family, and build a life without a Plan. They’ve done it that way forever. Why do we need Collaborative Marriage Planning?

Planning is simply the way people logically link activities together in order to reach their goals. As life has become more complicated, and the time you are expected to devote to work and career has increased, there is less and less time, specialized experience, and energy, to spend on managing personal lives and household responsibilities. In response, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of specialists to assist people in everything from low tech, labor intensive tasks, like lawn care, to highly technical, specialized tasks, like tax, retirement and investment planning.

In most contexts planning is such a natural part of the process we don’t even think about it. People typically spend a year or more planning for what will happen on one day of their lives, their wedding day. Some even use wedding planners to ensure that their wedding celebration is the best and most memorable experience it can possibly be. Yet people routinely come back from their honeymoon, without a plan for the next month, or year, and without having discussed their individual and joint goals for their marriage. Until the introduction of Collaborative Marriage Planning people spent little or no time in any comprehensive way, planning the conduct and operation of their most important and long lasting relationship, their married lives.

Collaborative Marriage Planning overlaps and supplements religious counseling of pre-marrieds. Religious based counseling programs vary widely in form and content, but, like Collaborative Marriage Planning, they are intended to equip the couple with information and counsel on the demands of marriage and the nature of the continuing work required to make marriage successful.

Collaborative Marriage Planning is available to all couples, regardless of religious affiliation, whether married or living together, regardless of sexual orientation, or lifestyle choices. Under the guidance and with the support of the Collaborative Marriage Planning Team couples explore their needs, desires and concerns about their relationship. In the process they learn techniques for effective, positive communication, and management of conflict. All this is accomplished while developing individualized documentation of what they want to achieve, individually and as a couple, and while defining a structure for their relationship.

A Collaborative Marriage Plan isn’t intended to be a straightjacket, but a framework and consistent reference. Freedom is greatest for all when there is an underpinning of structure which everyone agrees to.

Exposing conflicts in the supportive environment provided as part of the Collaborative Marriage Planning process is a good thing. Conflicts exist in every relationship. Understanding the sources of conflict and their value to a marriage/partnership is key to structuring a relationship that is durable, successful and satisfying. Hiding, or denying the presence of conflict before the marriage can result in either an early damaging shock to the relationship when the conflicts are exposed, or require that one or both partners continue to conceal the truth and their real feelings from the other, which is ultimately damaging to the relationship.

Conflicts are the product of disagreements. Disagreements are a product of competition, that is, each of the partners asserting/believing that their way is the ‘right’ way, or the ‘better’ way, or the ‘necessary’ way, or the priority of the moment. In the competitive mode what we are really saying is, “I want it done ‘my’ way”.  Couples have choices. They can establish patterns of dominance – and its other side, either resignation or resentment – “you take care of the car your way and I’ll take care of the laundry my way”, or they can fight it out each time the subject arises, until one of the partners storms out, or gives out from fatigue. This competition for power within the relationship can lead to one member feeling powerful and the other feeling resentful, abused and powerless. At that point, there is no longer a partnership but a servant-master relationship. It seems safe to say most people don’t like being in the servant position on a full-time basis. The Collaborative Marriage Planning process provides couples with the opportunity to talk out how their relationship will use the strengths of each partner to enhance the partnership as a whole and each other individually.

Having a Plan for the marriage that incorporates both individual and shared goals gives the couple an external, future focus for their individual and joint energies and effort. Internal conflict becomes the source of strength in that it makes multiple strategies possible, increasing the chances of success in moving forward toward goals.

Okay, but I don’t have any idea about what the future holds, or where we are going to wind up.

That’s a key reason for engaging in Collaborative Marriage Planning. The Collaborative Team is there to guide the two of you in having a conversation that begins with who you are, what you want and need out of life, and your relationship, and then facilitates your building and expanding from there. The team can breakdown the process into easy to follow steps.

Some conflicts are fundamental, as when one person wants children and the other is opposed, or where important values, like honesty, are in conflict. Obviously, awareness of these conflicts is critically important. Many, perhaps most, couples would see such conflict as a reason to not go forward with the marriage. While this may be difficult, sad and disruptive, it is better than learning of the conflict after the marriage and having to face the prospect of a divorce. On the other hand, there are certainly couples who would find conflicts of this nature to be just the thing to keep their relationship passionate, and exciting. It is not the purpose of Collaborative Marriage Planning to take a position on what “should” be the outcome.

 

When conflicts arise within your relationship the Collaborative Marriage Planning process demonstrates four(4) techniques for managing them. From the easiest to the most difficult they are:

1. Take turns
2. Give gifts
3. Find win/win solutions
4. Communicate and define your terms

A fuller explanation and facilitated practice in using these techniques and others is provided as part of the Collaborative Marriage Planning process.

Collaborative Marriage Planning is not just for wedded couples, but for co-habiting couples, too. All couples’ relationships, including couples that have been in their relationship for years and are experiencing issues, can benefit from the Collaborative Marriage Planning process.

Over the years we have come to confuse and conflate “wedding” and “marriage”. To “Wed” is to exchange vows in a ceremony for which the participants have registered and secured a license, and which is overseen by someone empowered by the state. To “Marry” is the life’s work that follows, and consists of bringing out the complementary and supplementary characteristics of the constituent parts to produce a more desirable and complete union. In a marriage the partners retain their separate identities, but also take on some of the characteristics of the other.

The process of “marrying” takes place even in the absence of a “wedding“ as a result of prolonged intimate association. In this context, Collaborative “Marriage” Planning is appropriate for all committed or intending to be committed couples.

Absolutely.

Over a series of meetings the two of you works with a team of specially train professionals to develop a 3-5 year plan setting out goals and objectives for you both and your relationship.  Then you build a Partnership Agreement that spells out how you expect and agree that your partnership will work on a day-to-day basis. The process requires a couple (you and your partner) working with a core team of three professionals – a facilitator/coach, and an attorney for each member of the couple.  If needed, the team can add any experts or consultants the team and couple concludes will help in specialized complex areas.

Each of you, working with your own collaboratively trained attorney, enters into loosely-structured, but comprehensive discussions of your joint and individual goals for the future. The process recognizes that while the partnership relationship is central, each of you remains in significant measure an individual, with individual goals. In the Collaborative Marriage Planning process, each of you, with the assistance of the team, discusses how you will work together to achieve your common goals and how you can assist each another and support each other in achieving your individual goals.

It is natural and expected that, to some greater or lesser degree, common and individual goals will be inconsistent, incompatible, and competitive (for time and resources) with each other. It is not the objective of the Collaborative Marriage Planning process to resolve these differences. Instead, the Collaborative Marriage Planning process includes exercises and activities to show you how these differences can be accommodated, supported, and embraced by the two of you. When they can’t, you will learn how you can creatively manage the conflict in a way that can produce positive resolution, leaving both partners feeling stronger and more invested in the success of the partnership.

An important part of the Collaborative Marriage Planning process is helping the two of you determine priorities. Finding a balance that acknowledges the primacy of the partnership’s priorities while respecting and providing opportunity for the partners’ individual priorities is essential, but how, and in what way conflicting priorities are accounted for, is a matter for you both to work out with the support and assistance of the team.

The results of these discussions and exercises are recorded in a Plan document for your mutual use and reference.

The cost of completing the process is not insignificant and represents a material investment in the durability, success and satisfaction derived from the marriage relationship. The actual cost depends on how detailed and refined you want your Plan and Partnership Agreement to be. Payment plans and other financial arrangements may be available from your service provider.

That’s a key reason for engaging in Collaborative Marriage Planning. The Collaborative Team is there to guide the two of you in having a conversation that begins with who you are, what you want and need out of life, and your relationship, and then facilitates your building and expanding from there. The team can breakdown the process into easy to follow steps.

Collaborative Marriage Planning overlaps and supplements religious counseling of pre-marrieds. Religious based counseling programs vary widely in form and content, but, like Collaborative Marriage Planning, they are intended to equip the couple with information and counsel on the demands of marriage and the nature of the continuing work required to make marriage successful.

Collaborative Marriage Planning is available to all couples, regardless of religious affiliation, whether married or living together, regardless of sexual orientation, or lifestyle choices. Under the guidance and with the support of the Collaborative Marriage Planning Team couples explore their needs, desires and concerns about their relationship. In the process they learn techniques for effective, positive communication, and management of conflict. All this is accomplished while developing individualized documentation of what they want to achieve, individually and as a couple, and while defining a structure for their relationship.