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The Business of Marriage

February 23, 2011 | by Emuna Braverman

Applying effective business principles to marriage.

One of the 48 Ways to Wisdom listed in Ethics of Our Fathers is to apply business acumen to living. Not only are these principles useful for our lives in general, but they can also be applied specifically to our marriages.

Let me be clear up front. I am not saying that marriage is like a business; it most definitely is NOT. It is not an employer/employee relationship. It is not an LLC or any other kind of corporate entity. You are not business partners. But there are principles regarding running a business that could easily be transferred to marriage.

Goals or Mission Statements: Just like successful corporations need a clear set of goals and strategies for achieving them, so too does a successful marriage. One of the fundamental building blocks of a good marriage is a shared sense of goals. You both need to be clear about the goals and working towards the same ends. If employees work at cross-purposes, the business won’t thrive. The same applies to a husband and wife.

Specialize and Delegate: In a well-run business, everyone plays to their strengths. A talented leader allocates responsibilities not just according to what needs to be done but also to whom can do it best. This works well in marriages also. Everyone will feel happier and more fulfilled if they are at their most productive. And if the drudgery is also equally shared, everyone will have tasks/chores they really dislike and others that they don’t mind. Divide them up accordingly.

Regular Evaluations: Successful businesses know they need to stop frequently for performance reports. How is the business doing in general? Which strategies are successful? Which less so? Which ones need more attention? These criteria can easily be applied to marriages – and should be.

Flexibility: Circumstances change. Products become obsolete. New goods are introduced to the market while the basic goal of the company remains stable. It needs an ability to adapt. The same is true with marriage. The basic goals never change. The bedrock commitment must remain steady. But people grow and change. Life hands us challenges. We need to adapt to them and make the most of the opportunities that come our way. We don’t want our marriages to stagnate; we want to embrace the chance to grow.

I'm sure there are other pieces of business wisdom that are useful tools to enhance our marriages. The biggest difference however may be the concept of chesed, kindness. This is not commonly considered to be crucial to the success of a business enterprise. But a marriage can’t survive, yet alone flourish, without it.

So yes, use that business model. But don’t forget the most important marriage principle of all is just to give, give, give!

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