At the annual Forum of the IACP (International Academy of Collaborative Professionals) this past weekend, I ran into a concept I really liked – Collaborative Marriage Planning, although it might better be called Collaborative Relationship Planning as it is really intended to help couples plan for their future, whether or not they expect to wed. Dennis Lerner of CollaborativeMarriagePlanning.com explains that the idea is to use Collaborative process to build communication and conflict management skills through the development of a 3-5 year marriage plan and partnership agreement.
Part of putting together a relationship plan is setting goals, financial and otherwise. Do they want to buy a house or travel extensively? How should they start preparing for eventual retirement? What career goals do they have, and are those goals going to require additional education? And of course there are the very important discussions about children – not only whether to have children, but how to raise them.
There are also other issues to work through, such as the critical questions regarding division of housework and other family responsibilities. There may be differences in styles that require negotiation – spender vs saver, neat vs messy, etc. Working through these kinds of issues together can actually strengthen a couple, bringing them closer together and more of one mind.
Finally, there is the preparation of a Partnership Agreement, whereby the couple outlines not only how they plan to live together, but potentially makes legal decisions as to what would happen if one dies or the relationship ends.
Dennis hopes that by shifting our work from divorce to marriage planning, we can actually reduce the rate of divorce. Not only does this process help couples reduce future disputes by thinking through potential issues and reaching agreements in advance, it provides the couple with tools for managing future conflict when it does occur. Furthermore, the professional team that you work with through the planning process can remain available to you throughout your relationship to assist with further planning or counseling as needed.