Years ago when my spouse and I were planning to get married, we attended a workshop on pre-marriage planning. As part of the workshop we spent time discussing our values, personalities, and other things that go into making up who we each are. However, I think the most valuable thing we did was discuss and plan how we wanted to approach keeping communication open and dealing with conflict. One thing we realized was that we did our best talking when we got out of the house and spent time over dinner at a restaurant. Therefore me made a plan to make sure we went out, just the two of us, at least once a week.
I can’t say we’ve lived our life together exactly how we planned it at the workshop, but the exercise of planning how we wanted to deal with each other was valuable. And we still make a point of going out frequently to have a chance to talk.
I really believe that if more couples did some kind of long range thoughtful planning when committing to long term relationships, there might be at least a few less divorces, and that when those couple did divorce, they might be less contentious.
Planning means recognizing each other’s faults as well as their positive attributes and discussing how to harmonize your styles. It means talking through issues like how each of you feels about children, your communication patterns, agreeing on division of housework (not to mention differing standards), argument styles, and how to resolve the inevitable disputes when they arise. On the legal side, relationship planning might or might not include drafting a pre-nuptial agreement. It certainly would be good to think about doing wills and durable powers of attorney.
Relationships are a bit like business in that anticipating problems and planning for success helps breed success. (In fact, I would say that most business is ultimately about relationships.) The more you can plan in advance how to deal with the rough spots in your relationship, the better equipped you are both going to be to weather those rough spots.