Love is in the air . . . or is it? How strong is your marriage or relationship with your significant other? You may think you know, but are you sure? What would your spouse say? The strength of your relationships is more important than any investment you'll ever own. If you'll obsess over the stock market and how well your portfolio is doing, doesn't it make sense to invest a few of the other 8 hours into a marriage check up?
After juggling careers, kids, and life, there can be very little time left over for your spouse. When there is too much to do and not enough time, our relationships are typically the first victims, followed closely by sleep. Fortunately, we have Valentine's Day to save us! But when it comes to love and relationships, this once-a-year-thing isn't working.
The key to a richer life is making sure the big three are running smoothly: health, money, and relationships. The good news is that you can go to a doctor to get a physical and determine with great accuracy your current level of health -- everything from your BMI, cholesterol level, blood pressure, bone density, etc. The same holds true with your finances. It's just as easy to get a snapshot of your current financial health by calculating your net worth and cash flow.
But when it comes to our relationships, we often don't have a clue. Wouldn't it be nice to have a check up or stock market type score for your marriage to see how last night's fight has affected the relationship today? Wouldn't it be great to be able to gauge how the relationship has done over time? As much as you want to rely on your gut feeling, there's really no way to know how strong your marriage is . . . or is there?
Here's where we can learn a few things from the business world. Every quarter, public companies disclose the previous three month's sales and income. As an investor, you get a clear snapshot of how the company did, what went well, and what went wrong. There is no guessing; the numbers don't lie. A couple of bad years for a stock and the board may fire the CEO. A couple of bad years in a relationship, and you-know-who might get replaced!
There's an old saying that goes, "What you measure, you can improve." My recommendation is that you schedule a quarterly date with your spouse to measure what's working and what's not working in your relationship -- call it a marriage check up. Why not just go with your gut? Because your gut is wrong. Has your spouse ever been upset with you for something that you had no idea about? Or have you ever been upset with your spouse and she had no idea? It's not enough to "feel good" about the relationship. You need to test it. But how?
Asking your partner during an American Idol commercial break, "We good?" just isn't sufficient. There are many useful assessments that can help you gauge the health of your relationship including the Marital Satisfaction Inventory, Marital Adjustment Test, and the Quality of Marriage Index. Tests like these are great because they can help bring to surface minor issues before they become major problems.
I'd also recommend scheduling an hour session with a marriage counselor once a quarter. For a few bucks and an hour of your time, it is the best investment you can make in your relationship. It can be helpful to have an expert review the results from the assessment and help resolve any issues that arise.
You may not think twice about buying jewelry, flowers, and chocolates to express your love this week, but if you want to do something that will really strengthen your relationship, add a marriage check up to your calendar. It's not quite as romantic as a love poem, but it beats getting fired!
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