Before marriage, issues such as where to live and work might or might not involve major differences between potential spouses. By the time they agree to marry, they might well have already chosen an area in which to live and might already be employed. However, they might not yet be settled in a place or working in a specific area. In this Blog, we provide guidance to those potential spouses who have not agreed where to live or work.
The value in having a discussion about these two aspects of married life is invaluable.
The reader might already have gathered that the time period prior to marriage is a time to plan. This planning is always about identifying long-term goals, not short-term ideas, impulses or conveniences. For example, assume that the potential spouses plan to have children. Where they live has an important impact on their lives, when having children is a consideration. For example, assume both potential spouses would like to live in an area near the mountains in Colorado, which reflects their current interests in camping, skiing and hiking. Their extended families live in Iowa. Once in Colorado, they buy a house, develop good friends and find reasonably good jobs. Then they have children. Now, school systems, day care and other child related resources (e.g., medical systems) become considerations. Had they considered lives with children, they might well have settled near their families for grandparent daycare, cousins and the quality of schools in Iowa.
Our point is that in every marriage, when making decisions about a future as spouses, it is critical to consider long-term goals, which might override short-term considerations. If in the case above, they would rather raise children in Iowa, their plan might have been very different. Hiking, skiing and camping might have been vacations plans, not residential plans.
Let us be more explicit about what is Goal-based Planning. Simply stated, it involves taking four steps together:
- Get an explicit and detailed assessment of the current situation to determine the starting point of the discussion. With regard to this issue, where to live and where to work, involves many important considerations: e.g., resources available, current jobs and income, lifestyle choices, social capital (extended family, friends and associates and resources in the area), activities in which the potential spouses are involved or other activities in the current area in which they might like to be involved and factors of importance (weather, size of city/town, school district quality, local culture and perhaps more).
- Establish long-term goals – what each and both spouses wants out of an area and a job.
- Develop a step-by-step approach to reach long-term goals from the current situation.
- Identify obstacles to reaching those goals and develop a plan for overcoming the obstacles.
Plans for jobs or careers should begin with focusing on long-term goals, not short-term opportunities. Few activities become more important over time than the demands and responsibilities of employment. Some professions, for example, can be major obstacles to a desired family life. “Moving up the ladder” in a job might even require major geographic changes that can be disruptive when children are involved. Steps to reach long-term goals might also include additional education or training.
A benefit to having these discussions prior to, or even early in a marriage, is that they establish a pattern of decision-making that can be very helpful when unexpected events occur in the future. For example, a sudden loss of a job can create a short-term panic, but the task is to identify new long-term goals and plan using the Four Steps (mentioned above) to reach those goals.
This planning process can help avoid short-term poorly considered actions. The long-term perspective of Goal-based Planning for where to live and work, might seem dull in some ways, but where people live and what work they do will dominate most of their lives as spouses. Assume that the people getting married are in their mid-twenties. Assume they need five years to get to their goals. That leaves at least 50 or more years to live in an area and worked in jobs or careers they enjoy.
The quality of life enjoyed during the marriage depends on Goal-based Planning.
Goal-based planning is a great way to avoid serious difficulties and challenges in the future. We are aware that with every decision, a choice eliminates all of the other choices available at the time. Additionally, there are trade-offs to every choice. No choice is “all good” without some trade-offs. However, reaching long-term goals is a very rewarding experience, and Goal-based Planning is the best way to get there.
In the next Blog in this series, we encourage people planning to marry to discuss ahead of time “Dealbreakers”