Manage Your Marriage Like an Effective Business

One way to keep your marriage running smoothly is to manage it like an effective, streamlined business.

Learning from the Automobile Manufacturing System:

A few years ago I listened to a radio program about problems that occurred in the 1970’s American car manufacturing industry. There were a lot of problems arising in the manufacturing industry related to worker dissatisfaction, and issues where workers felt they were blamed for problems, and not appreciated.

The result was that unhappy, disgruntled workers were making mistakes and covering them up, or purposely sabotaging cars in retaliation. A lot of cars at the end of the assembly lines had to be parked because they couldn’t be sold.

CEO’s of these companies decided to visit Japanese auto makers to see what they were doing differently. Japanese cars were developing a reputation for being more reliable and cheaper. They discovered a totally different process and attitude towards mistakes.

Another Way to Think of Relationships:

The Japanese plants had a rope located at each station. This rope could be pulled any time a worker noticed a problem on the line. Management didn’t ream the worker out for pulling the rope and interrupting production. Instead they were applauded for having the carefulness to recognize a problem, even if they were the cause of the problem.

The group would work to solve the problem together and see if there was a way to prevent it from occurring again. No one was blamed for making a reasonable mistake. Instead they treated this as “let’s work together to fix mistakes, make the line more efficient, and produce a great product”. This is a process of not letting a problem control the group, but the group controlling the problem.

In marriage, we use the same process. For example, if someone makes a mistake, bring it up in the context of “this thing happened (or didn’t happen) and it’s affecting me”. Assume the other person wants to prevent problems from interfering with your relationship as much as you do. Assume they will help you resolve the problem so things continue running smoothly. When you have a problem with your partner’s behavior there may simply be a misunderstanding that can be rectified.

Assume Good Intentions:

When managing your marriage, when you assume good intentions when your spouse may have done something thoughtless, you can get a better response when you approach them. Quite likely, your spouse is accustomed to “reading” you and knows when they are about to get “blasted” for something. This puts them on the defensive right away. Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to serious offenses like having an affair. It isn’t helpful to assume the other person had an affair with good intentions. That’s a different blogpost.

The main idea is that putting the success of your marriage above all else as you respond to problems gets better results and contributes to a satisfying marriage.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan who provides counseling for couples, teenagers, and adults.  He provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, college, work stress, and relationships.  For more information, please visit the website at