Manage Your Marriage Like an Effective Business

One way to keep your marriage running smoothly is to mange it the way an effective streamlined business .

A few years ago I was listening to a radio program about the problems that occurred in the 1970’s American car manufacturing industry. The gist of it was that there were a lot of problems arising in the manufacturing industry related to worker dissatisfaction, and management issues where workers felt they were being blamed for problems and not appreciated for their contributions.

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

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

The Japanese plants had a rope located at each station. This rope could be pulled at any time when a worker had a problem or noticed a problem on the line. When they pulled this rope, the line stopped automatically and pleasant music played to let everyone know that the line had been stopped. 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 as a group to fix mistakes, make the line more efficient when possible, and focus on producing a great product”. This was a process of not letting a problem control the group, but the group controlling the problem.

In marriage, we can use the same process. 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 will want to prevent problems from interfering with the relationship as much as you do, and will work with you to resolve the problem so the relationship can go on running smoothly. However, this does not necessarily mean that if you have a problem with your partner’s behavior that they are in the wrong. There may simply be a misunderstanding of intent that can be rectified.

When managing our marriage, if we assume good intentions of our spouse, even when they seem to have done something thoughtless or uncaring, we can usually get a better response from them when we approach them about it. Quite likely, our spouse is accustomed to “reading” us and knows when they are about to get “blasted” for something. Also, keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to more serious offenses such as having an affair. It wouldn’t be reasonable or helpful to assume the other person had an affair with good intentions–but that’s a different blogpost.

The main idea here is that putting the marriage above all else and using that idea to gauge and modify how you respond to problems that arise will get good results and contribute to a satisfying marriage.

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