In his book the E-myth Revisited, Michael Gerber discusses at length his idea of the difference between working on your business versus working in your business. The basic premise is that when you work too much IN the business, you can’t effectively work ON the business, and that severely restricts the long term success of the business. Putting too much focus on the application, the bigger picture went unattended and consequently failed.
If we apply this standard to a relationship, what is the difference between working IN the relationship, and working ON the relationship? As a society, we are really good at working in a relationship. We go through our days of overscheduled, overcommitted lives, just to come home, collapse for a few hours and start the same pattern over again the next day. Many couples have two careers and are masters at juggling their professional schedules, navigating their corporate environments, and racing their way up the corporate ladder. Couples compete to “out earn” each other, accept higher responsibilities within their jobs and still volunteer to coach the soccer team. Both men and women want their own roles that are separate from the household, and their own individual successes. The American work ethic is alive and kicking, as we continue to show up our European counterparts by the sheer number of work hours that we log on an annual basis.
How do we compare on working ON the relationship? If the current divorce data is any indication, not well. Working on the relationship takes time and effort, but more importantly, consistency. Let’s compare this idea of consistency to losing weight- something that we have all tried to do at some point in our lives. How many times have you ever tried to do the necessary things to lose weight- cut back on calories, exercise more or make more healthy choices, just to be frustrated by the efforts? Making the choice of giving up just one cookie does not get you to your ideal weight- but making that choice many times over the course of a month will. Consistency and continuity is the key to losing weight- or working on a relationship. Small, baby steps of being consistent in your actions, behaviors and thoughts toward your partner are the key to a lasting and healthy relationship.
We see many celebrity couples that split- Al and Tipper, Sandra and Jessie, Halle and Gabriel. It would seem that knowing your partner inside and out for many years is not enough to keep the relationship together. These celebrity couples certainly spent a lot of time working “in” their relationships: but not “on”. Consistent and continual effort must be made and the big picture of the relationship attended to, by both partners at the same time. Your partner’s love, affection and respect will not wait while you work in the relationship. Spend some time working on it instead.