Restructuring Your Position
I had a young couple who came to see me for marital counseling. The husband owned his own company and the wife had a Masters Degree in business, but had chosen to stay home and raise their two sons. The couple wanted help with reviving their marriage because there seemed to be too much emotional separateness. In actuality, the husband had made the call because his wife was unhappy with him. He had his own mortgage business and was gone 12-14 hours per day. When he was home, he was chronically on the phone with clients, negotiating their issues and their problems. He felt that it was absolutely essential that he cater to their needs, day or night.
The husband was married to his business. He ate, breathed, and lived it with fervor. His wife was feeling neglected and reported that she and the kids came second to his work. She realized that he loved them, but she was despondent about his lack of investment or excitement about them.
As I worked with this couple, it became obvious that this well-meaning dad saw himself as the provider, which fit nicely into his agenda of making money and being successful.
I decided to appeal to his “sense of business” when talking about the reorganization of his personal company—his family. I recommended structural changes that he needed to create. I interviewed him from a business perspective, suggesting he make a daily appointment with his children to play with them before he left for work and from 8-9 o’clock at night.
The wife was encouraged to take over all of his calls from 8 to 9 so he would not miss them.
( This way, the husband did not have to forfeit his business to make time for his boys).
I know you might be shaking your head in disbelief that a man could put his family second to his business, but after working with him for several sessions it was apparent that this man loved his family, but could not tear away from his business identity. I knew as a therapist that I needed to do something different and appeal to his business savvy.
I also knew that this family needed to do some family outings and they had the desire to go to church, although the thought of getting two young children ready for church also seemed like an insurmountable task. I suggested that they find a service on Saturday evening so they could leave Sunday totally unscheduled. I explained to the husband that if he was totally free of any obligations on Sunday, he would be replenished and he would be a more successful businessman throughout the week. He understood this concept and also seemed to enjoy the fact that going to church allowed him many good networking opportunities. His wife was pleased because this afforded them family time and she felt less isolated.
Just recently the husband announced that they were going on their first vacation. Historically, he couldn’t fathom leaving his company for a week, losing all that money and not being there for his clients. When his wife started talking about the need for a family retreat to strategize the needs of the “family business” he was able to integrate it differently. As they left my office, I had to smile, realizing she had learned how to become the true CEO of the family while her husband was the CFO. Together, they were running the most important business of their lives—their family.