Recently, I had the privilege of having a no-holds-barred conversation with a witty septuagenarian, whom I admire greatly. He gave me a lot of wise counsel about life, business, religion and marriage. On the subject of marriage, he was of the opinion that a lot of relationships and marriages do not work because people walk into them with a lot of assumptions and expectations that may or may not be realistic.
Spending a lifetime in a relationship where your expectations are continuously not being met can be a little too much to bear and so according to him, one of the fundamentals for entering into a relationship was to approach it deliberately.
He said and I quote “If people would spend as much time defining their expectations before entering into a relationship as they do when entering into a business partnership, perhaps they would have less trouble along the way”.
“Are you comparing a relationship to a business partnership? They are not the same”! My romantic self exclaimed.
He laughed…obviously he had been expecting the outburst and then he asked;
“What is the difference? Don’t the same rules of partnership apply in both scenarios?”
He had me there and so I asked him to explain his line of thought to me.
In his analysis, he explained that when people desire a business partnership, they follow the following rules:
- They consider their options of potential partners (in the case of relationships, this is the process of choosing a mate/friend).
- They find out as much as they can about the shortlisted candidate (in the case of relationships this is the phase where you cyber stalk check social media handles and make enquiries).
- They begin negotiations and define expectations (which is the missing link when it comes to romance).
- Finally, they formalise the partnership by signing a contract (in the case of relationships they both agree to enter into a romantic relationship or become friends).
I noticed that perhaps step 3 in the partnership process was the missing link in relationships and why a lot of expectations remained unmet.
After the conversation, I began to think of the analogy my “mentor” had used; comparing relationships to business partnerships and I came to the realization that there are basically three types of relationships (whether it be romantic or platonic). I am of the opinion that perhaps if we understand the pros and cons of each type, we would be able to leverage the benefits that come with the kind of relationship we are in and watch out for the major pitfalls associated with it:
1)The Merger Relationship
A merger in business occurs when two firms come together and become one legal entity.
A relationship merger occurs when two financially, mental and socially independent individuals enter into a relationship or become friends.
Benefits of a Merger Relationship:
A merger relationship brings with it increased resources to achieve shared goals; these include financial resources, social networks, career/business expertise etc.
The parties involved can pull together resources to execute projects they may not have been able to execute alone.
There also tends to be a high level of emotional and intellectual maturity which may guarantee a stable relationship/friendship.
Pitfalls to avoid:
The major pitfall to watch out for is the difficulty one or both partners may experience in adjusting to co-dependence. Remember each partner was independent and self-sufficient before the relationship/friendship was established. Suddenly becoming accountable to another individual may be difficult in the beginning and may lead to conflicts and power tussles.
Both parties should learn the art of negotiation and compromise.
2)The Acquisition Relationship
In simple terms, an acquisition occurs when a corporation takes ownership of an establishment smaller in asset base.
An acquisition relationship is one where one partner is significantly more experienced in fundamental areas such as finances, career advancement, education, exposure and so on.
Benefits of an Acquisition Relationship:
An acquisition relationship presents the opportunity for the more experienced partner to provide some form of mentoring, coaching or support to the less experienced partner in the relationship. This can create an invaluable bond as it tends to bring the partners closer.
Pitfalls to avoid:
In these kind of relationships, both parties have to be make a conscious effort to maintain a balance. The more experienced party must try not to be too domineering and the less experienced party must maintain a healthy self-esteem and ensure he/she is able to contribute to decision making within the relationship freely.
3)The Joint Venture Relationship
In business, a joint venture occurs when two entities come together to accomplish a set objective or goal. Therefore, it may be a time-bound/goal specific partnership and not a permanent one.
A joint venture relationship is usually circumstantial and both parties often know from the on-set that there are little possibilities of building a future together.
Benefits of a Joint Venture Relationship
Both parties get to negotiate the terms of the relationship since it is mostly temporary and also enjoy a level of flexibility as the expectations are well managed from the beginning.
Pitfalls to avoid:
The major pitfall in this kind of relationship is a breach of “the contract”. One party may begin to catch feelings want more despite previous agreements on the temporary basis which may lead to disputes when it is time to dissolve the partnership.
This is simply an analogy to help manage expectations in relationships. Perhaps relationships would work better when people understand how to leverage the kind of relationship they are in and also watch out for the major pitfalls.
As a hopeless romantic, I am inclined to go with the “love is all that matters” school of thought but really boardroom strategies are sometimes required to protect the love – which really does matter!