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What can business teach us about relationships?

What can business teach us about relationships? I would say quite a lot.

Today I want to follow up on my video from two weeks ago, where I introduced the idea that we can learn a lot from the relationships of every day life, like business relationships, to further enhance our intimate relationships.

And so, here it goes.

Meet Mary. She is 32 years old, works as a graphic designer in a large advertising agency and is deeply passionate about what she does. She is so passionate that she can’t stop thinking about design when she leaves her job. She’s constantly coming up with ideas, sketching, and dreaming of a day when she can bring her full talent to the world.

It so happens that Mary has been sitting on an amazing product that she designed two years ago, which, however, she has been unable to market and sell. She is a great designer, but could not sell a glass of water to a thirsty man in a desert.

Enters John, a 31 year old man, who was introduced to Mary by a common friend. “You have to meet Mary!” she told John; and “You have to meet John!” she told Mary.

They finally meet over coffee and after a long chat about life they realised they share a lot of values.

“That’s awesome Mary! As a matter of fact I always dreamt of delivering something like that to the world, but I soon realised I never had the talent to create anything of such value” shares John.

“How ironic! I always dreamt of being able to reach out to my community in a way that could clearly communicate my passion and dream, but I soon realised I had no talent in that” responds Mary.

And speaking in unison, as if guided by some angelic, external force, they hear each other say, “Shall we work together?”

That’s the day that the MJ Pte. Ltd. Company was born.

Now, pay attention, as this is the part where the parallels with relationships begin.

Upon setting up the company, the founders agree that Mary is going to be the head of the Design and Production department, while John is going to be the head of the Sales and Marketing department.

They are both experts in their own field, and so can trust each other to run that independently.

However, Mary and John, also wear a third hat, that of company directors.

During board meetings, therefore, they will need to discuss department and company specific matters, through both lenses, department heads and company directors.

John would not dare interfere in the design and production processes, as he knows little to nothing about that and trusts Mary to do the right thing. And Mary would not dare barge into John’s office to complain that his team is doing a rubbish job at selling.

They can surely be curious and comment about each other’s fields of expertise, but they understand and respect there are boundaries.

When it comes to all other business matters, however, Finance, HR, Operations, Information Technology and Customer Care, neither has knowledge or expertise, and yet they must take these areas as seriously as the others, and they must choose whether to divide the roles between the two of them or hand them to third party providers.

A healthy intimate relationship closely resembles this over-simplified business analogy.

You see, a healthy intimate relationship is in fact made up of three parts, not two: you, your partner AND the relationship.

The relationship is to be considered a third and separate entity. Like in a business, a company is neither John nor Mary, it is a unique combination of the two of them, which eventually will develop its own language, culture, processes and realities.

It follows that when we enter a committed, intimate relationship, we must consider the space we occupy as a third and separate entity that requires you to dedicate the time, energy, attention and resources, outside of and separate from the time, energy, attention and resources you dedicate to your own department.

Let’s develop this concept further.

The graph below shows a simple illustration of this concept.

Fig.1 A third and separate entity called Relationship

‘A’ and ‘B’ represent the two individual entities; John and Mary, or the two company departments. The overlapping space indicates the common ground, the relationship or the company they founded together. This ecosystem would not exist if any of its component parts existed or did not agree to collaborate.

So what should sit in A, B or R to make a relationship work, grow and thrive?

I’ll break this down by looking at a more granular view of the previous diagram.

The overlapping portion, R, is the one that brought you together. Here reside all those things that you both already possess and that nature aligned; their coming together will manifest new needs that are intrinsic and unique to this union, but in terms of who you are, this space needs not be negotiated, you are already aligned.

Fig.2 No need to negotiate

The outer spaces of the system, A and B, represent those parts of your being and nature that are unique to you and don’t yet / necessarily overlap. Many of these aspects of who you are will be non-negotiables, needs and characteristics that you possess that are intrinsic to your being and that you must preserve in order to continue growing as an individual.

Remember, you will be of greatest service to your loved ones and community when you are operating at your highest potential. So, it is paramount that you continue learning, growing and healing.

Fig. 3 Mostly non-negotiables

You may now be wondering how the relationship will grow. It will by expanding R and negotiating areas of expansion that you both feel aligned to, now or in the future.

Fig.4 The negotiable space

This is an oversimplified view of the dynamics within a relationship because the A and B circles are in constant flux and also continue growing in the individual space. However, if out of these reflections you take one thing away, is to understand that R is a SEPARATE and UNIQUE entity that needs to be nurtured with all its unique needs and rules of engagement.

And to close, please remember that much of life’s joy and satisfaction comes from balance, everything that goes up must go down, and vice versa. Nurture you to bring value to your relationship, nurture the relationship to create something amazing beyond your wildest imagination.

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