Updated: Dec 12, 2021
The Flex Plan
When my wife and I were much younger and busy with everyday life, we didn’t give much thought to what life would be like 25 years, 40 years or 50 years down the line. It is not to say we did not have any short-term planning, as well as long-term planning discussions in place. However, they were all the goal-oriented type things many of us are told to do. Financial strategies, retirement planning, career path mile markers and such.
These are important “bullet points” for couples to have. But these plans need to be more like developing a budget. What I mean by that is this. With a budget, you are estimating your revenue and expenses. What types of line items that will make up your revenue and expenses? These figures may or may not match what really transpires through the year. Things come up you don’t expect. Other things cost more than you anticipate. Knowing this, you adjust and learn to become flexible with future finances. It is an ongoing process. A budget is merely a basic financial roadmap.
This needs to be the case within relationships as well. Life is unpredictable. You may have dreams of having a family. Of living in a certain part of the country or another continent. You may have your career, or careers mapped out. Visions of the house and neighborhood you prefer. Yearly vacation spots picked and more. Investment strategies in place. Everything looks great on paper. Your personal roadmap. That is until you live out your daily life and old age brings with it new challenges.
Job layoffs. An illness, disease or accident. The discovery that you cannot have children. Parents you end up taking care of in their old age. Doors that just never open. The curveballs of life. Things not expected nor planned. These are some of the things that test a couple’s commitment to each other, as well as their ability to “roll with the punches!”.
Many have left a relationship or divorced their spouse due to life or lifestyle changes they were not willing to make. Examples such as financial loss, a spouse who became incapacitated or handicapped in some way. Or a desire of a spouse to change careers thus changing their social status and social network. A life expected that did not materialize the way someone wanted, required or demanded. This inability to cope with any change to “the plan” often reveals the actual nature of what the relationship was built upon. Welcome to the human experience.
So, the question then becomes, how flexible can you two be? How married are you to your goals and dreams? Are you willing and able to adjust and dream new dreams? Plan new goals? Chart a different course? What really makes you happy, the plan or your mate? Or makes you feel complete, the plan or your mate? What is more important to you, your goals and career or your mate?
Will any of these things cripple your relationship? Will you handle the pressure together? Can you sacrifice?
No future life planning can be truly made without facing the reality of what you two would look to do in the event something personal would impact one of you. There is a saying that “we hope for the best but plan for the worst!”
Here’s our personal experience. While pastoring our second church in the Midwest and dealing with the ongoing pressures there, like a trooper I simply plowed ahead, absorbed in problem-solving issues, something I like to do actually, and “taking care of business”. The thought never entered my mind as to how all of this was actually impacting Yvonne. I was fulfilling a desire and dream of mine in being a pastor as I pursued ministry. Yvonne was co-pastoring alongside me. It was all good… on paper!
We had flown out to Seattle for a vacation. It was such an enjoyable time and a much-needed break from life in Missouri. It had left such an impression on Yvonne that she stated in passing that she could live in such a place. At the end of our stay, we packed up and started for the airport. While driving on our way Yvonne just started to cry. I asked what was wrong. With tears streaming, she said that she didn’t want to go back. What I learned that day in that drive to the airport was that while she was doing her best to support me and keep a happy face on, quietly the pressure of pastoring took her to the limit. And, the thought of going back to the church was overwhelming. I did not realize until that moment the weight she was carrying. I determined that something had to change and before we landed back in the Midwest, I committed to a new plan we formulated on our flight back. Within 24 months I would step down as Senior Pastor, we would have the house sold, move to Washington State and start anew. I had no clue at that point what I would do for employment or where we were to live. But those were merely line items in a broader picture of a change in plans for our lives. As I told her on that flight, ministry comes in many forms. We would simply pursue a different path.
The following year we flew back to Seattle for a working vacation. Within that week we both found work, a place to live and secured a lockup. We flew back, gave our notices and started packing. Sold the house, had a yard sale, rented a U-Haul truck and packed what we had left into it. Eighteen months after making that commitment we were driving across country.
Plans need to change as life changes come. We will call it “The Flex Plan”. Value your relationship above all else. In doing so, you will be able to handle together whatever changes you need to make. And, no question you will be faced with making some. A house divided cannot stand, but two people united in a commitment to one another and to their future can overcome anything! As long as you have each other, you’ll get by!
Until next time, we wish you LOVE, JOY and PEACE!