The power of Plan B

We all experience difficulties in life, and there are times when it all seems too hard and things aren’t panning out as you expected. Whether it’s relationship difficulties, an unhappy work situation or a financial crisis that is threatening your retirement, developing a Plan B can ease the pressure and allow you to clearly assess your situation.

A close friend recently experienced a stage in her relationship where she was desperately unhappy. She had been married for almost 35 years and while there had been the usual highs and lows of a long-term relationship, this was different. The kids had left home, and there were financial strains and pressures from problems with extended families. Whenever she tried to address these problems, the result would be anger, tears and accusations.

She and I discussed the need to formulate a Plan B, an exit strategy. This consisted of finding out everything she could about their financial position so she knew how much money she would have if she left. With that knowledge, she started to plan a more constrained life, decided where she would want to live and what type of property she could buy there. She realised she needed to get a higher paying job or more hours so she would have more income, and started on the process immediately. She set a timeline: if things didn’t improve in a year, she would begin again on her own. 

The result of all this planning was very unexpected. It enabled her to clearly talk to her partner about the issues she had with the current state of their relationship and perhaps, more importantly, enabled her to listen to his view of things without getting angry or upset. Because, of course, they were both unhappy; your partner’s unhappiness can be easy to overlook when you are in the midst of your own despair.

After many calm and considered conversations she is back in love with the man she married, they are enjoying each other’s company and now-empty nest, planning holidays and retirement together. She never told him about her Plan B, but I suspect he knew and was quite probably formulating his own. Hopefully, they will never need these alternative options, but knowing that it’s possible makes for a more stable and happy relationship, and enables them to live in the ‘now’.

Another friend, in a similar situation caused by the extreme pressure her husband was under at work, made a Plan B which involved selling up and buying an RV and travelling around Australia on her own. She mapped out her Plan B, wrote down all the details, and then shared it with her husband. This calm, clear preparation enabled them to have a real conversation which didn’t descend into shouting and tears, as previous conversations had. Identifying that the issues stemmed from his work pressure and unhappiness made the situation less personal and they were able to put strategies in place for him to deal with that pressure. Like most of us, he can’t just resign, but they can face the pressure together with a renewed understanding of their relationship and, I am happy to relay, they are doing just that and their relationship is back on an even keel. And, her husband will now always know that she has a Plan B.

Of course, not every story has a happy ending. However, if you have thoroughly planned your exit strategy you will know exactly what you are going to do, which can make a very difficult transition a little easier.

Do you have a Plan B in place?  Have you ever followed through on a Plan B, and how did it work out?

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