For most people their primary relationships are the most important relationships they have.
Unfortunately, they have no plans and goals for them. Most couples spend a lot of time planning their one day wedding, but few plan their life long marriage.
Want do you want from your marriage? What is the purpose of your relationship? Why are you with your partner? These questions need to be answered for you to be satisfied in your marriage. “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, says the ancient proverb.
One of the first assignments I give to couples who come to me for counselling is to create a shared Relationship Vision. Let me explain why a Relationship Vision is so critical.
We all bring preconceived ideas and expectations to our relationships. These ideas have been implanted into our unconscious by our parents, community, television and movies. Unfortunately, most couples do not share their expectations with each other prior to marriage. Eventually, they hit bumps in the road and find out that their ideas and expectations are not compatible. This is usually when they come to see me.
Mark and Anna came to couples counselling stuck in a power struggle. Anna was upset with Mark for “not holding down his side of the deal”. She was expecting certain behaviors and actions from him as her husband, and was becoming more and more frustrated and angry when they were not forthcoming.
I worked with them to create a Relationship Vision that merged both of their ideas for how they would share their lives together in order to build a deep, lasting partnership.
Their Relationship Vision helped them clarify their individual needs and desires and they learned to ask their partner to meet them. Their Relationship Vision helped them make the decisions they needed to make as a couple and shaped the actions they both needed to take.
Mark and Anna's shared Relationship Vision combined each partner's separate expectations, dreams, desires, values and needs. Once they had a clearly defined Relationship Vision, both were able to turn their energy away from past disappointments toward a more hopeful future, the future they wanted to create with each other.
Creating a Relationship Vision takes some time and effort, and it is helpful to work with a third party, such as a couples counsellor.
Steps to Create a Relationship Vision
1. Working separately, write a series of short sentences in the present tense that describe your own personal vision of a satisfying love relationship. Write down your “non-negotiables” and desires. For example: “We encourage each other to follow his/her dreams and we support each other's interests.”
“We are loving parents, working on our parenting skills as a team”
“We help each other develop healthy eating habits and exercise regularly”
“We communicate openly and honestly with each other and our feelings and thoughts are respected and
2. Phrase all of your sentences positively. For example: “We settle our differences peacefully” rather than: “We don't fight”, or “We trust each other” not “ We don't get jealous”.
3. When forming your Relationship Vision focus on the different areas of your relationship: Romance and Sex, Finances, Parenting, In-laws, Communication, Work, Lifestyle and Leisure Activities. Answer the following questions in your Relationship Vision: What type of activities do you do together? How do you relate to each other? How do you play together? What is your sex life like? What do you do with your free time? How do you relate around money? How are decisions made? How do you handle conflict? What is your relationship to in-laws or stepchildren?
4. Get together and share your completed sentences with your partner. Work together to create a mutually agreed upon Relationship Vision. Start with the items you both agree are important. If you have items that are a source of conflict between you, try to come up with a compromise that satisfies both of you. This step is where a trained Marriage and Family Therapist may be of great service.
Going Forward with your Relationship Vision
Post your Relationship Vision where you see it daily. Read your Relationship Vision together with your partner once a week, check if you are on target - this will help you make daily choices that will turn your vision into a reality. Update and tweak your Relationship Vision once a year to fit your current needs.
Once your Relationship Vision is completed you have a guide that will help you create the marriage you want. If you don't create a Relationship Vision, you leave it to chance. You can't control everything in life, but a Relationship Vision will help you make conscious choices to head towards your desired destination together!
Concepts from Harville Hendrix's “Getting the Love You Want”
Helen Rudinsky is a Marriage and Family Therapist serving couples, individuals and children in Vienna's expat community.