20th September 2010
Finding Focus through your Relationship Vision
A few days ago my study shelves pulled away from the wall forcing me to dismantle them before everything came crashing down on me. In the process I came across the Relationship Vision my husband and I created a few months before we married. I can remember the day we created it. It was on the third day of an Imago workshop we attended back in April 2006.
Looking through our Relationship Vision I wondered whether it had been a valuable exercise and if any of it had actually become a reality. I am delighted to say that the answer to both questions was a resounding yes! That said, there are a number of things we have yet to achieve but this is because they are longer term goals, such as financial security and having children.
Bring focus to your relationship
I am eternally grateful for the work of Harville Hendrix as it has allowed us to set the foundations on which we have built our marriage and our relationship. If I am honest, until we attended the workshop we had never considered creating a shared Relationship Vision. Sadly, yet understandably, this seems to be the norm.
Working as a therapist I am constantly surprised at how few couples take the time to set out their relationship visions. It seems we prefer to just bumble along believing we will ‘work it out’ as we go. The reality is this approach rarely works and most couples report that they often feel lost and lack in relationship focus as a result.
For us, developing a Relationship Vision before we married allowed us to highlight the similarities and differences in our visions – this has prevented us having those ever typical conversations which start with ‘but you never told me you wanted…’ It has also allowed us to expand our vision by incorporating each other’s hopes and desires – as a result our joint vision is far richer and more interesting.
While this may feel like the most obvious time during which to set a vision there are at least four further other times a Relationship Vision could be a fantastic tool to bring focus and most importantly connection.
- ‘Empty Nest’ - when your children leave home and it’s just the two of you. A Relationship Vision will give you the opportunity to refocus the relationship as you step into the next phase.
- When you flat line or become disconnected – every relationship goes through a period that feels flat or disconnected. Spending time on your Relationship Vision gives you the opportunity to reconnect and focus your relationship.
- In times of conflict – when you fight you are engaging the old brain which means there is very little opportunity for you to really see your partner as anything other than ‘bad’. A Relationship Vision allows both of you to put your old brains down, activate the neo cortex, and remember what brought you together, what you have in common and where you could bring joy back into your life..
- To re-romanticise the relationship – it’s perfect for keeping up the momentum when the going is good…
A template for your Relationship Vision
There are several ways in which you can create a Relationship Vision but the one we used comes directly from the book ‘Getting the Love You Want’ by Harville Hendrix. In short it requires you to each take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. On your own, in the left hand column, draw up a list of items you would like in your Relationship Vision. Below are a few pointers that may be helpful:-
- Keep everything in the present tense i.e. ‘We have a joint charitable project’ or ‘we have a good balance between us time and time with friends and family’
- Only use positive language i.e. ‘We trust each other’ rather than ‘we don’t get jealous’
- Include both the positive qualities already present in your relationship and those you want more of in the relationship
Once you have individually created your list come together, in a quiet, safe space, and begin to share what you have on your list. Harville suggests you go through one list at a time. As you go through the lists, in the second column place a tick next to the ones that are the same. Write down those items you partner shares with you, which you do not have on your list, but that you would like to have on the shared Vision and place a tick next to it too. That way when you create the shared Relationship Vision you have a positive place from which to begin.
Once you have shared your lists return to the items which are different and begin to explore with each other whether they can become part of the shared Relationship Vision. If they can, add them to your shared list. If there is a need to have further discussion around a point – either to gain further clarity or to share your thoughts with each other – place a question mark in the second column and ask for a dialogue at a later date.
The next step is to draw up your shared Vision and stick it up in a prominent place where you can look at it on a regular basis.
The final step is to build it into your everyday life. In the beginning you may find it helpful to set up a monthly ‘coffee date’ with your partner and read out your shared Relationship Vision, and share where you see it showing up in your life.
The key to anything like this is implementation - we all have the best intentions but we need to follow through in order for tools such as the Relationship Vision to have any real value at all.
Hope you give it a go…
If you found this entry useful, and you would like to explore how we might work together, then just click here.