At some point in the early days of our marriage (it was 43 years this summer) my husband and I started writing down 5-year plans. We’d go out to dinner with the purpose of brainstorming and we’d have fun putting our heads together to envision our lives together. We’d write down stuff like buying a house, changing jobs, having another child, landscaping the yard, traveling, getting a dog, and the like. I loved that we did this and always took pride in our purposefulness and focus. Each year on our anniversary each we’d pull it out to see how we were doing and add new goals to the list. I get a little embarrassed when I think back on the material nature of our goals. At the time, though, they seemed so out of reach; putting them down in writing helped to make them more real and sparked conversations on how we might bring the goals to fruition.
Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelley Hunt offer another take on the idea of planning for the future of our relationships. While the goals my husband and I set were more quantitative, establishing relationship goals in the Imago Relationship realm are more qualitative and focus on dreams, desires, values and needs. Hendrix and Hunt direct readers to create a series of short sentences that describe your personal vision of a deeply satisfying love relationship. Their idea is to write each sentence in the present tense, as if it were already happening. The examples they give are: “We have fun together.” “We have great sex.” “We are loving parents.” Another tip they offer is to write the sentences positively. Instead of writing “We don’t fight,” frame it in the affirmative, “We settle our differences peacefully.”
What follows is a list of questions adapted from The New Couples’ Study Guide Workbook for Getting the Love You Want.
What do you feel towards one another?
What do you do together?
How do you relate to each other?
Where do you live?
What is your sex life like?
How do you play together?
What do you do with your free time?
How do you relate around work?
How do you relate around money?
What is the status of your children, if any?
How do you relate to your children, and how do they relate to you?
How are decisions made?
How do you handle conflict?
How healthy are you?
You will come up with other areas that reflect your joint vision. Answering the questions separately and then looking together at the answers to find similarities and differences is a great way to discover more of what makes your relationship unique. The way the list becomes a co-created vision is great, as is the fact that you can keep checking it over the years and adding to it as your vision grows and changes. Shaping a mutual relationship vision is one more substantive way to deepen the connection between you and your partner.