Is your relationship feeling stagnant recently? Do you feel like you’re caught in a routine, ignoring each other, too busy to give time to your relationship, or just simply neglecting your relationship?
It can be easy to become complacent in our relationships, especially when living together on a daily basis. Life happens around us –we work, possibly have children to care for, keep up a home, try to see friends and family, deal with issues that come up, and so on. Things end up getting pushed to the front in our lives, while our relationships with our significant others are pushed to the back.
After some time of sticking in this pattern, we may find our relationships lacking in fulfillment, unexciting, or even boring. Some may feel secure in a more “business” type of relationship — having someone to come home to every night and to sleep and wake up next to, maybe raising children — while not otherwise giving much attention to their relationship. And to be sure, there is nothing wrong with this outlook if both partners on the same page. The trouble starts when one or both of the partners begins to experience the relationship as lacking balance. When this happens, it means more is wanted from the relationship, and without some form of action, this can eventually cascade into overall relationship dissatisfaction for one or both partners.
There are many things that people can do to spice up a relationship. Some try different things sexually; some add date nights or other togetherness activities; and more. These are all good things.
Turning Toward Each Other
The “Relationship Dream List” is a favorite among couples I treat. When both partners in a relationship share similar goals and dreams, even if they can be unrealistic goals at times, it not only heightens a sense of overall togetherness, it also turns both partners toward each other.
What does “turning toward” mean?
When a person becomes dissatisfied or frustrated with his or her relationship, the subconscious tendency is to turn away from the partner. This can happen in various forms, including thoughts or behaviors involving cheating, spending less time with the partner, envisioning a future without the partner, becoming irritable with the partner, and so on.
The reverse of this process is the idea of turning toward each other. When our relationships are in sync, there’s a sense of togetherness. Turning toward is a subconscious mindset of having both feet in the door of our relationship. We seek positive interaction with our partner; we look to the future with our partner in the picture; we function on the same page (or seek to re-orient when natural drifting occurs); and there is a general sense of our partner as a positive force in our lives.
Dreaming together is an important element of a healthy relationship. When partners have shared dreams, it helps strengthen the mechanism of turning toward each other and creating meaning in the relationship. In a sense, shared dreams help orient a relationship — fostering togetherness and a mutual sense of direction.
Dreams can be anything that people want to see happen in the course of their lives: buying a house, having children, traveling, moving to a particular place, a long-term project at home (fixing up a house; having a garden; starting a meaningful collection), writing a book, opening a business, raising a puppy, etc. Dream possibilities are infinite and can be revised over time.
It’s also good and healthy to have individual dreams as well as shared dreams. I treated a couple where one wanted to travel around the country and visit every state. The partner had little interest in this, but felt it could be fun to see a baseball game in different major league stadiums in the country. This is a “secondary dream” — a dream that branches off the partner’s original dream. This person was able to find a positive element within the partner’s dream in order to be supportive and increase the togetherness in the relationship. This is also a form of turning towards.
How to create a Relationship Dream List:
1) Start with your own separate lists. What are the dreams that you each have in your lives? Distinguish long-term dreams from short-term goals. Something that can be done immediately without carry-over most likely won’t have the same turning-toward impact that long-term dreams would have. Getting a dog has emotional carry-over because you continue to raise it together — this is good; a weekend getaway is a positive activity for a relationship in several ways, but once the weekend is complete only residual emotions carry-over, which eventually will dissipate without new goals — this is less effective as a long-term togetherness goal.
2) Swap lists and read your partner’s dreams aloud to each other. Discuss each dream on the list with your partner. What attracts your partner to each dream? Mentally note the areas that interest you as well.
3) Find the common ground. Your lists may not always align, and often they don’t at first glance. This is okay. After hearing your partner’s thoughts about each dream, discuss where you may have interest or can fit into those dreams, even if you have to be creative. Sometimes a partner may want certain dreams to be individual without the partner involved. This is okay, as long as there are shared dreams as well.
4) Take written note of all common ground. As you discuss the lists, take written note the original dreams, secondary dreams, and other common ground.
5) Create the shared list (the Relationship Dream List). Combine the original, secondary dreams, and common ground into one list. Present it as you’d like, as only you and your partner need to be able to understand the list.
6) Add and prioritize. Discuss other things you’d like to do together in your lives that may have been excluded from your individual lists. Add these to your new shared list, and prioritize the list.
The Relationship Dream List isn’t meant to be a to-do list. Your shared dreams create an underlying sense of mutual direction in your relationship, while also creating greater meaning and a foundation of turning towards each other. Unwelcome routines and other day-to-day issues may still come into the picture and temporarily push our relationships to the side, however, shared dreams can strengthen the basis and a create a continuous sense of togetherness in our relationships.