Great relationships don’t just happen; they are developed. One way to kick off your new year’s relationship resolutions is to create a relationship vision together. This is an exercise for two, developed by John Gottman, a psychological researcher and clinician who studied couples for decades and has written some wonderfully helpful books on making relationships work.
Start off separately. Each of you write down all factors that would make a love relationship deeply satisfying. Some of the items you list will be features of your relationship as it is currently, and some will be things you wish you had. Either way, write each item in the present tense, as if it already is happening. This is a vision, so you are imagining that you are able to peek into the future and see your future selves enjoying the great relationship you have created. Also, be sure to state your vision in positive terms. For instance, say, “We settle our disagreements pleasantly,” rather than, “We don’t fight.”
You may have some items that are concrete and even relatively trivial (like, “We enjoy listening to music together.”). Some may be more abstract and essential (like, “We treat each other with respect.”). In total, each person should list 10 — 20 items.
Next, sit down together and compare lists. Which items are on both lists? Is there anything on your partner’s list that you wouldn’t want as part of your relationship? Which items are most important to each of you? Finally, which items would be most challenging for the two of you to achieve?
When you have completed this exercise, you will have created a roadmap for your relationship. The “challenge” items will be your to-do list, and your new year will be off to a great start! ■
Elaine Wilco is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 20 years of experience. She maintains a private practice in Alpharetta focused on helping those with intimacy issues. Follow her at facebook.com/IntimacyAtlanta.