Welcome to a brand-new year. While I won’t be pitching any resolutions or quick fixes to jump-start your 2024, I would like to invite you and your partner to explore your dreams and goals — and not just for this year but for the long haul.
Years ago, I encountered an idea that I loved then and still love today: 30 dreams in 30 years (copyright Pat Worthey). This intervention was conceived by Andy Greendorfer and developed by Pat Worthey. (Both therapists were some of the very first in the Gottman cohort of therapists trained in the method.) It’s essentially an invitation to take time now as a couple to do some long-range dreaming (which, if I’m honest, is something a lot of us don’t really think about, much less do).
If you’ve been around Core Values Counseling for a bit, you’ve heard us talk about the Gottmans and their Sound Relationship House. There are seven floors in the Sound Relationship House, and the sixth one, right below the top of the house (Create Shared Meaning), is Make Life Dreams Come True. These two top floors really go hand-in-hand, but today we’re focusing on dreams.
And here’s the most important question: do you know what your partner’s dreams are?
It may seem like a pretty heady question, but let me tell you: it’s a game-changer.
John Gottman tells a story about the publishing process of his New York Times bestselling book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. He was in a meeting with his publisher, trying to convince them to put a lot of money into advertising the book. But the head of marketing wasn’t buying it. He was skeptical at best. He challenged Gottman: “Tell me one thing I can do — in 30 seconds — to improve my marriage.” Gottman’s answer was, “honor your wife’s dreams.” You can hear the whole story here, but as it turns out, the man had never asked his wife what her dreams were (and she thought he’d never ask).
That one question was a watershed moment in their relationship, and it can be in yours, too.
Sometimes, relationships can get a little lopsided when it comes to making dreams come true. But we all need to be careful that everyone’s needs are being met. The dreams of both partners deserve equal attention and care.
One partner might be a big dreamer — and willing and eager to share those dreams. The other partner may not be as vocal about their own dreams. They may have dreams but simply not know how to share them. Or maybe they’ve never been encouraged or given permission to dream.
What if you took some time this week or in the next couple of weeks to open each other’s minds and hearts to explore your dreams with one another? Get away together if you can, even if it’s just for one night, and have a dream-fest together!
Wherever and however you plan to explore and learn about one another’s dreams, here are three questions that can help you get started:
- If money was no object and you could do anything in the next 1-5 years, what would make you feel joyful, accomplished, and satisfied with your life? These dreams can be big or small. They can be about your work or personal relationships, your spiritual life, adventures you’d like to embark on, or ways you’d like to strengthen your mental or physical health.
- What are your core needs surrounding a dream coming true? For instance, is it really important that you stay within a budget? Or is there flexibility in that? Are there little dreams along the way to a bigger dream, like starting your own business?)
- Is there something in your life that, if it changed, would make you feel like your dream had come true? We both decide to do gardening together vs. doing it alone every spring. Or we’ve wanted to go back to Europe for an extended vacation for many years, and if this doesn’t happen, I’m going to feel really, really defeated.
It’s easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole when setting goals, but if you keep your eyes on your partner’s role in the dream-making and goal-setting, you’ll be on the right path.
Just remember this: One partner might be resistant to setting a lot of hard-core goals, but the other may feel unstable in NOT setting goals. If that’s the case in your relationship, dig deep and discover where you both have similar feelings about reaching these dreams. How can you come together to ensure each person’s dreams are being valued and honored?
To wrap things up, I’d like to leave you with a favorite quote and slightly whimsical challenge.
In her book I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It, Barbara Sher says, “You must go after your wish. As soon as you start to pursue a dream, your life wakes up and everything has meaning.”
So go after those wishes and start to make meaning! Sit down with your partner, and take a crack at the 30 dreams in 30 years bucket list from Pat Worthey. Here’s how to get started:
“Here is a chance for you to just have fun and just play with your partner. It is a chance to allow you both to dream together playfully with no consequences. Each partner takes a turn expressing a dream. You write down and keep track of your partner’s dreams. Don’t have one partner do all 30 dreams in one turn. Go back and forth from one dream to the other until you get to 30. The dreams don’t have to even be real or feasible. Don’t argue with your partner about his/her dream. Embrace whatever feelings come up for your partner – Joy, Sadness, Regret, Excitement. Have fun with this Bucket List.”
If we don’t have dreams, our dreams can never come true. Here and now is a great place to start. Happy dreaming!