Three years into my marriage I started to wonder whether I had done the right thing.
I had just returned from an evening event watching a favorite blogger speak about his new book and his travels in the past year.
I went alone because it was a school night and so my husband was at home with his daughters.
Before the event I enjoyed a sandwich on the pier with the sun on my face. As an introvert, I revel in these quiet moments of solitude.
I started to think about what country would I be in right now or what new adventure would I be planning?
I had always considered myself a free spirit. I love travel. Send me somewhere strange and unknown and I thrive in the sense of adventure.
I had always dreamed of doing more world travel, even living and working in another country.
Then reality set in.
With spouse whose job that doesn’t allow him to telecommute and two kids still in grade school, we weren’t going on any extended around-the-world adventures any time soon.
I started to think “If only we didn’t have to live in the city where the rent is so high….If only his ex hadn’t insisted their daughter go to private school…”
I started to think about what I “signed up for.”
I started to feel stuck.
I started to blame.
And I started to feel sorry for myself.
And then it dawned on me what I was doing wrong.
I needed to take responsibility for the choices that I made, the choice to spend my life with this man whom I love so much, and my commitment to that journey.
I needed to recognize that it’s a shared journey.
Not just my journey, but his journey, his kids’ journey, even his exes’ journey, too. It’s a package deal.
But what did that that really mean?
It meant that I needed to stop thinking about only me, and start thinking about us.
It meant that I needed to get clear on not just my vision, but create a shared vision with my husband and my stepkids.
It meant I needed to stop seeing them and my circumstance (which I chose!) as an obstacle to the dream, and get creative about how I could make them a part of the dream.
It hit me like a revelation.
What is Vision?
In one of my favorite and highly recommended relationship advice books Conscious Dating, David Steele describes vision as:
Your Vision is composed of images you have in your mind of the life and relationship you really want. It acts as your inner-guidance system, leading you towards certain choices and away from other choices.
You’ve been carrying it around for many years and it’s already inside you.
You don’t choose it, you discover it.
Your Vision is a core part of who you are and how you want to live your life.
Your success and fulfillment comes from fully expressing and living your Vision.
In other words, your Vision is the answer to the question:
What would a deeply fulfilling life and relationship look like for you?
Why Vision Is Important for Your Relationship Success
We each have a vision for the kind of life and relationship that we want.
But people grow apart when they don’t have a shared vision, one that they can both be excited about.
You need alignment in your big goals and dreams that you’re both excited to achieve together.
If you’re not sharing a path or on parallel paths, then you’re on diverging paths.
One of the main reasons couples grow apart is that they don’t have the same intentions and they’re not sharing a dream.
Growing Together Instead of Growing Apart
What does it really take to keep the spark alive in your relationship?
What does it take to ensure that you are growing together and growing closer instead of growing apart?
Next to having your needs and relationship requirements met, the foundation for long-term relationship happiness really begins with vision.
Take Inventory of Your Life and Relationship
Look at all the important areas of your life and ask yourself: what’s missing?
For example, if you had to rate your love life on a scale of one through ten, with one being “couldn’t get any worse” to ten being “couldn’t get any better”, where would you love life be along that spectrum?
This is a really important step toward creating your vision because you need to know where you are now in order to create a path to where you want to be.
Take Responsibility for Your Part in the Relationship
If I wanted more fun, adventure and passion in my marriage, I had to do my part to cultivate it.
I had to be intentional and proactive.
It wasn’t going to happen by simply wishing it would happen.
I needed to get creative and take action.
That’s not to say that a relationship doesn’t take two.
If he didn’t meet me half way, then I would have other problems.
At the end of the day, happiness is an inside job.
The truth is, if you’re choosing to be with someone who doesn’t meet your needs and who doesn’t share your vision, then you’re not going to feel happy and fulfilled in your relationship…unless you choose to let go of some of those needs that are not being met.
But chances are, you have those needs for a reason. You have those needs because they are important to you.
Get Clear on Your Vision
I go deeper into what this means in my free guide The Smart Girl’s Guide to Dating a Divorced Man.
But basically, after you take inventory of where you are in all the important areas of your life, the next step is to get clear on what would make your life and relationship deeply fulfilling?
On that scale of one through ten, what would make it “a ten”?
What is the big dream that you have for your life and relationship?
If you don’t have kids already, do you dream of being a mom of your own someday? Do you dream of world travel? What would the perfect day look like for you? Where are you living? What are you doing? Who are you with?
It’s important to visualize and get clear on these things because, as Steele says in his book, “Your success and fulfillment comes from fully expressing and living your Vision.”
Know His Vision
Find out, as early as you can in your relationship, your significant other’s dreams and goals.
What does he ultimately want for his career, relationship, family and all the other important areas of his life?
Does he want more kids?
Does he want to remarry?
What does he want for his future and his family’s future?
Knowing his vision is crucial to your relationship success because with that knowledge you can then determine whether or not your visions are aligned.
For example, if getting married is part of your dream, but he doesn’t want to remarry, that will become an issue in your relationship.
Or if you dream of being a mom someday but he doesn’t want any more kids, then it is important for your long-term happiness to know that as soon as possible before you invest lots of time and energy dating each other.
Create a Shared Vision
This means sitting down, telling your dreams to each other, and creating a shared dream.
Where do your dreams align and where do they differ?
Look at your individual visions.
Can you support his vision?
Can he support yours?
Is there a way you can merge the two visions and have a unified dream that you both can be excited about?
Can you create a shared vision that honors and supports your needs and relationship requirements and his?
If you can’t get behind what he really wants for his life and relationship or if he can’t get behind what you really want for yours or if you’re really struggling to create a shared vision–an aligned path–it’s going to be very difficult for either of you to feel happy and fulfilled in your relationship. (see my example above about wanting more kids or remarriage)
Creating a shared vision is so important because it’s about creating a path where you have shared dreams and goals and so you’re working toward something together, instead of growing farther apart.
Taking Time to Dream Together
I was tired of the rut.
Every day seemed like the day before and I was feeling restless.
But you know what?
I realized that things stop becoming a grind when you decide to stop seeing it as a grind.
Things stop becoming a grind when you start becoming intentional in your life and relationship.
If I wanted more passion in my life and marriage, I needed to start doing more things that I was passionate about and share that experience with my spouse.
That year we did something different.
On our next vacation we went to a B&B on the Northern California coast and, borrowing a technique from the book Radical Marriage, we decided to do some visioning.
Our getaway became a visioning retreat.
I wrote down my dreams and vision for the important areas of my life.
He wrote down his.
And we got really honest with each other when we shared them.
It was the best thing that we did for our relationship because, for the first time in a long time, we had a really honest discussion about us and what we want for our shared life—what we want for our marriage.
We got on the same page.
It was incredibly refreshing. It renewed our relationship and brought us closer in a way that I hadn’t expected.
When you’re feeling discontent in your life and relationship, pay attention.
Discontent is a Teacher
Discontent always points to what’s missing in your life.
Issues that come up in your relationship point to what needs are not being met.
Discontent and frustration are powerful teachers, and with the right tools, can guide us to the deeply fulfilling life and relationship that we really want.
It begins with listening deeply to our own needs…
and then stepping into our role as the visionary and powerful creator of our own life.