Here is some relationship advice I learned from a dream.
A colleague of mine had an opportunity to coach a famous couple. We talked about possible issues and approaches that would be significant for them. I felt we covered the bases.
Then I had a dream that night where I was coaching a couple. The conversation turned to balance. I woke clearly remembering what I shared with them. I’m not sure if I pulled this out of the recesses of my brain or if these thoughts are divinely inspired, but here is what I watched myself saying (with details added to make sense of dream talk)….
Every relationship starts out with a particular balance. This doesn’t mean equality. The balance is the agreement made between two people (often unspoken). It’s the psychological contract that builds trust.
The elements of the balance include the obvious things such as finances, household chores, child rearing, vacation time and time spent with the in-laws. The less obvious agreements include amount and substance of communication, shows of affection, support for personal problems, contribution to joint problems, honoring personal time and space, and involvement in business decisions.
This balance sets up the expectations in the relationship. Everything is fine while the balance is maintained.
If one person in the relationship changes the balance, or one person accepted a balance they didn’t like, there will be problems. Surrender turns into resentment over time.
Even if the elements of the relationship shift, the balance must be maintained, as if you are on a see-saw. I recently had a female client who was the breadwinner of the house lose her job. Her husband asked if he could spend time building his business before she took another position. This meant a shift in everything in their relationship, from household chores to personal time to involvement in business decisions. They needed to work out all the elements in the changing nature of their relationship.
The shift in the balance could be as big as a job change or as small as a change in your exercise schedule. The balance is disrupted every time you face a personal issue that you are struggling to resolve or a hidden desire that starts coming to the surface.
The only way to maintain this balance is through communication. We have expectations and desires anyway so you might as well put them out on the table and see if the balance can be made.
End of dream. How about that for insight! So the question remains, how do you create this balance?
In my first book, Capture the Rapture: How to Step Out of Your Head and Leap into Life, I outlined a method to “covision a relationship.” Whether you are working out the balance in your personal relationship or your work team, the process applies. Here are the steps in a nutshell:
Step 1. Clarify Assumptions. Each person privately writes down what they expect to occur. The more details, the better. What is the picture of a week in your life together?
Step 2. Determine Your Measures of Success. Write the top three things you feel would be terrible to happen. Examples include, “problems get huge before they’re discussed,” and “money is spent without approval.” Under the second column, write the top three things you feel you must have to make the partnership work for you. An example might be, “we have a deep conversation at least twice a week.”
Step 3. Take turns reading your visions and lists aloud. Don’t argue points. Listen with respect.
Step 4. Construct a Covision. If there’s no disagreement, you’re home free. If you collide on an issue, take the time to work out your differences. If possible, go for a win-win approach, a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
Step 5. Make it Happen. Agree to actions to make your picture a reality.
Step 6. Toast the masterpiece you composed together.
Step 7. Agree that this balance will change over time.
Successful relationships depend not only on a balance, but communicating through shifts in the balance. Make it a habit to discuss and negotiate changing expectations regularly with everyone in your life to maintain a foundation of agreement and respect.