Tools for Couples Happiness — 18 July 2004
How to keep your dreams alive

Having plans and dreams for the future is a very healthy, bonding experience for couples. It allows for enjoyable discourse about all that can be, and it cements the love connection. It keeps partners formulating their future as they visualize themselves leading their dream life. However, it can also become a source of great discontent, if one partner’s dream greatly varies, or even conflicts with the other mate’s fantasy.

When couples first decide on spending their lives together they talk often about their images for the future. They plan for their careers, roles, home, children, pets, ideal place to live, and lifestyle choices. They begin to create their “couple culture”. They share their ideal images for their future and may look forward to the process of achieving these goals.

Since two individuals commonly have different passions, their agreed upon future is a negotiated formula that includes most of their individual dreams. This process is relatively easy early in the relationship because of the willing, loving and accommodating spirit both partners exhibit.

After life begins with gusto, the day to day demands take their toll on reducing the mutual dreaming. The mates resort to the realistic demands of life, which may not be in accordance with their dreams. But, they are the necessary temporary options available to them within the limitations of a “startup company”. Being short on funds and long on plans requires adjustments and compromises in the present.

As the family grows, the children become the focus of the planning, hopes and dreams and much of the couple’s energy is invested in this direction. Survival and managing the present are so overwhelming that it impedes the dreaming process. That is most unfortunate, because the couple’s mutual vision planning is of great benefit in keeping their “team-dreams” alive.

For most couples, and particularly for couples who are not finding their relationship to be most blissful, the cessation of the dream-talk loosens their bond. They may gravitate to secret individual dreams that are no longer inclusive of their partner’s hopes. And the gap between the mates may widen.

Even in successful relationships, in addition to the joint dreams, many individuals harbor their own personal reverie. It may be, for example: getting an advanced degree, traveling to an exotic place, writing a book, living on a farm, becoming a wine maker, sailing around the world, becoming an artist, or serving in the peace corps.

Whatever your vision is for yourself it may begin with the sentence, “someday, when I have more time, what I would like to do is….” You may keep it a secret, or preferably, share this vision with your partner. Silent yearnings are inhibiting you from fully exploring your path to joy.

Occasionally, the personal dream may collide with your partner’s life-plan. If your personal passion is to travel the world and your mate’s yearning is to grow unique orchids, you may have lots of talking to do. Or perhaps you want to move far away from people and spend your days fishing in peace and your partner is thinking of joining a theatre group in your city. Which goal is to prevail?

For some, the vision of one mate is psychologically or physically incompatible with the partner. The yet to become a full -time sailor may be married to a partner who is easily seasick. Or the trip to Africa to rescue wild animals from extinction may be unacceptable to a partner who is not an animal lover and fears the down side of adventures. Perhaps your desire for continuing study may leave your partner feeling alone and abandoned? Some mates may resent the costs, resources and attention the dreamer may need to actualize his passion.

The ideal formula is to have both mates “stretch”(make concessions and be as flexible as they can) to accommodate the other partner’s deep desire. In a healthy union both mates honor each other’s passions and creatively compromise, take turns, modify their dreams to reach a solution that allows both to be all that they can be and stay happily connected to each other.

Love, does not conquer all, but it does help us reach deep into our hearts for kindness and helpfulness.

It is very important that people do get a chance to attempt reaching their life’s desire. Whatever your passion is, speak of it and recruit your partner’s participation in planning for it. It is a very sad moment for those people who silenced their dream and got to the end of their lives deeply regretting the lost opportunity.

Some people relegate their dreams to retirement, or to the time when the kids leave home, or to an unspecified moment in the future. A few dreams require time, funds and freedom to be actualized. Other hopes can begin earlier. Be creative in figuring out how you can test and taste your vision on a smaller scale -NOW. Why wait? Perhaps you may discover that the dream is not all that you thought it would be for you. In that case you can get ready for the next passion to be tried out. If it is your true reverie, the happiness and joy can begin early.

Please consider:

  • Dreaming as a couple is a joyful and connecting experience.
  • Personal dreams are the deep yearnings toward happiness and serenity. You deserve to achieve it for yourself.
  • Be tuned to your and your partner’s visions for self-fulfillment.
  • Talk with each other about your passions and create ways to please both of you. It is almost always doable.
  • Use your loving feelings for your mate as the basis for helping him or her find the happiness he or she desires.
  • Living your dream produces the most enriching sense of wholeness within and oneness with the universe. It is truly a spiritual nirvana. Treat yourself!

July 18, 2004

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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