Dreaming together is an important element of a healthy relationship. When partners have shared dreams, it helps strengthen the mechanism of turning toward each other and creating meaning in the relationship. In a sense, shared dreams help orient a relationship — fostering togetherness and a mutual sense of direction.
Dreams can be anything that people want to see happen in the course of their lives: buying a house, having children, traveling, moving to a particular place, a long-term project at home (fixing up a house; having a garden; starting a meaningful collection), writing a book, opening a business, raising a puppy, etc. Dream possibilities are infinite and can be revised over time.
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It’s also good and healthy to have individual dreams as well as shared dreams. I treated a couple where one wanted to travel around the country and visit every state. The partner had little interest in this, but felt it could be fun to see a baseball game in different major league stadiums in the country. This is a “secondary dream” — a dream that branches off the partner’s original dream. This person was able to find a positive element within the partner’s dream in order to be supportive and increase the togetherness in the relationship. This is also a form of turning towards.
How to create a Relationship Dream List:
1) Start with your own separate lists. What are the dreams that you each have in your lives? Distinguish long-term dreams from short-term goals. Something that can be done immediately without carry-over most likely won’t have the same turning-toward impact that long-term dreams would have. Getting a dog has emotional carry-over because you continue to raise it together — this is good; a weekend getaway is a positive activity for a relationship in several ways, but once the weekend is complete only residual emotions carry-over, which eventually will dissipate without new goals — this is less effective as a long-term togetherness goal.
2) Swap lists and read your partner’s dreams aloud to each other. Discuss each dream on the list with your partner. What attracts your partner to each dream? Mentally note the areas that interest you as well.
3) Find the common ground. Your lists may not always align, and often they don’t at first glance. This is okay. After hearing your partner’s thoughts about each dream, discuss where you may have interest or can fit into those dreams, even if you have to be creative. Sometimes a partner may want certain dreams to be individual without the partner involved. This is okay, as long as there are shared dreams as well.
4) Take written note of all common ground. As you discuss the lists, take written note the original dreams, secondary dreams, and other common ground.
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5) Create the shared list (the Relationship Dream List). Combine the original, secondary dreams, and common ground into one list. Present it as you’d like, as only you and your partner need to be able to understand the list.