If You Want To Improve Your Marriage, Create A 'Relationship Vision' (Here's How)

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Relationship Advice For Learning Effective Communication Skills & How To Compromise In Healthy Relationships

If you want to improve your marriage, learning effective communication skills, and how to compromise with your partner, is great advice for achieving healthy relationships.

Every couple wants their relationship or marriage to be a success but how do you get there?

After months of construction and planning, my husband, Duane, and I finally did it! We remodeled our two bathrooms! It was something I wanted to do since moving in fourteen years ago. Last year, we included remodeling our bathrooms to our Relationship Vision.

The Relationship Vision is a couples exercise meant to help you shape a healthy relationship so you can have the married life of your dreams.

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Duane and I are both marriage counselors and we use the Relationship Vision with our clients and in our own relationship. While going through the arduous remodeling process, I couldn't help but recognize how it was a fitting metaphor for transforming romantic relationships.

Ultimately, when you and your partner develop a relationship model together, it is easier to stay aligned and then anything is possible. Hopefully, you will be inspired to collaborate and connect with your partner so you can build your ideal relationship and life.

It was difficult to see through the dust. My heart was beating fast as I saw the workmen hauling out bags containing what was once our bathroom. Even though I longed for the day when we would start construction, there was still a feeling of loss and panic as the demolition took place making way for the new. I reassured myself everything was going to be okay because we had a detailed blueprint.

A plan is vital when it feels like life's upside down. This is particularly true of our intimate relationships. For this very reason, weddings include vows. 

Disconnections and misunderstandings are inevitable in relationships.

A Relationship Vision is the operating system that you can lean into when your relationship seems to have gone off track. It's your mission statement. It includes positive statements that start with, "We .."

For instance, "We go on long walks together. We see our disagreements as opportunities to grow."

You get to the studs of what you enjoyed to do together at the beginning of the relationship. Then, you identify what is currently working and you want to keep.

Lastly, you incorporate what you want to become. These statements form your relationship design and are reminders of how you want to show up in your relationship and what you want to create together for your lives.

Due to the stress of our remodeling, I was accusatory and quick to anger. A low was when I criticized and blamed Duane for picking the wrong ceiling fan. I needed to be reminded of our own Relationship Vision. Duane and I work with our clients within an Imago Relationship Therapy model developed by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt.

Imago theory explains that our partner holds the blueprint for how we need to change and grow into our best selves. It is in a relationship that we become whole. This alchemical process is not always easy. Even if it is an elected change, like our remodel. It was something we both wanted, and it still challenged our patience and caused upheaval in our home.

We had to contend with difficult emotions like anxiety and uncertainty.

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During the remodel, these emotions were more acute and yet don't we deal with stress and change every day of our lives? It's beneficial for couples to outline a proactive plan on how to deal with these states, such as, "We give each other the benefit of the doubt. We are physically affectionate with one another. We have each other's back."

Even elected change can feel overwhelming. 

I recently learned it is excruciating for a tadpole to turn into a frog. The tadpole is no longer able to breathe underwater and it is forced to leave the only environment it has always known and emerge to take a breath in the air. At times, I experienced change with this same intensity. Sometimes, this is what life and our relationships demand of us. 

In intimate relationships, compromise is viewed as inescapable and both partners must continually accept standards that are lower than is desirable. We come to believe that romantic love is a series of concessions. Either a round of grants or only one person gets their way and the other one is left unhappy and unsatisfied.

This view negates the power of healthy relationships. Rather than couples comprising, they can look for win-win scenarios. This approach is championed by the psychobiological researcher and author Stan Tatkin

With my couple clients, I encourage them to discover the third option, so decisions don't always resort to my way or your way. It is through discussion and exploration that a third way is revealed that suits both partners. Finding win-win solutions energizes the relationship because both people are happy.

During the process of our remodel, Duane and I needed to discover a lot of win-win solutions. For starters, Duane wanted to redo the downstairs bathroom, and I wanted to renovate the upstairs, so we did both. In the downstairs bathroom, Duane wanted all gray tile. In my opinion, this would have made the bathroom too dark.

We found a third way — the gray tile was incorporated in the shower bringing more depth to the bathroom. The third choice was the best.

So, the next time, you and your partner feel as if you are caught between your way or their way, see if you can find a win-win solution for your relationship problems.

Instead of hunkering down in your point-of-view, see if you can creatively come up with a third option that you love even more. You don't need to be involved in a big project to utilize this approach to decision making. This can be employed in cooking, scheduling, parenting, finances, the everyday decisions that make up our lives. 

The hammering stopped, the dust cleared, and precious objects were put back in place. After weeks of upheaval and stressful preparation, we are enjoying our "state of the art bathrooms."

Whether renovating your bathroom or your relationship change is often messy, hard, and unavoidable. Rather than fighting against each other, we found win-win solutions to unify our individual desires.

Our Relationship Vision created the momentum to start the remodel and keep us connected as we made our dream a reality. You and your partner can do this too. 

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Thea Harvey is a licensed marriage and family therapist, wife, and mother who specializes in couples counseling. She co-founded Harvey Center for Relationships with her husband with the mission to help couples thrive.

This article was originally published at Harvey Center for Relationships. Reprinted with permission from the author.