You are deeply committed to each other. You both want this relationship, AND you have this feeling that there’s much more to your story as a couple. There are new chapters waiting to be written. New chapters waiting…with their empty pages.
So, how do you start filling those empty pages? The winter vacation to Cancun was fun. The new kitchen sure looks sharp. I know let’s get a dog or a cat or a bunny or…
And, the new pages to the new story remain empty. You still have that same gnawing feeling that there must be something more, that your relationship is stuck, flat, or not reaching its full potential. Things are pretty good, and you feel they could be much better.
Sure, traveling to far-off places, creating a beautiful home, and sharing the love of a pet could be part of the new story for your relationship. The problem is, without connection to a sense of shared values, these are just places to go and things to do.
Without frequently checking in with one another about what matters most, relationships can become like a ship a at sea without a rudder, randomly landing here or there and not really getting anywhere. Now, if your shared values include getting lost at sea, you can stop reading.
If not, consider putting a rudder on your ship before setting off to write the next chapter of your relationship story. You might be saying, “Yeah, but, we’ve been together a long time – surely I know what’s important to my partner.”
Do you? Really?
When was the last time you slowed down enough to check? How much time have you spent recently mining your relationship for shared values?
Coming together around a set of core values, the things that matter most to you, is the first step in breathing new life into a relationship, one filled with shared meaning and purpose. Once you put the rudder on the ship (shared values) and chart your destination on the map (shared vision – the subject of our next column), the places you choose to go and things you choose to do will inspire, literally “breathe new life into,” your relationship.
Ready to make this real?
Try this. Set aside about thirty minutes to be with each other uninterrupted. (If the thought of thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to focus solely on each other makes you want to run and hide, catch a ballgame or go shopping – well – you should probably go do one of those things instead.)
Still with me?
Good. For the next 30 minutes, talk to each other about what matters most to you for both yourself and your relationship moving forward. Is it adventure? Health? Intimacy? Romance? Family? Beauty? Creativity? Contribution? Connection? Risk-Taking?
As you listen, try not to judge. Be wildly curious! Ask questions to deepen your understanding. Remember, this is a time for discovery. Each of you gets to have the values that are important to you.
Talk to each other about anything new or surprising you have learned. What values came alive that you haven’t seen for quite some time in your partner? What values offer opportunity for shared growth and experiences?
After you’ve had time to listen, share and learn, take a few minutes to sense how you are feeling about each other. There’s nothing to do here except notice and talk to your partner about what you’re feeling.
At the end of this dedicated time together, celebrate!! You have completed the first chapter of the new story for your relationship.
Bravo! We’d love to hear how things went for you.
Howard Stanten MPT,CPCC is an Executive Leadership and Professional