“What would we talk about if we didn’t have kids?” Raise your hand if you have ever asked your spouse this question – or – a version of it. Let’s face it, most married couples, at some point, notice the flames of love dwindling from bonfire proportions to a slow simmer. Whether it is finances, carpooling, or deciding “what’s for dinner?”, the mundane details of life sometimes overshadow the chance for fiery romance. A very likely interpretation of the question: “what would we talk about if we didn’t have kids?” is “I feel disconnected from you. I want to connect.” Marriages require attention, nurturing, TLC… a little food and water… to keep the embers glowing and passion flowing. A rendezvous between the sheets, a romantic candle-light dinner, Netflix binge-watching (on the same couch), bungee jumping, working out… you name it, there are lots of fun ways to connect with your spouse. One fabulous way to ignite the enduring embers of love, and turn up the flames of passion in the process, is to establish an intentional vision for your marriage. Take your marriage from soggy to spicy with three steps– Dream, Design, Deliver – aimed to help define your vision as a couple. So, grab a tablet (literally, either a pad of paper and a pen – or – your favorite gadget with typing-notes capability) kick off your shoes, and snuggle up. (Yes, this means that you will have to make time to be together!).
Dreams, those we have while sleeping or awake, are sometimes considered to be reflections of our deepest desires. The Dream phase includes reflecting and attending.
- Reflect on the things in your marriage that have gone well (so far). Accomplishments might be as simple as “we made dinner AND cleaned up the dishes tonight”, or something a little more tricky like “we agreed to compromise on paint colors for the living room”. No matter what you come up with, taking time to identify and honor aspects of your marriage that have been successful, positive, or rewarding helps to blaze the path to a long-lasting and loving future. Ponder, share aloud, and record.
- Attend to your desires. Share your thoughts, ideas, and dreams for life and love together. Think of this as a brainstorming activity, where all ideas are thrown into the mix. No dream is judged as “too expensive”, “too risky”, “too crazy”, “too hard”…. “too [anything]”. Think it, say it, and jot it down.
The objective of the Design phase is to create a plan of action.
- Decide together. The hope is that you and your spouse generated at least one shared dream or desire for your life together. During the Design phase, work together to organize your ideas. Some of our goals are more visionary, or long-term (i.e., buy a house); while others are short-term (i.e., schedule a date night).
- Create a plan. Assess your shared desires and specify at least one goal that you will pursue immediately, or soon. Decide which goals will be tackled later on. Success is most likely to occur when you choose a realistic goal and work to accomplish it within a reasonable time period.
- Plan out the details. Break your goal into small, manageable steps for which you will share responsibility. You might individually assume responsibility for specific steps, but the final goal should be as-close-as-possible to equally-shared.
The Deliver phase includes execution and evaluation of your plan.
- Go for it! Align your actions with your plan. Offer support, encouragement, and accountability for each other along the way.
- Evaluate your progress. Check in with each other to assess and reflect on forward movement as well as any hurdles encountered along the way. Most plans take unforeseen twists and turn along the path to the end goal. Continue and repeat the phases of dreaming and designing so that you are more likely to deliver together and turn your dreams into reality.
Keep your brainstorming list handy – hang it on your refrigerator, tape it to the bathroom mirror, put it on your Vision Board! Come back to your list, check your progress, and move on to new goals over time. Repeat the phases of Dream, Design, Deliver together regularly.
Have a little bit of fun with this process! The spouse, in the opening illustration, responded to the question, “what would we talk about if we didn’t have kids?” with a flirtatious wink and said, “We would talk about our next travel destination!” A quote, credited to Dan Eldon, reminds us that “The journey is the destination”. When you embark, together, in the process of creating an intentional vision, you stir-up excitement, encourage growth, and inspire enduring connection.
Regardless of the end result, the process of Dream, Design, Deliver for couples is designed to foster connection, and what marriage doesn’t need that?!! It can be helpful to explore the things that brought you together in the first place. And, you just might learn something new about yourself or your spouse in the process!