We did it!
After months of planning and construction, Duane and I remodeled our two bathrooms. I wanted to renovate them since I moved in fourteen years ago. Last year, we included new luxurious bathrooms to our Relationship Vision.
Remodeling is an arduous process, and I couldn’t help but recognize how it made a fitting metaphor for transforming romantic relationships. When you and your partner develop a relationship blueprint together, it is easier to stay aligned while everything around you seems to fall apart.
It was difficult to see through the dust. Our offices are in our home, and rather than reducing the number of couples we saw during construction our business unexpectedly surged. My heart was beating fast as I saw the workmen hauling out walls, tile, sinks and endless bags of debris, leaving behind dark cavernous spaces that we would wander into by habit, half-dazed by the strangeness.
Even though I longed for the day when we would start construction, there was still a feeling of loss and panic as the demolition ripped through our home and upset the balance of our work-life routines.
I reassured myself everything was going to be okay because we had a detailed drawing. Having a clear vision or plan is vital when life feels like everything is 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 map that you can rely on when your marriage seems to stall or slip off track. It’s a mission statement with rich, specific detail. It is a list of positive statements that start with the pronoun “We ..” and includes whatever actions, objects or attitudes you both desire, however grand, greedy or unrealistic they might sound. For instance, "We take long walks together. We view disagreements as opportunities to grow." (For the complete instructions on how to create a relationship vision read our article on HuffPost, [https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/resolution-to-re-vision-your-relationship_us_5a42a44ee4b0d86c803c739a], and watch our video, https://harveycenterforrelationships.com/news/2017/12/26/relationship-vision-video-guide.
These statements, carefully crafted, design and manage your relationship as you navigate life together, and remind you of the behavioral bar you have set for yourself to show up as an adult who has put relationship rather than righteousness first. You get down to the studs of what you originally envisioned when you fell in love, identifying the things you did and the things you have always wanted to do together. It is a description of what you want to become.
Due to the stress of our remodel, I was accusatory and quick to anger. A low was when I berated Duane for picking the wrong ceiling fan. I needed reminding of some of the items in our Relationship Vision, such as, "We always treat one another with kindness and respect." Duane and I work with couples within an Imago Relationship paradigm 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 process is not easy. Even if it is an elected change, like our remodel, change is challenging. Updating our bathrooms 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. A shared document that explicitly states: “We give each other the benefit of the doubt. We are physically affectionate with one another. We have each other’s back,” kept our heads above the noise and dust and inevitable chaos.
All 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. I experienced change with this same intensity at times. Constantly, we move one way or another on the control-chaos continuum. Commitment to a meta-map of our life together provides us with the scaffolding our delicate evolution requires.
The process of creating a Relationship Vision also reframes the tired adage that marriage requires compromise. The word compromise implies that everyone’s desire gets deluded or reduced in negotiations. We are told to believe that romantic love is a series of concessions, and no one gets what they want. This view negates the co-creating power of relationships and robs us of the unexpected discovery of actually getting more than you imagined at the outset. When my couples are polarized, I encourage them to tease out a third option that holds both points of view and fulfills both desires. Despite appearances, we discover that needs are never mutually exclusive. During the process of our remodel dialogues, Duane, and I found lots of solutions that were surprisingly better than our own ideas. Duane wanted to redo the downstairs bathroom, and I wanted to renovate the upstairs, so we did both. Also in the downstairs bathroom, Duane wanted to tile the floor and cieling a greenish slate color. In my opinion, this would have made the bathroom too dark. We found a third way, using white porcelain in the sink area and slate in the shower, which created a depth of field that we both love.
Next time you and your partner are at an impasse see if you can find a third solution, one that is better than either of your separate views. 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. Employ this method in cooking, scheduling, parenting, finances, the everyday decisions that make up our lives.
The hammering stopped, the dust cleared, and our fragile art objects came out of hiding and found their old places. After months of preparation and upheaval, we are delighted with our new state-of-the-art bathrooms.
Whether renovating your bathroom or planning your weekend, change, especially in a relationship, is often messy, hard, and unavoidable. Rather than fighting against each other, we found win-win solutions to unify and expand our desires. Our Relationship Vision created the momentum to start the remodel and kept us connected as we navigated the journey. You and your partner can do this too.