In the beginning of your relationship, you and your partner were always learning about each other and sharing hopes and dreams for the future. It’s often these dreams and aspirations that attract us to our partner and lay the foundation for who we believe they are and will be. As time goes by, the conversations shift to daily life and mutual interests, and after a proposal, wedding planning and dreams of spending a life together. But what do those dreams actually look like? Do they become goals that can be worked on, and do the personal dreams and goals still have a place in those combined dreams?
As you say your vows, you’re essentially sharing your dreams with your spouse and those witnessing your union. Perhaps you plan to write your own vows, brimming with commitment and hopes for the future. Even if you choose to use traditional vows, you’ll find that they state that unity, longevity and commitment are goals of the marriage, intended to keep the couple together through the ups and downs of life:
"I, __, take thee, __, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you."
On your wedding day you'll declare your intention to combine your dreams and goals, to come together as a single unit, two separate parts making up one greater purpose. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t come into the relationship with your own dreams that you still wish to see fulfilled.
Identifying and Sharing Your Personal Dreams
Dreams are the aspirations, goals and plans that make up who you are and who you want to be, and they often lay the groundwork for the decisions you make. A dream of success in your career may dictate your work ethic; a dream of settling down in your hometown may influence whether you’re willing to relocate for work; and a dream of making a difference in your community may guide your use of free time. Identifying the dreams that drive your life is essential to staying true to yourself, and it’s important to remember the essence of who you are, even as you join your life with someone else’s.
Sharing those fundamental dreams with your partner is vital, in order to align those big life decisions so that each partner feels fulfilled with their life, as well as the marriage. Your dream may be altered as life progresses, but your values and what is important to you shouldn’t be ignored simply for the sake of the other’s dreams. It’s possible to have different goals and dreams in a healthy relationship, as long as each partner supports those ambitions, and both feel that the can be honest about what they want out of life.
Aligning your dream’s with your spouse’s (when possible) creates common ground when making big decisions in life, such as where to live, when to start a family, and if a serious lifestyle change is possible in a particular stage. Making your intentions known creates a partnership that allows each to grow and feel supported. If each partner’s dreams are different, flexibility and taking turns in pursuit of goals can create a balance so that neither feels like their aspirations are neglected. It’s also important to know if any of your dreams are opposite of your partners – such as one wanting to live close to family and the other wanting to live on the opposite side of the country – and recognize where your breaking points are. If any difference are serious enough that they be could be detrimental to your relationship, work through resolving this concern with a family counselor.
Dreaming is an intrinsic part of who we are, a skill developed in childhood, but it takes attention and practice to learn to dream as a unit. Dreaming with your spouse, sharing intimately and building goals for a fulfilled life, is one of the special privileges of marriage. If you're not sure where to start, the practice of dreaming together can be a simple structure worth practicing.
Take the time to dream together. Set aside a date night to share your individual goals and dreams.
Determine common values. Based on the dreams you’ve both shared, find common patterns and values. Consider values like security, teamwork, and happiness.
Be supportive. Just as you want your dreams to be heard and respected, use only encouraging words.
Get inspired. Use the foundation of your common values to brainstorm dreams to pursue together. For inspiration to jump start your dreams together, check out the questions below.
Dream in color. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Your shared dreams should inspire and emotionally engage both partners.
Write down your dreams. Committing your dreams to paper ensures they don’t get forgotten.
Set goals. Actionable goals allow you to work together to see your dreams come to life.
Chat with your fiancé:
What do you imagine when you think about yourself and your life at the age of 30? 50? 75? Do you hope to leave a legacy after you die?
Is there a charity/organization/activity that is near to both of our hearts? How can we influence it?
Write a mission statement for marriage and life together. How can we get to that point?
What areas of your life are most important? Consider fun and recreation, faith, love, health, finances, career, friends/family, etc.
While dreaming together is special in its own right, working together to see those dreams become a reality is a truly beautiful thing. Settings goals as stepping stones to those dreams can help you strengthen your relationship as you work together, improve communication, and allow you to hold each other accountable. Having the skills to set and meet goals becomes a foundation for working through challenging times in your relationship, provides satisfaction when goals are met, and encourages a successful and fulfilled life and marriage together. So once you’ve written down the dreams you want to achieve as a team, it’s time to outline goals to make them a reality.
Prioritize. You’ve shared your individual and team goals, but which are most important? List them out and prioritize the goals, ensuring that at least one joint goal and one individual goal for each person has equal attention.
Get specific. What will it look like to achieve each goal? What role will each person play? Both partners should support, encourage and assist the other in the personal goals, since strengthening your relationship should be a side effect of each achievement.
S.M.A.R.T. We’ve all heard of this method for goal setting – creating Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Sensitive goals. Detail the smaller goals that can take place on the way to achieving the overall dream. For lifelong dreams such as the kind of legacy you want to leave, create annual – or even decade – benchmarks so that you’re always pursing the things that matter most.
Write them down. Create a dream journal together; frame the dreams and benchmarks; write them on your mirror. Get creative and do whatever it takes to keep these dreams in your attention, because your marriage deserves that fulfillment. Written goals can give you momentum, checking items off a list creates a feeling of achievement, and knowing how to help your spouse builds partnership.
Be flexible. Life happens, and unexpected roadblocks may shift the progress you expect to see. Never be afraid to revise your goals and timeline, and remember that any progress is still success.
Celebrate together! Whether it’s a small goal or a huge one that’s been completed, celebrate every milestone together.
Want more tips and tricks for a strong marriage? Let's chat!