I am continually amazed by the stories I hear about couples who have never talked in depth about their relationships. It's like, details, schmetails! All you need to do is fall in love. The particulars will work themselves out, right? Wrong! When it comes to long-term relationships, love is not all you need and communication is not optional. We all enter relationships with expectations-and whether you realize it or not-a relationship is a contract. Don't you think you ought to understand what your partner is signing you up for and in turn clarify what you are signing your partner up for? Creating a relationship mission statement helps reveal unspoken assumptions and prevents these assumptions from growing into full-blown resentments. Let these tips teach you how.
Understand the purpose. A relationship mission statement is a small paragraph or list of statements that you and your partner write together to define the values and actions you will put first in your relationship. The point is not to write something that perfectly encompasses all the elements of your relationship, but rather to help you and your partner communicate about, take charge of and keep focused on what matters most in your relationship.
Engage in a dialogue about your relationship. If you are used to talking about your relationship, this will come naturally. If you aren't used to this type of conversation, it may feel awkward and a little forced at first. Open a dialogue with your partner by asking questions like: Is our relationship what you had expected it to be? What do you like most about our relationship? What do you like least? Is there a way I could love you better? Similar types of questions are raised during annual job evaluations, so why wouldn't you address these topics within your most important relationship? Remember, these questions do not need to be immediately answered and solved definitively, rather they are intended to open an ongoing conversation about the way in which the two of you interact and organize your life together.
Tell your partner that you would like to write a mission statement. Explain its purpose and share why it is important to you. Ask your partner if he or she would be willing to do this with you. Don't be dismayed if your partner says "no" or is tentative about starting. Maybe he or she has never thought of doing such a thing. It usually takes people time to get comfortable with new ideas. Give your partner time to think about it and ask again in a few weeks.
Approach the process as a team. Drop your power struggles. This process shouldn't be about one person's opinions and desires winning out over another's.
Define three or four things you want to be the top priorities in your relationship. What things do you and your partner want to share and work toward cultivating more of in your relationship? Is it physical connection, spiritual practice, financial awareness, travel, intellectual pursuits?
Get specific. For example, if you listed travel, where do you want to travel? When will you take this trip? How will you pay for it? How long will you stay? If you said physical connection, what does that mean? That you will always kiss hello and goodbye? That you will have sex at least four times each week? That you will hold hands when you walk down the street? The more you talk specifics, the more likely you and are your partner are to end up on the same page.
Write it down. Your language needn't be fancy nor does it need to include everything you've discussed. What matters is that you write a paragraph or a brief list that reminds both of you about your shared relationship mission.
Put your mission statement someplace where you both will see it daily.
Celebrate! Go out to dinner. Take a walk and kiss under the stars. Light a candle and make love for hours.
Honor your mission statement in every interaction-every word, touch, thought-with your partner.
Reevaluate your mission statement every year. Remember, your mission statement-just like your relationship -is a work in progress. Your priorities and desires may change as you grow and your relationship mission statement should change to reflect this growth.
Things You Will Need
- A relationship
- A sincere desire to deepen your relationship
- A willing partner
- Stay calm if you learn something new and unnerving about your partner in these discussions. It's good to find out that your partner sees the world and your relationship differently than you may have thought. It is a sign that you still have things to learn about each other and that your relationship has room to grow.