Relationships do not come fully assembled, nor do they spontaneously complete themselves into perfect harmony. Quite the opposite, in fact… they must be built one piece at a time.
There are, of course, many different pieces to assemble, like an enormous jigsaw puzzle. And, to continue that analogy, there is no "right" order to put them together, though some ways may make it somewhat easier, like doing the border first.
Jigsaw puzzles and relationships share other similarities, too… like sometimes pieces look like they would fit together, but they don't, and you have to try again. Or the fact that some people look at them differently… some people try to find colors that match, and others look at the shapes.
One of the pieces of a good relationship that often gets overlooked, or passed over, especially farther into the relationship, is sharing hopes and fears. It can be scary itself, sharing the things that drive you… you're giving someone insight into how to hurt you and opening yourself up for the possibility of rejection at the same time.
At the same time, it's incredibly difficult to build a future without each of you knowing what the other person hopes for, what would be their dream come true. When you share your hopes, you can build a future together, one that includes what is important to both of you… and what is important to your significant other can become part of your own dreams for the future.
Sharing hopes helps you see the future together… sharing fears helps you avoid pitfalls on the way there. The impact of your fears is often reduced simply by the act of sharing it, plus your partner can sometimes help deal with the cause of the fear, or simply help you manage it.
Sharing can really be difficult to do… so here are a few tips to try to help make it easier:
It can seem like it is hard, maybe even impossible, to plan sessions like this… what if you're not in the mood, or something comes up? Well, to be blunt, those things are exactly the reason why you DO need to plan it… when something is as uncomfortable, mentally, as sharing your hopes and fears, you will almost never be in the mood, and something will almost always come up… your subconscious will be looking for ways to avoid the discomfort that it causes.
Planning is essential, and you need to stick with the plan short of an actual emergency.
Find A "Safe" Place
If you want to get deep in a conversation, one of the most important things is to find a place that you feel is "safe". That means a place that feels like you can have privacy, with no one around and no interruptions, and often one that you somehow feel is "yours", like your bedroom, your car, etc.
Parents… when you're going through step #1, and thinking about step #2, one of the things you need to think about is how to deal with your kids. Kids running around is not conducive to deep conversation, especially deep revelations, and you're going to need to find a place and time when they are going to be sleeping or watched by someone you can trust.
Have A Few Things Ready To Share
The hardest part of sharing hopes and fears, or any deep topic for that matter, is getting started. Since you planned ahead (see step #1), that means that you have time to think of a few things to share… hopefully at least two of each (at least two hopes and at least two fears, that is). They don't have to be big things, although they can be… it's just something to get the initial walls down and the conversation going.
Once you have "broken the ice", it gets much easier to keep going, and even easier to go more deeply into things not as easily shared.
You Don't Have To Cover Everything
One fairly common mistake people make when trying to share their hopes and dreams is to think that they have to cover everything in one shot. That's not necessary, and in fact, might even make it harder… you only have so much capacity to deal with things, especially deep issues, and if you try to do everything at once, you may overwhelm that capacity and refuse to deal with any of it.
Support Your Partner
The whole purpose of this process is to get you and your partner to share, so that each of you can support the other's dreams, and help them deal with their fears. If you just look for what you can get out of it, then you're going to get very little… the amount you receive is generally directly related to the amount you give (although some sessions may deal more with one partner than the other… that's just the way it works, sometimes).
Just to clarify something, "help them deal with their fears" is likely to involve more action from you than from them… it may simply be holding them, or telling them it's okay, or it may be changing your behavior (like calling when you're leaving work). Telling them how to cure their fear is more likely to provoke rejection and closing up than it is to help, unless they ask.
Find A Specific Action You Can Take
One of the best ways to deal with a fear or start bringing a dream to reality is to find a specific step you can take in that direction. This needs to be a concrete action that you can make, something that has physical reality and can be measured, not just a vague mental "I'll think about how to do such and such".
When it comes to dealing with a fear this might be something like above, where you start calling your significant other when leaving work. Building a dream could involve writing a business plan for that business you always wanted to start, or getting the supplies for your hobby.
As mentioned in #4 above, you can't really cover everything in one session, which means that you're going to need to do this more than once. Since people change as life goes on, and their hopes and fears change with them, you're going to need to keep doing this for the rest of your lives.
Setting regular times that you do it makes it much easier to keep up with it, not letting it slip down your priority list until you wonder why you're never on the same page any more. You don't have to do it every week, although if that's what works for you, go for it. For most couples, though, once a month works well… especially if it's always the same part of the month, like the first day, or the first Saturday, or something like that. When you know when to expect it, you start shifting gears and getting ready for it beforehand, and you may even find yourself looking forward to it.
Sharing your hopes and fears is important… it's one of the things that moves you from being two people who happen to spend time together to being a true couple, renewing your bond as (hopefully) soulmates. When you forget, and stop sharing, you start to feel more isolated and alone. You may even start to feel lonely, even if you're married to your soulmate… and that makes it even worse, becoming another fear that you probably aren't sharing.
So… there is one piece of your relationship to work on, one piece to fit into the whole. Find some time to share your hopes and dreams… don't let your fears and isolation (which exaggerates fears) drain them of their energy.
PS – This is likely to turn into a series, with different articles listing different pieces of a relationship… let me know what you think of that idea.
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