When you work with an Imago Relationship Therapist, setting goals is an important part of the homework. We call it The Relationship Vision. They can give you a focus to work towards and be an expression of the ideals you hold for the relationship. They can also provide a roadmap or chart, to help you through the rocky times when the path seems unclear and perhaps you wonder whether this is the relationship for you. When things get bad, they can remind you that once you agreed about many things, and both had hopes and dreams that you can still achieve.
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When you sit down with your partner and start talking about where you would like the relationship to be in two years time, and what you would like to achieve in the meantime, you are connecting with them in the most positive way. And when you agree on goals you are creating a sense of unity that can drive you forward. Setting goals can insist that you talk about where the relationship is going and, once set, can help motivate and reconnect you if things become tricky. Having a set of goals or a vision can help you to motivate and support each other, and bring you together against adversity.
Some goals are practical, like wanting to live in a particular type of home or area, or agreeing who does what around the home, or how you will deal with conflict. Vision goals can be about how you want to relationship to look, such as being caring and connected, and living without criticism, shame or blame.
Sometimes goals are idealistic and may be based on the lives of celebrities who appear to lead charmed and magical lives – and the reality is that they are likely to be as troubled as the next person. You need to use the SMART principle to set your goals, in other words they need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Its no good setting the goal to live in a detached house in a certain neighbourhood while you are still working your way up in your career – goals need to be realistic. If they are impossible to achieve in a reasonable time, they become unattainable and lose their power. From six months to two years ahead is about as far as you want to plan. Striving together to achieve a goal can help cement the relationship, and create a sense of connection.
Setting goals can ensure that you share the same visions, and being aligned in your visions in itself can help you to achieve them. Alignment can bring you closer together, and give a sense of being a team. its also useful to actually write down your shared goals and post them somewhere around the house as a reminder of where you are going in life and how the relationship is going to help you to get there.
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Goals and visions can be particularly helpful when there has been difficult behaviour in the past. The goal setting can include decisions about making behavioural change in the future. They can include promises, or they can just be hopes. Working with an Imago therapist can help you to define the goals and agree on behavioural changes that works for you both. Its no good requesting a change or a goal that the other does not agree with.
Once you start to achieve your goals and the vision starts to become a reality, celebrate and acknowledge that. It is important to mark the passing of goals – and the resetting of new ones. This in turn helps you stay committed to each other, and gives an opportunity to refresh your vision. It is another chance to talk, dream, hope, and to spend time together in a positive way. And remember that its OK to play around with some speculative goals that seem fantastic – although its good to keep them realistic and reasonable, some fantasising can be helpful too. Sometimes its only by having a dream that we begin to achieve things, and sometimes expressing something fanciful can trigger an idea which is achievable.
In Imago Relationship we work with a solution-focused positive approach. We teach that it important to remember to be happy about trying to get to your goals and working to achieve your vision, and not to worry too much about actually getting to the destination. It is the process of moving towards what you want, not necessarily achieving it, that brings satisfaction to couples. And when you do reach your goals, immediately set some new ones – its important to be always working towards improvement.
Creating goals and visions as a couple is one of the most powerful and connecting things you can do. Have fun with it and see where it takes you, because there is nothing better than sharing your successes with someone you love.
For more information and to get in touch with Annie, head to www.anniegurton.com