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Summary of this Episode
In this episode of the Generous Marriage Podcast we discuss:
- The story of Deanna and Rob who struggled through a big change in their dynamic after 15 years of being together, and how they committed to each other and created shared meaning of their struggle and shared dreams for the future.
- The tool of creating lists of shared and individual dreams, and making it part of the couple’s responsibility to help them fulfil some of the dreams, make the relationship more generous, nourishing and satisfying.
- Research: Dr. John Gottman created the Sound Relationship House model to emphasizes what’s important in a relationship according to his research finding. In the Sound Relationship House the attic of the house is “Create Shared Meaning”, and Gottman suggests one of the ways couples create shared meaning is by making goals and values intentional.
Bonus Tips on Dreaming Together
We prepared a guide for you, with tips on how to Dream Together in a fun and effective way.
To download the guide, click the button below:
The full transcript of the show:
Welcome to the Generous Marriage podcast! Fight less, feel appreciated and have a deeper connection with your spouse. And now your host, Shachar Erez and Ziv Raviv.
Hello and welcome to the Generous Marriage podcast! Here, together we investigate the topic of how to make your marriage more generous, how to fight less, how to improve the connection, how to have more sex, and that includes having an amazing relationship with your spouse. And in order to get there, we’re going to look at a story about a couple that are going through some hell, though you might feel like this couple is a little bit reminding you of your relationship with your spouse. I sure do feel that way sometimes when I relisten to the podcast. And we’re going to look at some tools that these couple has been recommended about that tool by our counselor and expert Shachar Erez and we’re also going to look at some research about that tool and in general that you should know of. So we’re almost ready to start, but before that, How are you? Hello, Shachar Erez! Hi everybody. I’m good. Great to be here again. Looking forward to this episode.
So Episode 6 is going to start now, dreaming together. That’s the topic of this episode. And this is so ironic, you know, because I just today I posted on facebook how finally, after since the age of 16, for 24 years now, I’ve been involved in writing fiction and just today, I posted the graphics for my upcoming book. It’s actually in Hebrew, but fulfilling dreams together with your spouse and having a spouse support your dreams is a topic that I, I really love and I think it’s really important. So I’m really excited about today. Tell us a little bit about where this, this idea of dreaming together come from, through the story of the Deanna and Rob.
Right. So Deanna and Rob were really struggling. They came to me, they were together around 15 years and they were 40 something. And both of them had the career, but she wasn’t very focused on her career since she had kids and she became a very dedicated mother and when they came to me, their youngest son was around five or six so she didn’t have to be as dedicated as before. She had more time to herself and she remembered, she remembered she’s not only a mother, she’s also a person. She’s also a woman. And she started demanding her life back. She wanted more time to focus on her career, to focus on things that make her come alive, to be out of the house, so she needed Rob to be more in the house and she needed both of them to find even more resources because Rob still had to focus on his career and he was limited in how much he could be at home. So they were really struggling to find a new balance, to find new resources that could support them and support Deanna and what’s important to her. That wasn’t easy. It was a long, long process. Let me ask you, can you tell us roughly like the ages of Deanna? Yeah. They were, I think they were 40 and 42.
That’s very interesting because basically, Deanna had her clock ticking towards becoming the mom. I just, I can just assume. Yeah, it was a something meaningful in her life like it is for, for many women and of course for men as well. But specifically with Deanna. And actually now that she became a mom and like the kid became older and was already 6 years old, she had a different clock ticking and making her feel like there’s something that she needs to get, there’s something that she wants. And that was to go back in a way to becoming Deanna, to find out what Deanna wants and to get her career on the move. And that created a conflict with Rob. So what was the most difficult bits in the conflict? Like what was the problem basically.
The Frustration-The Unkept Promise
So you know, it’s quite common. I want to make sure I paint this picture right. I don’t want the listeners to think like Rob and Deanna were like old time kind of couple. They were actually very legalitarian, very equal. But the way it happens, and it happens to many couples, they start very equal. But as the kids come, often the woman becomes more of a mother and often the dad focuses more on bringing money home. Yeah. Not because they’re not equal and not because they don’t think of each other in an equal chance just because it’s what they’re better at and what they like more to do and and also of course somewhat cultural. But then something happens and many times women get frustrated, like promise was not kept
And many times it’s just not discussed. It just happens and happens and happens and say little by little the there becomes a rift between them until their frustration is so big. A lot of anger comes out and the poor guy, good Rob was a great guy. Didn’t know what, what happened, you know, he was just doing what he thought he was supposed to do and suddenly Deanna was getting so angry and even as he was really struggling to give her more time and he would come back from work earlier and work one day from home and spend nights working because it didn’t have enough time working during the day because he did the start supporting the kids more and still she was angry. It was was about this promised that wasn’t kept.
It’s very clear, I think, first of all, I can really imagine Deanna. Like I can really imagine how she’s angry almost all the time. She’s frustrated and Rob is in front of that. He doesn’t really understand what can he do to improve. He doesn’t understand what is the situation all about because Deanna was very good at being a mom and she was more inclined to being a mom and to be very involved with that and he thought that all he needs to do was to be a protector and provider and to work in his career and now that he knows that she needs his support in other ways, he tries to give that, but that doesn’t really solve the problem and that can be very frustrating when you see constant, ongoing, constant frustration with your spouse. It’s frustrating for a few reasons.
The Need for Appreciation
First of all, it’s hard, like we, the men, we really love our, our spouses. We really do want them to be happy. So by seeing them constantly frustrated, constantly nagging us on all sorts of things because they’re angry at us and they’re angry at the situation, that for us is very hard to bear. And sometimes it even can create distant feelings like you actually want to go and be by yourself. As a man, you just want to go back and walk because that’s where you get all the appreciation. When you’re coming back home, all you get is anger and not appreciation. Especially if appreciation is your love language like we’ve discussed on Episode One. So I can really see how it’s frustrating for both Rob and Deanna when, and Deanna, from her point of view, she’s right, like there was a promise when they, when Rob and Deanna got together, they decided, I bet, to walk in a way that is, to try and be equal. You know, obviously the rights are equal, the dreams are as important in a way. There is no reason why Deanna will not fulfill her dreams. Why Deanna will not get her opportunities. I can see where the anger, you know, spawn from. Like it was a seed that is planted when they were, when they got together and got married to be partners and to work together towards the goals and then, you know, life happens and life can be really demanding, but then she suddenly woke up from that, which is great.
Yeah. Like you said, life happened and the reason it created a problem is that it wasn’t talked. It just happened. And his life didn’t change as much as hers when they became parents. He still went to work every morning dressed up, put on the perfume and you know, went to do what he loves doing. And of course it’s hard and he worked hard and it wasn’t just easy but still what he was enjoying doing. And she also loves being a mother, but it’s different taking care of babies and then kids and staying at home. It’s a different struggle. Much more demanding in some ways being a mother. And both of them needed appreciation. It’s not like Rob did something to her. It’s not like he was oppressive in any way. Of course. They both needed to be appreciated for what they were doing. So a lot of our work together was about communicating. It’s about sharing appreciation and about finding resources that could help them as a couple because these days we don’t really get enough support from community and family. So how do we get paid the help and other ways of support and community support. So it was a long struggle.
And actually what I want to focus today is on the end of it because at the end of it we spent some time retelling their story. Just going through the 15 years they’ve been together and how can you tell the story again and make it a fulfilling story? Because for a moment there was a feeling of oppression by Deanna and Rob wasn’t oppressing. So how do we retell the story in a way that is fulfilling and satisfying.
Dreaming Together as a Couple
And after retelling the story, let’s look into the future and that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Dreaming together. I had them dream together looking 20, 30 years into the future. What do they want to achieve, personally and as a couple?
That is, that is, I just want to emphasize, this is really amazing how you managed not in easy or fast way, sometimes it takes time, but you managed to kind of diffuse this bomb. I really see you as a SWAT team, a police officer that just comes in and see a bombs and it just diffuses it and it’s quite a process sometimes. Sometimes it’s faster and can take four weeks. Sometimes it takes a year. But it really a complicated situations. There’s a lot of layers of anger and of stories that Deanna and Rob told themselves and, and then you need to kind of peel like a big onion. You need to peel every single layer until you reach this bare bone naked truth, which is that they actually have, you know, a lot of good reasons to be a couple. They have a lot of potential together. They love each other and there’s a way to work together in a generous way.
So just the fact that Deanna and Rob agreed to go through the process to actually peel the onion, another peel, another peel, and actually get to the point where they are reframing their stories because they kept telling themselves all sorts of stories like Rob was telling himself, what is wrong? I’m doing everything right and I’m keeping my promises and I am bringing food to the table and he was telling himself those stories that are somewhat maybe even defensive stories that doesn’t really help him see Deanna, see her struggle. And Deanna on her part was feeling oppressed for some reason and she needed to tell herself a new story and just the fact that they were willing to do that, to re-frame their stories, to retell their stories, that by itself is a very generous thing to do.
Writing a Dream List as a Couple
However, we’re going to focus today on another generous thing they did under your guidance, Shachar, and that is dreaming and planning a future and planning big and thinking big and trying to find out some really exciting things that can be accomplished together and for each of them. So explain how the process goes. What is that?
Before I got into the process, Gottman talks about the story of us, the story of the couple. It’s really important to have a good story, a positive self story, a collaborative story. And that’s what Deanna and Rob did. From a story of oppression on her side and a sacrifice on his side, they made it into a collaborative heroes journey kind of story and how they did it together and how they look into the future to fulfill their dreams together and individually. And then what we did, which is the tool I want to talk about today is just a list of dreams. I had them write every little or big dream they have individually or as a couple. I encouraged them to write everything. Even stuff that probably would not be fulfilled. He wanted to go to the moon. That was one of the dreams on the list. I wanna go to the moon and it’s hard to know if this would be fulfilled in our lifetime, if there will be actual flights to the moon and you can fulfill it. But it’s nice to have it there. It’s nice because they know each other better. You know, it’s, it’s about creating love maps. It’s about understanding each other better and what’s important to each other and some of the dreams were easier. She had something to share the dream about a house with a yard. They had a house but she wanted a house with a yard. Or or he wanted to go to the Bahamas to some special island he read about and dive there.
Well, you know, even I imagine knowing those dreams will just change the day to day life. They might walk outside their home one day to throw away the trash or something. But then they will see the moon and then Deanna might say, “Hey Rob, you can go now. You can try … now or something.” Like just to know of the dreams that that requires some, some exposure that might improve their day to day communication because they have that awareness.
Fulfilling Someone’s Dream
Yeah. And and some days they’re able to fulfill each other’s dreams. And that’s so nourishing. You know, when I was 30, my wife, she wasn’t my wife then, but she was my girlfriend, but she knew I had the dream of playing guitar. For me it was a small dream. I wasn’t planning on actually learning how to play guitar. I was too, I thought it was too old and too busy and I gave it up. She knew about it. She went out and bought a guitar and gave me with the guitar, a card of a teacher. A guitar teacher to teach me how to play, you know, I didn’t have any excuse. I just took the guitar and started playing. And now I’m not a guitarist, but I know a few chords. I can play some tunes. It’s really fun. It’s super nourishing. It’s something that I gave up on already and she, totally on her own, knew that I had this dream and help me fulfill it. It’s awesome. It’s really created a lot of intimacy and appreciation and gratitude. All the good stuff we talked about here.
That’s that’s really, like I, I can imagine some of the guys listening to this, are feeling a little bit jealous right now at you and Judy because really having her pickup your dreams for you in a way, that is like an ultimate act of service and really like shows a deep connection. So I really feel, uh, you know, if you can do that for, for someone and help them fulfill their dreams, that’s just amazing and you cannot really fulfill someone’s dreams or helping, even just support him in some way, without knowing what it is. And by the way, I definitely recommend, like with my wife, she doesn’t appreciate surprises. She really love communication because her love language is quality time. So she really appreciates when we talk about things first. So I wouldn’t suggest that you buy a guitar without talking about it every single time. Sometimes it’s better not to buy the guitar and just to talk about buying the guitar, you know, as a metaphor. And then don’t surprise your spouse if she doesn’t appreciate that type of surprises. But she might actually do like surprises and then it’s a good idea. So I guess it’s a matter of knowing if your spouse appreciate surprises or not.
Yeah, that’s true. And you know, some people need surprises, some people need to talk about it. But even if you do talk about it, just talking about fulfilling someone’s dream. Wow, that’s awesome, you know. They would love it. Yeah. Some dreams are more fun when you imagined them, you know. Sometimes fulfilling them is not as fun as imagining them, but collaborating on, on how to fulfill it can be such a fun time and it creates closeness.
Importance of Communicating Your Dreams
Yeah. And I can also emphasize something that I recently experienced like just a few days ago. Rotem and I, we mapped our goal for just 12 months. So just the upcoming year, what is the five things that are most important for us. And you will soon explain the process of how you recommend doing it. And of course every way is legitimate. What, what, what happened for me when she explained her goals and for each goal she, she said, why? Uh, why is that important? We took turns. She said one, I said one in, for each one we say we only, you know, ask why, why, why is that important for you? And then, something clicked for me that first of all, some of our goals matched, they aligned. So they show that we are on the same path with the same values and with the same appreciation of what’s important.
But another thing that happened to me was that some of the things that I perceived as nagging for many years, like about the way that our house is in place, like in how, how orderly is our house, how often do I take things and put them back. Stuff like that. Like I felt for many years that I’m being nagged on putting stuff back in place. But then Rotem explained to me the way that the house, the way that it looks like, it’s not just that it’s one of her five goals for the year to improve the way that our house is shaped and looks like. She actually could explain why it’s important for her and that included some pretty spiritual things. Like, the way that you live and the things that you see, affect the way that you feel. And if you see a house that is a mess, you think that it’s legitimate to keep it a mess. Uh, we’re raising kids here. I want them to see that the easier way to live that is different, that is that everything has its own place. And she also quoted some lines from a book by Maricando, which explains some ways of getting rid of the mess in your house, which is wonderful, by the way. I really recommend the book and the ideas there. And what happened was that I actually throw a discussion about goals and dreams. I actually started to understand my wife better. Nice. So tell us what is the process that you recommend?
Alright so there is no one process, actually I really liked the process that you did. That every, that each one that you take turns and each one says a goal and the other ask them why it’s important. That’s beautiful. Another way that I do it in sessions is have the couple imagine anniversary party in 30 years from now. And everyone who’s present are people that love them and appreciate them. So they feel safe and loved and appreciated and it can be vulnerable. And they’re giving a toast. They’re talking about the past 30 years and what they’ve achieved and what made them happy and how their kids are and what happened in their career and what other things happened that were important to them and how they manage challenges and celebrations and through that a lot is revealed. Yeah, but you know there’s many ways to do it. At the end of it, what’s important is to have three lists. A list for one partner, a list for the other partner and the list for the couple’s dream. The shared dreams that they want to do together. And have it put somewhere that they can go back to it. In the kitchen and the bedroom. Someplace that they can go back to and check in with the list and find some inspiration of what they could do for each other and as a couple.
That’s really cool. First of all, the 30 years story to actually imagine how the 30 year anniversary ceremony will look like, how the party will look like and what you will share them. This really is a nice tool and a nice exercise because, imagine how you will feel, you are listening right now to this podcast. Imagine, how you will feel if in that anniversary, 30 years anniversary party, all you have to say is, “I’ve accomplished this, and I did that in my job, and I then became the department manager, and then became the CEO, and then, you know, we went overseas, and …” and then suddenly you look at your spouse and you hardly know what her dreams are, all she can say is, that she really raised three amazing kids and like, uh, and, and it’s an amazing accomplishment don’t get me wrong, but you don’t want to be in that anniversary for 30 years of your marriage being in a situation where you don’t even know what are the accomplishments and dreams of your spouse. And you can fix that. You can fix that. You can actually know. You can talk about it with your spouse. You can support your spouse through the process of fulfilling her dreams. And that anniversary can be something special for both of you. It can be something that both of you look at each other at the eye, and I can hear ah, the song, ‘I Did It My Way’ in the background, and you dance and you raise a toast, “Here’s for 30 more years!” And you share some of your success stories together. I’ve maybe show some pictures from that island in the Bahamas. So really dreaming together, I love the metaphor of imagining this party.
Making the List of Fulfilling it Together
But then you also have to actually get the list made. So you can sit down together, to each first of all write his own list. And then to take turns on going one item at a time. And don’t be judgmental. Don’t worry about it. Maybe those dreams will never, ever come to, you will never meet the Queen in person and shake her hand. Maybe you will never live in a palace. Maybe you will never fly to the moon. But just make the list and ask why. Try to understand what is the reason why it’s important for you and even on the answer for the why question, don’t argue. Don’t, don’t try to fix it. Don’t even try to plan how you will fulfill those dreams for your partner. That’s not the time. At the beginning, you really just want to map those dreams and to have the deeper connection and understanding of them. What comes later after that that that is a different story. So for today, we’re focusing more on how to understand one another. How to understand and map your dreams, and then to go into the shared dreams, that’s a pretty powerful tool because you wake up the day after and there is a reason for you to wake up for yourself, but there’s also reason for you to walk together because I imagine every single line in the least of your shared dreams, you cannot make that happen by yourself. Man, you need to work on that together. That’s the whole point. And that’s, you know, some, many times, it’s actually impossible for you to fulfill your joint dream list. Uh, you need to work together and that is, uh, like a re-promise, uh, that is being made like a vow, even.
Alright. For for example, like Deanna and Rob had the dream of living abroad for a year with the kids and the whole family. That’s not an easy one to fulfill. That’s only, that’s a dream they can only fulfill together, but they made it. I think they are now actually in France. Really exciting. So yeah, I loved how you suggested to do the process and it’s really just about being curious and writing it down and being open and letting life happen. Find ways to fulfill the dreams. Not right now. That’s later, the future.
Yeah, we, we men, sometimes, we are inclined to look for the solution. Just like with the video clip that we put on capital plea with the male in the head. Like we want to fix the problem. We hear problems and want to fix them. That’s how we think, as hunters many times. But that’s not the point here. The point is not to fulfill the dreams inside the talk or outline the exact steps. Some of the process for the second step or the third step should take some time. Should be debated and not just be done. So uh, it’s really important not to. “Oh, that’s your dream, I’ll go fetch that for you. I’ll go now and fix it for you.” No, that’s not what you should do, man. You should listen. You should really just ask why and listen. And that is where you will get the better connection from. So I, I really loved the importance of it and I understand that the tool and the three lists. That’s really cool. Is there any type of research done or expansion to, of information that we can share on the idea of dreaming together?
Making Goals and Values Intentional
So, so again, we go back to Dr. John Gottman and he took all the scores or maybe hundreds of research he was involved in and he created a model he calls the sound relationship house. We won’t go to the whole model right now, but it it looks like a house and it has different layers. And the top layer, the attic of the house, is about creating shared meaning and making life dreams come true. So one of the ways to create shared meaning is by making goals and values intentional. A little bit what you shared you did with Rotem the other day. A little bit of what we’re talking here about dreams. It’s really about talking about them and making them surface. By that you create a shared meaning and that’s really important for couples. The research really shows it’s important. Yeah. So there are many ways to do it. Two of the ways are what you suggested with the goals for the next year and what I’m suggesting here with the dreaming for even longer for 30 years. And there are other ways it’s a lot about talking and communicating and being curious about each other’s values and dreams and goals and what’s important to each partner.
Wonderful. So, no matter how you do it, how do you make your lists of life dreams. Do you make one list or three lists? Do you talk about uh one year or 30 years? You can do it all. You can, you can do one list for the year and one list for 30 years. And if it’s too hard for you to do 30 years, you can do 10. You can do 5. You can choose. It’s not about the actual number of years. It’s all about communicating in a generous way. Being vulnerable to hear that your spouse has some dreams that maybe are very hard to accomplish. And just being there for her and listening to that and asking her why is that important. Instead of asking, “what should I do next to make it happen for you?” But there is a good time for that, potentially, later in another day.
For now, all you need to do is just listen. Just be there. And just be the, like a bucket, just listen and fill yourself with information for her and vice versa. When we share our dreams, we actually, many times we want to get them done by ourselves, it’s a part of the process that we’re looking for. So, it’s really a very generous thing to do to be able to know all of the dreams of someone else and to say, I want to help you. I want to support you in any way you see fit. And what’s the best way to support you in that, yeah, I agree. And we’ll, we’ll talk about that type of conversation. How can I support you in another day.
So, for today I would like to wrap up what we had was a story about Deanna and Rob and apparently from working together on communicating in a more generous way through counseling with you, Shachar, eventually they found out that they’re not fulfilling themselves fully. And so talking about dreaming together, they made the communication better and they actually even fulfilled some of their dreams like they wanted to live up old, they now uh work from France. And they took their kid there and exposed him to really cool experiences. And that is really, really amazing how just by talking about your dreams, it can lead to a chain of effects that will later fulfill your dreams.
And then we also discussed today how the tool that you can implement it is to write down your dreams together either on three different lists or on two different lists and either with one year ahead or 30 whatever you want. You can change the details.
However, we will give you some extra tips of how to make it a little bit more like a game. And how to improve the process of dreaming together. And that will be something that we will put into this bonus tool that we will put in the generousmarriage.com website. So, you could download the extra information about this tool. And the links to the resource and everything from generousmarriage.com. Just go to the podcast tab, type Episodes 6 Dreaming Together and that’s where you will be able to download additional ways of how you can dream together. It’s really, it’s really almost like a game and that is something that I think will make it even easier for you if you want more structure.
And finally we did mention Dr. Gottman and his research about the sound relationship house and how a part of the layers in the house includes making life dreams come true and includes dreaming together and mapping those dreams and so with great respect to Gottman, we will put the links to some resources and some research that was done about that and you can find that as well on the generousmarriage.com website.
Shachar, I want to thank you for yet another inspiring discussion on how to make your life and your marriage and your relationship a more generous one. Any words of advice to finalize the episode?
No advice. Just gratitude. This was fun. Thank you for being here Ziv. Thank you all for listening. I hope it helps you become more generous.
I shared that dream. So guys, go ahead and call your spouse right now. Maybe take her for a date. Tell her you want to dream together. You want to talk about your life dreams. And maybe even send this podcast to one of your friends. Maybe a colleague, maybe some uncle of yours, maybe send this to your Dad. I don’t know. It’s really important for us just sharing from facebook. We will really appreciate it. So, we are the generous marriage podcast. You can find us at generousmarriage.com and we will meet again next week on the generous marriage podcast. Bye Bye.
All right, see you then. Bye. Bye.
Weekly episodes with stories, tools and research that will help you make your marriage generous
Shachar Erez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, 12 years married, father of two
Ziv Raviv, 16 years married, father of three