What dreams do you have for your life? How long have you had them? In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman tells us: “Often our deepest dreams are rooted in childhood. You may long to re-create some of your warmest memories of family life from your youth – such as having dinner together every night without interruptions from the TV or telephone. Or, you may feel the psychological need to distance yourself from painful childhood memories by not duplicating the same activities.” (p 218)
Sometimes these dreams are crystal clear, but often they remain hidden deep within the core of our identities, buried under layers of who we want to be or who we think we are. Interestingly, it is conflict with those who know us and love us that seems to draw those dreams to the surface where they can be observed and attended to.
So what if your job as a spouse is to help your partner wrestle out her dream because she doesn’t know what it is? Could it be possible that your spouse only discovers his deepest values, the things that most deeply reflect his core identity, through conflict with someone who loves him, because otherwise that dream stays un-formed?
Is it possible that an argument about who is responsible for managing dinner preparation isn’t really about food at all? Rather what’s at stake is role expectations and what it means to be female or what it means to be male. And is it possible that an argument about housework has nothing to do with dusting or vacuuming, but is really about the meaning of home? For one a neat and clean home means safety and security, but for the other a neat and clean home feels rigid and constricting. What do you think is at the core of your arguments? What would happen if you studied your disagreements for clues to your deepest dreams? What would happen if you noticed what gets your children really upset, then wondered about the value associated with that certain behavior? What could happen in our relationships if we didn’t avoid arguments, rather studied them for the treasure of information they provide? Try it. Let us know how it goes.