Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we’d like to end our discussion of Dreams Within Conflict by sharing Dr. Gottman’s words on trusting our process and offering support to each other:

“This strategy of discussing dreams when you encounter conflict does not come easily to many people. Perhaps that’s because we’re taught to stick to a narrow field of absolute facts when faced with opposition. If you believe there’s got to be a winner and a loser in every conflict, then you try to make your argument as objective and highly accurate as possible: otherwise you’ll be proven wrong. We lose a lot with this narrow approach – namely our ability to find shared meaning and connect emotionally. But once we broaden the landscape of our discussion to include dreams and hopes, we can see where our visions merge! We can find room for compromise.”
We share these words because discussing dreams within conflict is really very difficult. To talk about such deeply felt, meaningful, and personal things is to make oneself vulnerable. That’s scary. We know that’s scary. But though the proposition may feel high risk, it can also offer high gain… and you won’t have to take the chances alone, or depend on your wits! Today we offer you a few suggestions for showing honor, support, and respect for each other’s dreams when you have a conversation:

  • Ask questions about the dream. One of our favorites is “What’s the story behind that?” Dreams usually have a history or a narrative behind them – they often come from your partner’s past.
  • Offer empathy. You don’t have to be ecstatic about this dream, but it may be helpful to express: “I understand why that is important to you.”
  • Offer emotional support and validation. Even if you can’t directly help them to achieve their dreams, communicate: “I am behind you 100%”
  • Participate in the other’s dream – read about the issue, help to make plans, offer advice if it is desired.
  • Give support – child-care, transportation, whatever you feel able to offer.
  • Join the dream on a trial basis – if it works well, consider joining it entirely – make it a part of your own vision

Understanding the basis of each other’s dreams, each other’s most deeply felt hopes and desires for the future is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in a relationship. But it can’t happen overnight: to open up to each other requires trust, real trust. Building trust, and feeling your partner begin to trust you, will bring you to a place in which this kind of connection is possible. And when you find this connection, your bond will naturally become stronger. The two of you will grow closer than ever, building your friendship, your intimacy, and your romance. Keep these things in mind as you encounter opportunities to try this approach with your partner.


More in The Sound Relationship House
Make Life Dreams Come True: Trusting Each Other

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.