How couples can create a shared plan for the future
Last December, I took a trip to Europe with my cousin Duane. Before I left, I received email from a GRS reader named Matthias. "If you come through Switzerland, let me know," he said.
The stars aligned so that Matt was able to join us for several hours on a train across the Alps. He brought Swiss chocolate and a bottle of whisky. As we talked -- and became pleasantly buzzed -- he told me about how he and his wife tackle couple goals together via five-year plans for their future.
"I love this idea," I told him. "Will you write about it for Get Rich Slowly?" He did. This is Matt's story about creating a shared vision as a couple. Enjoy!
In the spring of 2006, I'd been living and working in Taipei, Taiwan for two years and my contract was about to expire. Soon, I'd be returning home to Switzerland.
On a pleasant weekend evening in my downtown flat, my Taiwanese girlfriend and I were reminiscing about all of the wonderful memories we'd made. We waxed nostalgic about the two years we'd enjoyed together. But it dawned on us that if we didn't make some bold moves, our relationship might be coming to an end.
We opened a bottle of fine wine in order to enhance the depth and wisdom of our conversation. Before long, we'd switched from sweet nostalgia to dreaming about our potential future -- together.
Imagineering the Future
My girlfriend had just graduated from college and was working in her first job. For my part, I’d just received an offer for my dream job — but it meant I'd have to move back to Switzerland.
The wine was an effective dream enhancer. We let our imaginations loose as we talked about how we could potentially live our lives together. The future took many shapes.
- Where would we live?
- What jobs would we work?
- How could we both be as happy as possible together?
Honestly, it was overwhelming. Our lives three months ahead were like a blank slate. Everything seemed possible! Nothing was certain! Anything could happen!
In order to conceptualize our thoughts and concerns, we decided to write down all of our dreams and goals on yellow stickynotes. This mother of all brainstorming sessions took us half an hour. We each wrote down what was important to us, stuff we’d like to achieve, skills we’d like to acquire — in short, what we’d like to do with our lives in the next few years.
Next, we organized those dreams in terms of feasibility, urgency, and requirements. (To meet certain goals, we had to accomplish others first.) During this process, we tried to keep things fair. We both got the same number of stickynotes. All goals were open to debate, yet at the same time we tried to figure how to best help each other achieving them going forward! Our aim was to work together as a couple.
Step three was to put up an A3 formatted white paper on the wall, draw a timeline from 2006 till 2011 – yes, we were going to plan out the next five years of our life! – and arrange our couple goals in a meaningful way to our life’s “game plan”.
Our dreams included things like:
- Get married.
- Move to Switzerland.
- Save for a new home.
- Learn German.
- Start a business.
- Become parents.
In a nutshell, nothing extraordinary — the things young people usually dream of. It was clear that some goals had to be achieved before others. We agreed that pursuing them in a specific order made sense. Then we arranged them accordingly on the timeline.
Becoming a Dream Team
Planning our future was an ecstatic activity. In fact, doing so was the defining evening for our relationship.
That very evening, we actually decided to get married. We decided to chase our dreams together as a team. She was 23 years young; I was 26. Little did we know that this shared activity would help us tremendously on the path to our dream life. We had become a dream team!