“The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it.” –W.H. Whyte.
My parents, happily married, dreamt of a future together. But after witnessing many heartbreaks I realised that they had very different ideas about the work-life balance needed to build that future. Decades later, I now hear my friends describing the same differences: “I didn’t know he would be gone this often”, “Why is she missing so much of our kids’ lives”, or “I didn’t sign up to raising our family on my own”. To them these represent an unacceptable price to pay.
Not everyone has an accurate picture of a future that exists only in conversations but we all have an idea of the kind of work-life balance we want. These are so integral to us that we sometimes believe our partners understand this even if we haven’t articulated it. And we know each other well, don’t we?! Married a long time, or love each other lots; or those date nights (ah, those date nights)! But do we really know what life looks like to our partners as we build that future dreamt of together?
I have seen couples adapting well to a life sans those core expectations but not if done indefinitely or one-sidedly. The logistics of their dream cost them their marriage. I have also listened to many who never realised they were denying their partners’ expectations whilst their partners thought they realised perfectly well. These cracks only develop as relationships go through life’s pressures, subject to an illusion that conversations have taken place. I did not want this to happen to us. So one evening whilst researching a career change to Medicine I decided to try something different.
I asked John to describe two ‘movie freeze-frames’. First: his perfect evening/weekend. Second: what he thought a normal evening/weekend over the next 10 years would be like if I chose to quit my career & re-train as a Doctor. No unforgivable words, no Don’t-Want-To-Break-Her-Heart white lies or glossing over of details. Same rules applied to me when it was my turn. That evening was fun, a bit sobering, and uniquely liberating! It showed us our expectations of the logistics of dreams, and if it was achievable.
Life at the moment looks drastically different to what either of us had thought. But because we had that ‘movie freeze-frame’ conversation we knew each other’s our core expectations, what we could not compromise with long term, and what we could sacrifice. It was of immense value when the going got tough.
Thus if you are gunning for that next promotion, changing your career, starting a new business, or dreaming of your future together…why not spend some time over wine & cheese to have that ‘movie freeze-frame’ conversation? It just might make a world of difference!