What three words would you use to describe a perfect couple? This is an assignment that I give to all of my premarital clients. I let them use adjectives, nouns or even verbs. They can use any word except the word “not” – it must be a thing and not the absence of something. Take a moment before you keep reading to come up with your own words. Imagine a perfect married couple sitting in the corner off to your right – and then tell me what are the most important things to them – what describes them. Write these down and we will talk about them again at the end of this article.
I love this exercise. I love working with couples to come up with a picture of what they are moving toward in their relationship – what they hope to build. There is usually some overlap of the words each individual chooses but many times their words are different. This is wonderful. You and your partner don’t need to have the same vision of an ideal couple in order to be blissfully happy. Your differences create space for curiosity and conversation. It also means that some healthy compromise might be required. Compromise can feel scary for new couples – fears of future resentments or of living a life unfulfilled come up in our conversations. Having different visions might simply mean that you get to make your vision bigger.
Is there room for all of your and your partner’s adjectives in your life together? And what might this life together look like if you could find a way to include all of your passions. This is the second step of the exercise – creating a joint vision that you both buy into and agree to work toward. This becomes a powerful reference point in your marriage – what is it that you are building. I invite my couples to post these words somewhere in their home – perhaps creating some artwork using them so that they are reminded daily of their passions and direction.
It is important to note here that this joint vision needs to be renegotiated every 2-4 years. You lives will change, your preferences will change and the world around you will change – therefore, your marital goals need to change. As your grow, you need to give each other permission as well as give yourself permission to change what you want out of life and out of your marriage. About every 3 years your should check-in to see if what you created still brings you both joy and ignites your passion. If it does not, you simply begin this exercise again: starting first with defining your perfect couple and then coming together to negotiate your new joint vision.
The final part of this exercise is to look at the words you chose and envision the spouse in the imaginary couple. What 3 things would your current partner need to change to become the spouse that is in your vision? And what 3 things would you need to change to become the partner you idealize? What is standing in your way of being that partner? What do you need to add or subtract to become that person you see? It is important to write down what you find. The writing may seem silly but it really does cement your vision when you put it onto paper.
Below you will find a list of some of the words that I have collected over the past 15 years in my work with engaged couples. Many people used the same words and I found that “happy” is the most used adjective. Happy means different things to each of us but it seems to be that happiness is a universal hope for our lives. I continue to keep this list of words and when I started I believed I would find a shift in definitions between generations. However, I have not found any differences between my Millennial, Gen X or Boomer couples. Again – happy seems be a universal goal.
I am hopeful that this exercise will help you in envisioning your own ideal couple. Maybe you will start a conversation with your partner about where you want to be in 5 or 10 years. Perhaps it will add some curiosity, generosity and direction to your relationship.
Ashley Seeger, LCSW is an experienced counselor practicing online and in her sunny office in South Boulder, CO. Learn more about Ashley.
Words used to describe a perfect married couple:
Time with Family