A New View Of Relationships

Want a rock-solid relationship? Then read and heed this advice from Dr. Jan Hoistad, a love expert and author.

By Marcia Jedd

hink you know what it takes to make a twosome work? Gain some new insights from our exclusive conversation with relationship coach and licensed psychologist Jan Hoistad, Ph.D., author of Big Picture Partnering: 16 Weeks to a Rock-Solid Relationship ( Dr. Jan has been helping couples reach their goals for more than 25 years through workshops, individual and couples’ coaching and counseling. Here’s the advice she had to share about creating a great relationship.

Tell us about Big Picture Partnering and how couples can use it to take their relationship to the next level.

I developed the Big Picture Partnering style of relating years ago when I noticed couples didn’t have a context to
“Don’t spend time with people who don’t want the same thing.”
think about the kind of relationship they wanted to create. Without a common way of approaching their relationship, it was hard for couples to accomplish their goals together. People were looking for a way to have autonomy within a relationship while enjoying a healthy level of interdependence; a way to deal with daily details while also keeping their dreams alive.

Big Picture Partnering takes into account meeting both partners’ individual needs and the needs of the relationship while keeping an eye on the couple’s big-picture dreams. So Big Picture Partnering is a bigger universe in which couples have whole individual selves and lives, activities and interests. Both intimacy and conflict resolution become possible. One of the things about creating intimacy is that you can’t create it unless you have two whole, but separate individuals.

You describe three basic styles of relating you see people doing: Traditional, Merged and Roommate. Tell us more about each of these.

The Traditional style of relating is often seen in our parents and grandparents—where one person is more dominant than the other in certain areas. For example, he may bring home the bacon while she may run the home. More rare is the Merged style, where two people’s identities actually form one whole identity rather than two separate individuals. You often see this relationship when people get together when they’re really young, especially in adolescence, when you don’t have your identity fully formed. Or with older couples who’ve been together for 50 to 60 years; they probably started out as Traditional, then merged together.

Many people find they have the Roommate style of relating. In this style, you have two relatively equal individuals. They may live together, be married, they may have sex, they may have children, own a home, but they make decisions unilaterally. They’re not making decisions together in a partnering way. The Roommate style can work when everything is status quo. For many couples, it’s kind of like leading parallel lives; they only come together around certain things. However, when there is a major life change or when one person wants things to
“Big Picture Partnering turns conflict into creativity.”
be different, it can often be a struggle. So if you have children, there’s a big move, job change, or major financial shift, this style of relating can lead to dissatisfaction or havoc.

No one relationship style is better than the other, and it’s often about what patterns the couple fell into or what society has dealt. But nowadays, many people want more than what these styles of relating are giving them: Just look at the high divorce rates we see. No matter the style of relationship a couple operates with, they can use Big Picture Partnering to transform the relationship into a more creative and connected way of relating.

Keeping positive feelings continuously flowing between partners is an essential element of Big Picture Partnering. How do you go about this?

One of the key tools I teach people is to talk and listen to each other for short periods of time, but frequently. I call it Regular Talking and Taking Turns. The book shows couples how to talk and listen to each other so they can work through any kind of conflict and come to agreements. On a more basic level, they learn to keep a thread of communication going and growing so they feel more connected, content and cared about by the person they love. Big Picture Partnering aims to turn conflict into creativity. Once a couple can do this — and, often, it starts with setting parameters around not arguing, but instead, talking and listening — they can achieve their bigger dreams and visions together. The old paradigm is “Oh, look at our conflicts and what we’re disagreeing about.” With Big Picture Partnering, there’s a totally different mindset: “We’re in this together. What are we going to do about this?”

Any tips on creating a Big Picture relationship for those who are out there dating?

Be clear about the fact that you really want a committed, long-term relationship. Don’t spend time with people who don’t want the same thing. Make sure that both of you are interested in partnering, because if one person isn’t and is adamant about it, he or she is not going to create a partnership with you.

Marcia Jedd is a freelance writer based in the Midwest.
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