EducationNew Year’s Vision

Craig Toonder, MFT. Oakland Couples Counseling

New Year’s Vision

Happy New Year!


I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.


The New Year is upon us, a time for self-reflection and setting intentions for the growth and visions of the future. As a therapist self-reflection has long been an interest of mine. (Big surprise.) Intention, on the other hand, is a value that I have become more and more enamored with during 2012. So I wanted to share two thoughts about intention.

First, there is often an aspect of self-growth that is pain driven. My life has been no acceptation. Much of who I have become has grown from “the sacred gift within the wound.” While I hold a sense of gratitude for these gifts, I didn’t really like the pain. I much prefer to derive motivation elsewhere.

In the beginning of the year I came across this quote, “pain pushes ‘till vision pulls.” As I sat with this in 2012 I began to really appreciate mind-set that it speaks to. Instead of self-growth being about fixing what’s wrong, self-growth becomes about embracing values such as creativity, joy and expansion.

Couples often come to see me trapped in the grasp of blame and defensiveness. Feelings of being denied or devalued lock partners into an unconscious dance of mutual alienation in which nothing ever changes. While growth and intimacy can come from working through these struggles together, I highly encourage couples to find ways to create a shared vision as well. I ask them what they think a healthy relationship would be. Not so much to get a specific answer, more to get them thinking about a vision of what intimacy, connection, and shared creativity would actually be.


Talk to each other.

  • Share your ideas and dreams of how your relationship could look at the end of the year, in five years, in twenty-five years.
  • Find a book or workshop (or me) as a resource to guide your actions towards your dreams.
  • Put up inspirational quotes and pictures in your home to remind you of your vision.
  • Do the things for you have said, “We should do that one day.”
  • Appreciate each other for the ways you already are the vision you hold.


Second. In regards to arguing… far, far, too often I see couples engage in “charged” conversations without setting or verbalizing an intension. That’s about as smart as boarding a plane and assuming it will eventually take you where you want to go.

When you need to talk to your partner about something that is bothering you, don’t just jump in gun blazing. Take a moment to really think about what is bothering you. Then think about why that bothers you. Then keep thinking about it until you find a “why” that has substance and meaning in the relationship. Typically this will cause you to feel more vulnerable.

Next think about what you need from your partner. Again, look beyond the surface response of needing him or her to be a “better” person. See if you can find something more meaningful.

Then think about how you would like the conversation to go. Think about what it would look like if it got off track and how to keep it on track.

After you have your vision and intension clear share that with you partner. Talk to him or her about his or her needs, visions and fears about the topic. Decide as a team to help each other stay on track with where you want the conversation to go so that both of you come out feeling OK.

Remember, as a couple if you both aren’t OK, the relationship is not OK, so no one will be OK for long.


Wishing your visions come true,

Craig Toonder