Learning to come up with new options or solutions to your needs and problems is a skill you can learn through Big Picture Partnering.

Instead of polarizing or giving in, learning how to arrive at new options together will make you feel good about yourselves and one another. It develops a great sense of confidence in your partnership, so you can be proud of your strengths.

  • Newly weds or soon to be married couples need to explore lots of options as they create a life together. You’ll find an example of this reading about Marybeth and Ron’s exploration of where to live. A decision that felt irreconcilable until they successfully applied the Big Picture approach.
  • The new options you invent together can be applied to everyday problems you face such as who’s going to do the meal planning, grocery shopping, and daily cooking when both of you work full time. These Daily Details are a common place that couples get stuck, turning their attention away from the big picture dreams and goals they have.
  • Such creative solutions are definitely required if this is your second marriage and you are trying to meld two households and one or two sets of kids, exes, and in-laws. Approaches used the first time around may not have been as successful as you’d like. Learning new ways to achieve a different outcome is probably high on your list of priorities.
  • Coming up with new options is also necessary as children get older and are able to participate in household chores or require more juggling of schedules as you take them to games or extracurricular activities. Or beyond that child-rearing phase you anticipate empty-nest on the horizon and want to be fully connected and looking to create and enjoy each next stage together. Irina and Milo are an example of a couple in child-rearing years, but anticipating connection each step along the way.


As you learn to problem solve together and apply more creative solutions to everyday issues, these wrinkles will begin to smooth out. Once this happens, Big Picture Partners discover they then have more time to develop their Big Picture dreams together—no matter what your age or stage in relating.

Changes Are Made Faster When You Explore Together

Let me tell you about Harvey and Lenore. In their early fifties, each was on their second marriage. They had been together for seven years when I met them.

“We are at a wonderful time of our lives and want to do something totally different,” Harvey explained. “We just don’t know what that is. All we know is we want to live in a warmer climate as we get older, and we want to do something more fun!”

Lenore especially wanted to live in a smaller and more eco-friendly community. Neither of them was sure how to make these parts of their dream into a whole.

“We’ll probably make a change in five or six years,” Harvey told me.

I laughed inwardly. He did not know the power of the Big Picture to make change in far less time when couples learned the skills and applied the tools!


9 Months to Achieve Dreams, Instead of 3, 5 or 10 years

Years ago I experimented. I wanted to see what couples might accomplish if they worked together with myself and other couples, applying Big Picture Partnering skills and tools. It was my first observation of dramatic progress in 9 months, toward achieving dreams and goals that people thought they’d do something about “Someday. Maybe in 3 or 5 years,” they had originally said. We were all surprised as each couple moved around the country, took on new career expression, married and blended families successfully. I’m no longer surprised! For 30 years, I’ve consistently seen this accelerated progress when couples work together using the Big Picture approach.

Harvey and Lenore eagerly began using the Big Picture approach. Applying this time-tested couples coaching approach, I guided Harvey and Lenore in their exploration.

Harvey had been a successful corporate executive for many years, and he had a love of mountain climbing, which he seldom had time to do. He wanted to try something entrepreneurial and thought one avenue might be to offer training and consulting to companies in how to go through difficult changes. Or maybe he could write. Or … he really wasn’t sure.

Lenore worked as an office manager for a local arts organization and wanted to remain in the arts. She also wanted to
explore her writing talent.

  • They had deep discussions about their values and dreams, and found it easy to support one another’s needs for the future.
  • With encouragement they made lists of career ideas and people they might talk with about these ideas. They started to experiment with different job possibilities and passion ideas. I encouraged them to talk to people they knew and other’s who might be doing work that interested them. They had phone calls, networked and explored, reconnecting and meeting many interesting folks all around the country all along the way. Some invited them to come visit.
  • They drew diagrams of house plans they’d enjoy and feel comfortable living in. These were to have everything they wanted in a home. This turned out to be a fun activity for these to artistic people. Whether they build or bought didn’t matter, they were clarifying to themselves what they dreamed of for this third stage of their lives. 
  • At the same time, they were to map out parts of the country they’d consider living—for weather and lifestyle compatibility. These locations had to include future healthcare and like-minded people with whom they could feel a sense of community.
  • Then their experimenting was to go on vacations—to travel and explore different parts of the country where they might live.

After five months, they arrived at a totally unanticipated plan, all due to their sharing, brainstorming, experimenting, and exploring.

Here’s how Harvey explained the process:

“We thought we would explore the temperate parts of the West Coast and ended up spending the last four weeks in Bend, Oregon. We met the nicest people, it’s beautiful, and I’ve decided it’s the perfect place to start a mountain climbing and hiking business for anyone—maybe even corporate execs, with treks to Mt. Hood and the surrounding area.

Harvey was jazzed. It was entrepreneurial, and different from his corporate job, yet it included knowledge of what execs might need. He had met some folks doing similar things in Bend, and they had invited him to explore building this aspect of their sporting company.

Lenore had fallen in love with the high desert climate and easily made friends with people in a local community organization that worked to protect the environment. She was enthusiastic about the area, the people and her new job prospects:

“They need someone to help them organize and write for them. I’m good at both, and it would be about twenty-five hours a week so I could also work on my novel.

  • Once the decision had been made, our coaching helped them work through details of the transition. This included winding down Harvey’s leadership position which had been in the works anyway. Lenore gave notice and ended in a positive way. Then it was dealing with households and letting friends know where they could come visit.

Within nine months, Harvey and Lenore were excitedly closing on the sale of their home in Minneapolis and moving to Oregon.

They still write or call once in a while. In our last conversation, Lenore told me:

“I can’t tell you how delighted we continue to be with the changes we made eleven years ago. To think that we could still be stuck in our old rut—but you got us working together and the changes happened so much more quickly than they have on our own. We are still both surprised. “



Reflect on your own relationship.


Dr. Jan Hoistad