In the Big Picture Partner approach to relationship, communication is focused on supporting one another and reaching agreements together. These are agreements that are “mutually satisfying” so the outcome is a Win/Win.

Rather than putting your concerns, disagreements, or differences between you, where they cause you to blame or become angry and disconnected from one another, in Big Picture Partnering each partner brings their thoughts, concerns, needs, wants, and desires to the table, where they are freely discussed—each of you listening for understanding, then brainstorming new options together. Out of this you arrive at a mutual decision about action steps to achieve your goal.

Milo and Irina have been married thirteen years and have three children. Still fairly young and solidly in love, they know they have many years together and they want to stay connected and be happy at every stage along the way.  While their relationship would appear to be the Traditional Style on the surface, theirs is not a traditional relationship. Milo appears to be a traditional husband because he works outside the home as the family breadwinner, a necessity while their kids are young. Irina may appear to be a traditional wife because she manages the home, organizes social activities and the schedules of their 3 kids. At their next stage, Irina knows she’ll seek employment once their youngest is off to school full time.

Through Big Picture Partner coaching, Milo and Irina strengthened what was already a solid partnership in the way they discussed their values. That was a great starting point. Coaching gave them all the tools and skills necessary to function as full Big Picture Partners, through every stage of their relationship as their family grows.

Whenever Milo has a big decision to make about his work life such as schedule or benefit changes that may affect his family, he brings it home and talks it over with Irina before committing to any major changes. He and Irina try to make all such major decisions together.

“It may take us a little longer to talk everything over,” he says, “but in the long run we are both happier. We are a family, and my job is, in many ways, ‘our job.’ Irina’s happiness and the stability of our three kids is important to me. I value her opinion and really want her support in everything I do. So we make these kinds of decisions together.”

Unlike the Traditional, Merged or Roommate styles of relating, in the Big Picture Partnering approach, one partner’s perspective or needs do not take away from another. Irina describes other aspects of their lives that she and Milo freely decide on—together, in the case of major decisions such as finances, choice of schools for their children or holiday plans with relatives, and separately, in the case of minor ones such as calling the refrigerator repairman or the youngest having a spontaneous sleepover with the neighbor kids.

They each realize that by choosing to be Big Picture Partners, if they are in disagreement about anything no final decision gets made. The topic stays on the table for further discussion while they find other options that are mutually satisfying, win/win choices. That way, disagreements never stop or divide them. Irina says:

“I feel secure in knowing that we make all the major decisions together. We emigrated from Russia just after we were married, and I was pregnant. At the time we needed to be very connected—on everything—just to survive in this new country. We really learned how to work together. Over time, as we have become acclimated and at home here, we each have lots of separate activities—not only with the kids, but we are very social and have friends individually and couple friends together. Now that our six-year-old is in school, I have a part-time job, and this is my spending money separate from the family account. Milo takes his own allowance for his activities. I like to take pottery classes, and he is studying how to tutor other immigrants coming into the country. Along with our active kids, it makes for an exciting mix in our marriage!”

Irina and Milo deserve a hearty congratulations! They have fortified their positive early relationship with the perspective, tools and skills of the Big Picture approach. Tools and skills that will last them for a life-time and keep their love growing through the years.

In Big Picture Partnering, having two strong individual “worlds,” as Irina and Milo do have, and an “Our World” together, is important. By learning the tools and following the steps of Big Picture Partnering, individuality and togetherness can coexist harmoniously. Using this approach, you too can develop and balance all aspects in order to enjoy a richer and more rewarding relationship.



Reflect on your own relationship.


Dr. Jan Hoistad