A few days into the New Year, Kelli and I sat down to create and affirm our intentions for the year ahead. We had done a similar exercise when we first got together, documenting our vision of what we wanted to create as a couple. At the beginning of 2013 we more formally planned our intentions and identified the actions that would support them. We even made a calendar of when certain goals would be accomplished – taking vacations, redecorating the house, touring Seattle neighborhoods, attending networking events, planning social events with others. We approached 2014 intention-setting slightly differently, with a balance of individual and couple-centric goals, knowing that our relationship thrives when each of us plus the relationship gets our needs met.
In late 2013, as I reflected on the year coming to a close and the new one close at hand with its proverbial ‘do-over’ potential, I knew one thing had to change in 2014. I had to find a better balance between meeting the needs of others and meeting my own needs. Sure, meeting the needs of others ultimately satisfies some need in me, whether it be that I’m respected for my ability to deliver at work, that I’m seen as a consistent, dependable support for my friends, that my father (and brother) experience me as a loving, engaged daughter (and sister) as we bury his wife (our Mom), or that my kids feel my affection and interest in their growing independence. And then there’s my relationship with Kelli, in which sometimes she ‘needs’ me for support, perspective, courage, wisdom, patience, and in which I find connection, enjoyment, exploration, passion….all things I want to nurture and sustain.
Where am I in all of this? It was a question I asked myself for a few days as I contemplated how I’d mark my own entry into 2014. It didn’t take long to realize the way back to my own connection to Self was through taking more individual time each week and month to nurture and enjoy my body and mind: yoga, baths, quiet reading time, acupuncture, massage. All I really needed was a couple of hours a week that I could call my own, that I didn’t feel guilty about asking for, that I claimed as something I deserved. It dawned on me that if could give these gifts to myself, I would be fuller, happier, relaxed, complete, and ultimately a better partner to Kelli. I deliberately held this revelation close and sacred, and I didn’t immediately tell Kelli, needing to nurture the inherent truth and meaning in my mind and heart, to gather strength from that. ‘Reclamation’ became my intention, my personal theme for 2014.
As 2014 approached, I too was thinking about how I wanted to spend my time and our time (with Dorothy). In many ways, I’d had more free time than Dorothy on a weekly basis. However, frequently that time was spent monitoring, directly or indirectly, her teenagers and the household. Oftentimes, monitoring felt like a lot of responsibility and it caused a fair amount of stress that sat below the surface as I managed it alone or later with Dorothy, managing it together by problem-solving or dealing with conflicts.
I wanted time and space in 2014 to walk away from certain ‘problems’ and not have to be the holder of them, basically to release some of the responsibility to others. Additionally, I wanted to create more truly alone time in the house with Dorothy…our energy, our time. I wanted to recommit to my individual goals that were partially or fully unaccomplished in 2013. And I wanted to commit to complaining less about the ‘problems’ by speaking more directly about my needs and desires…a goal I continue to work on with both successes and setbacks.
Dorothy and Kelli speak
Without having discussed our personal evaluations of the past year or our intentions for the New Year, we sat down on a Sunday afternoon to write our joint 2014 intentions. After assessing our progress on our 2013 goals – which had mixed results! – we discussed our current-year intentions. Coming from a place of clarity and commitment made it easy for us to begin to create mutual intentions and imagine their fruition without thinking we’d sacrifice ourselves in the process. All of a sudden, out of the blue, I, Dorothy, blurted out my theme and personal goals for the year. Our eyes connected. I, Kelli, smiled and very simply said, “I can give you that.” Then a moment later I brightened as clarity of my desire for the year arose. “I want that theme, too!” We looked at each other, realizing that after the unexpected events of 2013 that brought stress and strain, each of us AND our relationship needed some reclamation. We smoothly and quickly completed our intentions, excited and energized by the possibilities of the year ahead.
Our Relationship speaks
Dorothy and Kelli endeavor to continue the journey of setting meaningful intentions for their relationship and for themselves. They walk the fine line of balance sometimes stumbling off and away but always returning to re-evaluate. Relationships take focus and intention, every day, every week, every year. Intimate relationships cannot and do not thrive when unattended or ignored needs and desires go unmet or disregarded for periods of time. They, and other couples, can stifle and repress their feelings or needs but they’ll eventually surface one way or another and usually not pleasantly…i.e. unwanted behaviors, resentments, addictions and so on. The beginning of 2014 brings opportunities to refresh, revisit, and renew intentions in the midst of all the stressors and challenges from years’ past. Dorothy and Kelli take on new adventures, learn new lessons, and look forward to the year ahead and their wish and hope for others is the opportunity to do the same!
And so another year begins…
Kelli Williamson holds a Master of Arts degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from The School of Leadership and Education at the University of San Diego. Kelli has extensive experience working with couples, children and families. She has worked in private practice and held leadership positions in non-profit organizations directing counseling services, supervising staff and interns, and providing training in child and family therapy. In addition, she consults with non-profit agencies providing organizational development and leadership training.
Dorothy (Bosteder) Emerson graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Economics. She is a Senior Product Manager in the banking industry and has served on the board of directors for non-profit agencies serving women and children. Dorothy has expertise in building relationships by facilitating communication and collaboration while navigating complex systems. Dorothy is also the mother of two teenagers and she offers clarity and focus on listening to and following one’s heart as a parent.
Dorothy and Kelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.