Dr. Jan Hoistad, psychologist, couples coach and first-time author, uses 25 years of individual client and group workshop sessions to put together a clear, step-by-step approach to taking a shaky or an aspiring relationship from uncertainty to rock-solid certainty in 16 weeks of reading, conversing and working through simple but highly productive principles and exercises. She has called her book Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship.
Many books abound on relationship repair, building and maintenance. But the field of relationship advice is often overladen with unoriginal thinking; with theories that do not acknowledge the logical conclusions of their premises; with ideas that mistake cultural restrictions and norms for universalities. Examples of these weaknesses in the field of relationship books are, for instance, continuing to espouse the notion (I heard it first in the ’60s) that adults with childhood woes are to be healed by their adult spouse or partner; espousing the logically flawed notion that expressing feelings authentically will resolve the difficulties that produced the feelings; building models of partnering on the idea that deep at heart all men are Marlboro Men or John Wayne men without recognizing that in different countries and in earlier eras there are and were different modes of thought and behavior with very different understanding and goals.
Dr. Jan Hoistad, in writing Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship, draws predominantly on Transactional Analysis and the newest relationship research for building and explaining her rock-solid-in-16-weeks approach, research such as that by the celebrated Dr. John Gottleib who’s work measured and clarified the necessity for positive remarks, actions and feelings in a marriage or partnership to outweigh the negative. Dr. Jan Hoistad creates – and shows her readers how to create – a positive backdrop to and positive resonance in adult relationships. Her guidance offers step-by-step means that are reasonable, rational, logical and grounded in wisdom and insightful observation. Dr. Hoistad shows us how to develop the intimate, connected, caring relationships we dream of having and that are a source of deep personal happiness.
Big Picture Partnering:16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship is presented in two parts. Part I, Envisioning Together, takes you through 8 weeks of learning about yourself and making choices. Along with learning definitions of partnership styles and then choosing for yourself, you’ll come to understand how to maintain positive feelings in a relationship – feelings of intimacy, connectedness and caring, feelings that come about when you know you are neither discounted nor neglected. You also discover how deepening your own individuality deepens your relationship – how becoming more like yourself contributes to building the relationship you’ve always dreamed of. Of extraordinary importance is the lesson on taking turns talking and listening and thereby creating deeper love – deeper love attends deeper understanding and understanding comes quickly through listening and talking in turn. The end of Part I leads you to discover the depth of your commitment to each other, shows you how to make your partnership a life priority and directs you in ways to evaluate and appreciate the strides in partnering that you’ve both made since Week 1.
Now that you have learned, deepened, understood and appreciated, Part II of Big Picture Partnering:16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship, called Creating a Life Together, leads you through 8 weeks of building your life, present and future, necessities and dreams. First of all, in Part I, you learned about the three worlds, Your World, My World and Our World. In Part II, you learn how to fill those worlds and unify them so that daily routines run smoothly which will save you energy, time, money and emotion; so that things of importance to you are focused on and fulfilled rather than ignored, left behind and left out; so that dreams for the future are incorporated and begun on through concrete steps. The best part of this is that you’ll learn to use the differences and disagreements between you-differences that at one time might have led to conflict and estrangement – to synthesize creative new avenues that build on both your worlds and are rewarding and fulfilling for both: Differences combine with creativity to form unity and agreement. Which brings up the other important lesson of Part II, that of how to agree when you disagree. As you learn this, you’ll practice what Dr. Jan Hoistad calls “joyously exploring and experimenting together.”
Big Picture Partnering:16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship is enjoyable to read, in fact, it is hard to put down. I read it straight through and then went back to apply the lessons and do the exercises week by week. Dr. Jan Hoistad writes in a very straightforward manner with clarity and logic, building one idea on another. It is apparent that she is not out to impress and show off her Ph.D. but rather to lead and guide and help us develop the connectedness and intimacy we all want in our partnering relationships. Ofttimes writers will use poorly chosen examples and illustrations that are too sappy or too vague or too painful. Dr. Hoistad uses examples that are appropriate, of interest to read, wholly illustrative of the point at hand and demonstrative of a wide variety of couples. On top of which, the weekly exercises are concise, to-the-point, relevant and engaging to do. Moreover, they are effective and achieve the learning and understanding they aim for and were designed to deliver.
The process Big Picture Partnering, as explained by Dr. Jan Hoistad in Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship, shows partners how to move together toward a Big Picture for their lives and relationship (this is where the third of the three worlds comes in: Our World, fit for the two of us and our children). With Big Picture Partnering, energy is left over, after the working out of smooth daily details, for the pursuit of the couple’s Big Picture goals and dreams for the future: Past present and future issues are put on the table and creatively approached to make an Our World of unity, agreement and connectedness.
Big Picture Partnering is the most non-judgmental and most positive approach to relationship accord that I have come across. But while being nonjudgmental, it shows you how to eliminate the ideas and habits and connections that give distance instead connectedness, estrangement instead of intimacy, dependence instead of individuality. Key to this process is intentional dialog in which you and your partner take turns talking and listening in prearranged meetings, several times a week. Paramount to talking and listening is the promise made to yourselves and each other to talk about what matters to you – things you talked about when you were dating and falling in love. This precludes talking about Betsy’s runny nose or the scratched paint job on the new car. It includes talking about the poetry class you’re taking, the ski resort in Switzerland you heard about and looked up on line, how long it took you to pull the engine out of the car you’re restoring. Intentional dialog, plus deliberate acts of caring, are possible because of Dr. Jan Hoistad’s insistence on a No Fighting Pact, at least while the couple is mastering the concepts of Big Picture Partnering: When you’re fighting and crying and yelling, it is hard to remember why you love each other, let alone feel intimate, cared about and connected.
Emphasizing that only adults can be in an adult relationship, and that is not your partner’s job to comfort your inner child, Dr. Jan Hoistad shows you how, in Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship, to track your progress on your intentional dialogs and on your Our World goals. One example that is my favorite from Big Picture Partnering:16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship tells of a couple who had a comfortable amount of money and were approaching thinking about retirement, but they wanted retirement to be from what they had been doing and into something new to do. They each had vague thoughts: for him, maybe consulting, maybe writing, maybe a nature guide; for her, maybe an environmental activist, maybe a writer. When they learned to Big Picture Partner, put all their ideas on the table, and began to look at creative ideas and experiment with possibilities they stumbled by chance on the perfect place in Oregon where all the parts of the maybes came together in two surprising and unexpected enterprises, one for each of them. What they thought would be a five year goal turned into a almost immediate change. And were they happy and did they feel connected and intimate…you bet they did.
Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship, Dr. Jan Hoistad’s approach for a connected and intimate relationship, does not superimpose a prestructured model, one-size-fits-all, on couples who use Big Picture Partnering. Participants create their own models based on the Ten Essentials of Big Picture Partnering: couples fit the Big Picture Partnering approach into their lives as they are. Thus, there are no artificial elements. Progress toward intimate connectedness, concrete actions of caring and realization of goals comes out of deepened individuality and intentional talk/ listening. Dr. Jan Hoistad writes from both an innate and an acquired wisdom, with insightful observation. These qualities are coupled with this reasonable, rational approach to relationships through big picture partnering. The end result is that the whole of Big Picture Partnering presented in Big Picture Partnering: 16 weeks to a rock-solid relationship is very realistic and can be accomplished by anyone who is willing to read, consider, talk and listen in order to achieve the happiness sought for in a connected and intimate rock-solid relationship.