03/05/2013 01:21 pm ET Updated May 05, 2013

Creating a Relationship Legacy

We all enjoy telling our story. It is a lifeline with ourselves. By reflecting on life events and expressing our story in words or pictures, we develop the unique perspective of viewing our past from its future.

Our relationship stories are also our lifeline with others. By sharing our stories with someone important to us, we can see the events of our life from different, surprising perspectives. Creating our mutual stories could change our view of each other in unexpected and rewarding ways. This is what my mother, Kay Saunders, and I did by co-authoring The Grace of Ordinary Days.

Here are two examples of what other people have done to create a relationship legacy with someone they care about:

Jackson, age 7, and his grandmother are writing poems about what is important in their lives. They have agreed to use a poetry book in an ongoing dialogue with each other. They take turns writing poetry to each other, and they have a conversation about what they wrote. It gives them special time together, and allows each of them to experience what the other person is feeling. The poems serve as a conversation starter that would not be possible in the same way without the ongoing exchange. During one of their conservations, he announced that when he grows up he is going to be a truck driver poet!

Two sisters decided to spend time talking on the telephone. They picked childhood experiences like cleaning the hallway closet on Saturday mornings, special red coats their mother sewed for each of them, and playing with cutout dolls on the front steps. "My sister and I remembered the same events differently. In sharing our recall of these times, she filled in details of the little spaces of our growing up together that I never knew were spaces. I now understand more of the life that we shared. For her to understand how much I had looked up to her brought us closer together."

The following questions are examples of ways to start a relationship legacy conversation with someone.

  • What is an event or experience the two of you had that was so unusual that you wish you could repeat it today?
  • "Remember when...?" Does the other person remember doing those things? Do they remember them in a different way, or not at all? What do they remember that you don't?
  • Has there been something you've always wanted to tell the other person, but for a variety of reasons you never have? Might this be the time to share what you've always wanted to say? Doing so might open up a new and rich conversation.

The way in which you and your relationship partner decide to create your relationship legacy is limited only by your imagination.

Here are more ideas that may appeal to you, and help to get you started:

Shared Journal:
Choose events you both remember about growing up together. Write your individual recall of the event. Share each others version of the event and discuss the similarities and differences.

Email Exchange:
Set up an email exchange system for story-telling time. Decide on an event from your past that you both want to explore. One of you writes the first paragraph about the event as you remember it. The other person continues with a second paragraph about the same event. Alternate paragraphs back and forth until you mutually decide you have shared everything about the event. Store your joint emails in one document for possible future sharing and/or printing.

Set up an interviewing process with each other. Trade off interviewing each other about specific common life event. When possible, record your interviews in order to keep a "Relationship Legacy" record of your conversations.

Using a tape recorder or video recorder, record your story-sharing time with each other. This will provide you with a permanent history of your relationship legacy.

Select a specific event from the list you generated. Each of you separately writes your recollection of that time. When finished, share what you recall with each other and see where the conversation goes. Trust the flow of the conversation and what will emerge that might lead to the next story to be written. Make copies of each of your stories to keep, or create a special story journal or folder as your relationship legacy.

Creating a relationship legacy enhances people's lives in unexpected and rewarding ways. During a time when many of us are so busy, beginning such a project may seem overwhelming. However, in the two stories above, their relationships were enriched, and clearly worth the time. It could be the same for you.

For more by Bernie Saunders, click here.

For more on conscious relationships, click here.