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The secret to love for this Vancouver couple is a 'relationship framework'

Kyle Demes and Aaron Robinson have applied their project management skills to their relationship, creating their own 'relationship framework' to help guide big decisions or conflict.

Kyle Demes and Aaron Robinson have applied their project management skills to their relationship

Kyle Demes and Aaron Robinson have used their 'relationship framework' over the three years they've been together. (Submitted by Kyle Demes)

Kyle Demes and Aaron Robinson were supposed to be married by now. Initially planning to wed in 2020, the Vancouver couple has had to twice postpone their ceremony.

But when forced to make these big, difficult decisions, Demes and Robinson had a secret weapon: their relationship framework.

The folder of handwritten and colour-coded documents, which lives on a shelf beside their tax paperwork, details their values and goals as a couple. 

"Most people tell us that it sounds really sterile," said Demes. "But it doesn't feel sterile. There's actually a really intense vulnerability to writing a lot of the things that we're discussing out on paper."

A few pages of Demes and Robinson's relationship framework. The full document is full of vulnerable, intimate goals and beliefs — so don't ask to see the rest! (Submitted by Kyle Demes)

Any time they've got a big decision to make — or a conflict begins to arise between the pair — they consult the framework to remind themselves of the goals and values they've set out when it comes to home, kids and career, among other things.

Each of these topics are discussed in an intentional and intimate conversation, and then their agreed-upon vision is laid out in a series of bullet points. 

Framework evolved over the years

Consulting the framework can be 'surprisingly romantic,' said Demes. (Submitted by Kyle Demes)

Demes and Robinson have been together for three years, and their relationship framework is nearly as old. It was created after one of their first disagreements as a couple.

"We were struggling with whether or not we were having an argument or if we were incompatible," said Demes. "In the midst of it, both of us were struggling to go anywhere productive." 

"We both have project management backgrounds, so we said, 'Why don't we just write this out?'"

Over the years, they've continued to revise and update the folder. Often, when conflicts arise or decisions need to be made, they'll each individually write out their thoughts and beliefs. Then, they'll come together to distil them into bullet-pointed lists of values and goals.

There's a vulnerability in sitting down and talking about the thing that is most important to you.- Aaron Robinson

And though the framework has been effective in keeping the peace and setting out priorities — bringing out the folder isn't always an easy option.

"I just want to sit in my emotions and be angry right now," laughed Robinson, "and [Kyle] goes, 'Should I bring out the framework?', and I go: 'Ugh, fine.'"

Surprisingly romantic

While bullet points and charts might not seem particularly sexy, it turns out that the act of collaborating on these documents can be quite intimate.

Demes and Robinson hope to get married in November 2021. (Submitted by Kyle Demes)

"Because there's a vulnerability in sitting down and talking about the thing that is most important to you — and making sure you communicate that to your partner — they end up being really romantic conversations in the end," said Robinson. 

So how does one get started on a relationship framework? Demes and Robinson have a few tips:

  • Use questions, not statements. "You ask yourself hard questions and you figure out the answers together. That's really the foundation of this," said Demes.
  • Focus on long-term goals. "When we could take a step back and focus on values and ask questions about them [...] is where I really felt like we were getting somewhere," said Demes.
  • Grab a bottle of wine. "It's always best to be in a good mindset and willing to be vulnerable," laughed Robinson.

To listen to Demes and Robinson's full interview — and get more details about their detailed relationship framework — click the listen button above.

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