In our daily lives, working with married couples, we are confronted by a myriad issues that either warm our hearts or make us feel sad for some relationships.
The amount of fun couples have together while nurturing their connection is a key factor in predicting their overall marital happiness.
However, we also find that some couples have lots of fun early in the relationship, which fizzles out as time goes by.
Though a new relationship is often exciting, stimulating and fun, having a deep and meaningful connection with your spouse can infuse your marriage with love and purpose over the long run.
Developing shared meaning over a longer period will sustain a deep sense of connection in your marriage, resulting in an overall positive effect and shared happiness.
A healthy, balanced and fulfilling marriage is about more than just raising children, paying bills and getting chores done.
It is also fundamentally about building meaning through a common purpose that has a spiritual dimension and is rich in rituals of connection.
Happiness, growth and intimacy in marriage aren’t automatic.
Many couples have enough to live by, but little to live for.
They may even have the means, but no meaning.
Some gather many years of marriage without experiencing the quality of life in their marriages.
Random living is the enemy of meaning.
The point is, couples that are serious about life together, have the courage to develop meaning as a team, especially if they initially got married randomly — like many of us.
They pursue shared meaning and common purpose to live fulfilled lives, and leave meaningful legacies.
Couples who take the time to develop shared meaning and common goals are more likely to cultivate intimacy, a hallmark of matured and lasting love.
Very few things tear a couple apart faster than partners that are pulling towards different directions.
Love spoils when it lacks direction, and does so quickly.
It matters very little how much you love one another and together share many common interests.
Having common interests is great to kickstart a relationship but bad for building lasting intimacy.
Enjoying the same kind of sport, food, music and so on are nice icebreakers to start a long-term relationship.
But common interests aren’t strong enough to sustain a marriage.
In fact, in many instances, the relationship ends up being boring if it’s built solely on common interests.
Early romance, which is generally built on common interests, doesn’t indicate future happiness.
If you don’t share a common vision — something that’s powerful enough to pull you towards a goal bigger than yourselves as a couple — then you’ll likely fight even over the pettiest of issues.
You’re also likely to lead different lives while married, which will create disorder and a type of schizophrenia for your marriage, a chaotic environment to raise children.
Shared meaning occurs when what is intended by one partner is similarly interpreted by the other, and/or what is interpreted by one is what is intended by the other.
Both members describe the relationship similarly and they believe that there is an understanding of what they are trying to build and maintain together.
It is the deep and meaningful connection that a couple shares, and it is developed deliberately over time.
Having a shared meaning with your spouse frees you from potentially suffocating your marriage by elevating petty issues your partner does wrong in your eyes.
It allows you to focus on the bigger picture and not be fixated on sweating the small stuff.
Having a shared meaning fundamentally means having a common appreciation for why the two of you are married, and having a mutual agreement on how the two of you would best conduct yourselves in your marriage in the way you treat one another, raise your children and carry yourselves.
Sharing a value-system on fundamental issues, particularly in your moral character, is the hallmark of a healthy and meaningful marriage.
Having a shared meaning will help give you a sense of destiny and a path to establishing your why.
What are you living for? Why did you become a couple?
What benefit would it bring to you as individuals, to you as a couple and to society in general now that you are together?
Having similar views on managing finances for instance, adds to the shared meaning.
So do your views on faith, spirituality, integrity, loyalty, commitment, parenting and the interaction you expect to have with your own parents, siblings and cousins.
Do you consider them part of the family or does distance need to be created?
Even views on what it means to work, the significance of work in your life and how much work is part of your life can be disputed or shared.
Creating family traditions will enable you to spend quality time together.
Carve out time to be together so you don’t become “two ships passing in the night”.
Develop unique rituals that are meaningful and may even be unique to you.
Support for one another’s roles
Many couples clash over what they believe their partner should be doing vs what they are actually doing.
We often hear: “As a husband he should be doing this, fixing this and paying for that.”
Similarly we also hear: “A wife should respect her husband more, cook and clean if not working, raise the children full-time.”
In a healthy marriage, couples agree on the roles they define for themselves and support each other regardless.