Ever look at a couple and ask yourself ‘how are they so happy?’ All couples have issues (trust me), but some couples seem to have figured out how to navigate these issues and bring out (and see) the best in each other. After many years of working with couples, I can tell you that it is not just one thing that makes couples happy. If only it were that easy.
Last week, we talked about the importance of accepting influence from your partner (you can check it out here), in this post I want to talk about the importance of creating shared meaning as a couple. If you have read anything by relationship expert John Gottman, you will recognize shared meaning as one of his 7 principles to make marriage work. I know, you are probably asking “what the heck is shared meaning?” stay with me and I will explain.
Basically, shared meaning is your mission statement as a couple. It is all about how you do things, why you do things and who does what things. Creating shared meaning is about so much more than having common goals; it consists of rituals, roles, goals and symbols. I am going to focus on rituals and goals, because they are my favorites.
Not only does creating goals as a couple bring you closer together and keep you working towards a shared purpose, it is fun and builds connection. Yay! This is the stuff that transforms mediocre marriages in to great marriages.
I have discovered over the course of my marriage that rituals are important to me. I know that I am very much a creature of habit (good and bad) and I rely on rituals and routines. I probably drive my friends and family bonkers because I can be very set in my ways and set in my routines. Some rituals couples have are common and obvious. Going out for an anniversary, or celebrating valentine’s day are examples of obvious rituals. Other rituals are unique to individual couples. Have you ever done something as a couple that seemed like nothing at the time, but now it has become something you ‘just do’ as a couple and you would miss it if you didn’t do it?
My husband and I get up early every morning, one of us makes the coffee (I have discovered if I laze around long enough that will be him?) and then we sit on the couch together and have a cup of coffee before the kids get up. This ‘ritual’ is so important to me. When my husband is away that is probably what I miss the most.
Another ritual we have it that we always go to bed at the same time together. Who knows why or when this started, but as long as I can remember we have always gone to bed together.
We have so many of these ‘things’ that we never discussed or preplanned, they just started and continued. I love rituals. When everything else seems off kilter and chaotic in the world and in life, these are the small comforts that put us at peace.
As an aside, if you are a parent, you will probably know how important rituals are to your children. Bed time tuck ins, favorite place to go for a treat, how you leave each other in the morning to start your day, kids thrive on these rituals of connection.
Another way that we create shared meaning is by creating shared goals. Goal setting is such a big topic right now. Seriously, everything seems to be about how to set goals. You don’t have to search far to come up with an endless amount of sites and videos about the best way to set goals. Most of these tend to be around personal goals. What I am talking about is shared goals as a couple. Not just goals around milestones (buying a house, having children, retiring, etc.) but goals about how you are going to live your life together. The more you discuss, create and carryout goals, the stronger the shared meaning you have between you. Goals can be anything from, “I want us to learn how to disagree/fight respectfully” to “I want us to take 1 family holiday a year”. We tend to prioritize financial and work goals, but often neglect to make intentional goals as a couple. Not only does creating goals as a couple bring you closer together and keep you working towards a shared purpose, it is fun and builds connection. Yay! This is the stuff that transforms mediocre marriages in to great marriages.
3 Tips for Building Shared Meaning as a Couple?
1.Think about the rituals that are important to you in your relationship and write them down. Share what you have written with your partner.
2.If you have don’t currently have any rituals, think of some that might be a good fit for you as a couple. Here are some examples: How do you say goodbye to each other in the morning? How do you greet each other when you see each other after a day of being away? How do you celebrate special occasions? Write these down and share them together.
3.Think about the goals you have for your relationship and why they are important to you. Share your goals with one another and discuss how you can make these happen.
Goal setting as a couple can be a lot of fun, one of my favorite ways to do this is to make a Couple’s Bucket List together. Creating a bucket list as a couple is a great date night activity.
Click here to download our free Couple’s Bucket List worksheet.
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