In our daily lives, working with married couples, we are confronted by a myriad of marital 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 most couples have tons of fun early in the relationship. And for too many, that fun fizzles out as time goes by.
While a new relationship is often exciting, stimulating, and fun, having a deep and meaningful connection with your spouse can infuse your relationship with love and purpose over the long run. Developing shared meaning over a longer period will sustain a deep connection in your marriage, resulting in overall positive effect and shared happiness.
Happiness, growth and intimacy in marriage aren’t automatic. Many couples have enough to live by, but little to live for. They 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 search for meaning as a team, especially if they initially got married randomly. Such couples understand that life is not always about song and dance. They pursue meaning and purpose in order 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.
Nothing in our view, tears 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.
If you don’t share a common vision that’s powerful enough to pull you towards a goal bigger than yourselves as a couple, then you’re not only going to fumble in the dark, but you’ll also even fight over the pettiest of issues. You’re also likely to lead different lives and lifestyles while married, which will create disorder and a type of schizophrenia for your marriage. And that is a chaotic environment to raise children.
Sharing a meaning and purpose with your partner is a massive plus for your marriage. It frees you from potentially suffocating your marriage by focusing on every petty issue your partner does wrong in your eyes. Having a shared meaning and common purpose allows you to focus on the bigger picture, and not be fixated with sweating the small stuff. Truth of the matter is, not every conflict in marriage is worth resolving. Some are just meant to be managed. It’s anger that you shouldn’t go to bed with, not a fascination with wanting to prove you’re right all the time.
Common purpose, in our view, doesn’t necessarily mean doing the same job or sharing a similar career. It doesn’t even mean to always agree on everything. It fundamentally means having a common appreciation of why God created marriage, 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 as a unit to society. Sharing a value-system on fundamental issues, particularly in your moral character, is the hallmark of a healthy and meaningful marriage.
In the backdrop of the significance of having a shared meaning in your marriage, we offer the following steps to developing a common purpose.
What are you living for? What is the one thing you can both agree is the deep desire that you cannot achieve without the other? Raising kids is out of the question, as they are temporary in your married life. What can you as a team do through your marriage to leave this world better than you found it?
Having similar views on managing finances adds to the shared meaning. So do your views on faith, 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 the 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.” Focus on spending time doing enjoyable activities as a couple. Develop unique rituals that are meaningful to you like take-away Saturday, Sunday braai, family devotions or morning walks. You may even intentionally develop interest on a television show, sport or community work you know your spouse likes, and engage in it together.
Support for one another’s roles
Many couples clash over what they believe their partner should be doing versus 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 kids full-time”. The happiest couples agree on the roles they define for themselves and support each other with them.