The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – Principle 7: Create Shared Meaning
With how busy life can get, it’s easy to fall into the “roommate zone” with your spouse, where although you really love each other, there doesn’t seem to be any real connection that upholds your marriage. In this case, the solution is to create shared meaning with your partner, grounded in enriching your inner life together.
John Gottman understands this as creating a culture with your partner where you honour each other’s dreams and have a deep appreciation for each other’s roles and goals. This culture links the two of you, deepening your relationship and understanding of what it means to be a family. The richer the culture that you build together, the more rewarding your relationship will be, all the while strengthening the friendship your marriage is built on.
He suggests outlines four pillars of shared meaning that when built together, enrich a couple’s relationship and family life.
Pillar One: Rituals of Connection
These are structured traditions that you and your partner can both depend on. Having a dinner together once a week with no distractions is one simple ritual you and your spouse can have, and by having these pre-set traditions, you intentionally set aside time to enrich and contribute to your shared culture.
Pillar Two: Support for Each Other’s Roles
The way that you and your partner understand one another’s roles in life can either add to the harmony in your relationship or it can create stress and tension. Having a similar understanding of each other’s roles is ultimately what strengthens your relationship and creates a more fulfilling shared meaning.
Pillar Three: Shared Goals
Exploring our deepest goals can not only have a positive impact on your relationship and family life, but it can be very personally meaningful as well. The intimacy in your marriage will be increased and working together to achieve each other’s goals can make your relationship even stronger and richer!
Pillar Four: Shared Values and Symbols
Values are fundamentally important to the way that one conducts their life, so understandably, it’s important for a couple to understand – and as much as possible agree on – one another’s belief systems. Having shared symbols of your values enriches this mutual understanding and the culture you’ve built together.
If you’ve followed Principles one through six of Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, there’s a good chance that your marriage is stable and healthy. But if you’re wondering if there’s something more that could further your connection, try out Gottman’s exercise on page 272 of the Seven Principles Book to practice using these four pillars to create meaning in your relationship!
Remember! Feeling unity and connection with your partner takes lifelong effort, and the goal isn’t to agree on every single aspect of each other’s lives, but to build up a relationship where the two of you are open to learning about each other’s deeply held beliefs.