In the beginning of your marriage or relationship, did you celebrate the differences between you and your spouse? For instance, did you like that your partner or spouse had his or her own interests, opinions, views, friends, and career? If you’ve been in your marriage or relationship for some time, you may notice that things can change, that the differences you once celebrated somehow now seem like annoyances and aggravations. Watching your partner lip sync his favorite song from the 90s now irritates you, instead of making you smile and thinking how much you love his goofiness.
What makes a difference in terms of whether you still find your partner’s quirks endearing? A key factor is if you both share a deeper meaning in your lives and in your marriage or relationship. Life is, of course, more than just rushing from one Broadway show to another, or getting the kids to school while keeping your cool. You may start to ask yourself, “Is this all there is?”
How Are Your Relationship Dreams Created and Shaped?
What is the story or narrative that you and your partner or spouse have created about your marriage or relationship? What customs, rituals, and stories do you share with each other to help understand what you mean to each other, and what it means to be a part of your relationship? The story you tell depends on your own history, how your experiences from the past shape how you experience things now, as well as the sense of feeling understood, supported, and trusted in your relationship now. The experiences of you and your spouse or partner come together in your union, and influence each other dramatically. Together, you create and shape dreams of how you want your lives to be.
Different Dreams Can Still Be Honored
What happens when your dreams aren’t in sync? It’s true that the more you agree on core beliefs or values, such as religion, spirituality, and core views the easier it can be to be together. But do you have to have the same views to make a marriage or relationship work? Research with couples answers this question with one answer: no. If you’re in a healthy marriage or relationship, you feel safe and free to share your views or beliefs with each other, knowing the other person loves and accepts you, even when you don’t agree with each other. Respect permeates your relationship. As you share your core beliefs with each other, you develop a sense of meaning in your relationship that builds your own sense of culture. You create your own story.
John Gottman, PhD, of the Gottman Institute in Seattle, the creator of Gottman Method Couples Therapy, writes in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, that, “the more shared meaning you can find, the deeper, richer, and more rewarding your relationship will be.”
How Do You Strengthen Your Marriage or Relationship?
Rituals: do you eat breakfast or dinner together, or celebrate holidays in a particular way? Do you plan events for birthdays and other holidays that appreciate the importance of the events for each partner?
Roles: what is your role, and the roles of your partner or spouse in your relationship, family, and other areas? How do you feel about your role as a mother or father, or about your work roles?
Personal Goals: what goals do both of you want to achieve personally? Have you shared these goals with your partner or spouse? Do you feel supported by each other to reach these goals?
Symbols: your life is full of symbols that have meaning to them, whether they be a sentimental attachment to your favorite spot in the city or a special date on the calendar. Are you and your partner or spouse aware of the symbols that matter to both of you?
Share Your Experiences
Have you shared the things that matter most to you with your partner or spouse? If so, how have you experienced those conversations? Did you partner or spouse respond in a way that supported what matters to you? If you haven’t shared things that matter deeply to you with your partner or spouse, what makes that challenging? Share your experiences, and help others learn from your stories.
If you have a friend or family member who may benefit from this marriage and couples counseling and therapy blogpost, please feel free to share this with them.
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