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  • Writer's pictureLauren Buckley

The Anchor of a Healthy Relationship: Creating Shared Meaning

Creating shared meaning within your relationship means constructing a unique world based on your shared experiences and aspirations. Dr. John Gottman describes creating shared meaning as crafting a narrative together; fostering a sense of unity and partnership. Creating shared meaning within your relationship enriches each part of it. On the contrary, couples who do not have a strong shared meaning tend to lose out on a crucial part of building a strong foundation together. Shared meaning can be thought of as the “anchor” that holds your relationship down solidly in the midst of everything else that is going on around us. When we are anchored within our relationship with a sense of purpose and meaning, we are able to face life’s storms as a strong and united team. 

At its core, creating shared meaning is about forging a sense of purpose, understanding, and belonging within a relationship. It transcends mere compatibility or shared interests; it encompasses a shared narrative that binds two individuals together in a profound and meaningful way. It’s simply about "being on the same team."

So, what exactly does creating shared meaning entail, and how does it contribute to fostering healthier, more fulfilling relationships?

Creating shared meaning involves communicating about and integrating the following key elements into your relationship:

1. Shared Rituals and Traditions: Rituals and traditions serve as the cornerstone of shared meaning, offering couples a sense of continuity and connection. Whether it's celebrating holidays, creating bedtime routines, or establishing weekly date nights, these rituals cultivate a shared sense of identity and belonging.

2. Shared Goals and Dreams: A shared vision for the future provides couples with a sense of purpose and direction. By clearly communicating about their aspirations, both individually and collectively, couples can align their efforts and support each other in achieving their goals, fostering a deeper sense of unity and collaboration. As we learn and grow, our aspirations and goals may change along the way, so it’s important to keep an open line of communication about goals and dreams, together as a couple as well as for each partner individually. It is also important to understand how you can best support your partner in reaching their individual goals and how you can best support each other in achieving your collective goals. 

3. Shared Values and Beliefs: Shared values form the moral compass of a relationship, guiding decision-making and behavior. When couples share core beliefs and principles, they experience greater harmony and understanding, even in the face of challenges or disagreements. I find this incredibly important with the parents I work with. I have seen value clashes that lead to parenting disagreements; ultimately creating chaos within the household. Even if you do not totally agree on a particular issue at hand, having an overall shared value and belief system for your family is incredibly important to guide us through potential conflicts. 

4. Shared Symbols and Language: Couples often develop their own unique language and symbols that hold special meaning within their relationship. These symbols serve as reminders of shared experiences, inside jokes, or intimate moments, reinforcing the bond between partners.

The cultivation of shared meaning is not a one-time endeavor but rather an ongoing journey that requires intentionality and effort. Couples who intentionally seek out shared meaning will experience an enriching and strong relationship in the following ways: 

1. Enhanced Communication: Shared meaning fosters open and meaningful communication between partners. By engaging in conversations about values, goals, and dreams, couples deepen their understanding of each other and foster a greater sense of emotional intimacy.

2. Increased Resilience: Shared meaning serves as a source of resilience during times of adversity. When couples have a strong sense of purpose and shared identity, they are better equipped to navigate challenges together, drawing strength from their connection and mutual support.

3. Deeper Intimacy: Building shared meaning cultivates a deeper sense of intimacy and connection between partners. As couples co-create their narrative and shared experiences, they forge a bond that transcends individual interests or external circumstances, leading to a profound sense of closeness that feels natural instead of forced. 

4. Sustained Passion: Shared meaning infuses relationships with passion and vitality, fueling the flame of love over time. When couples feel aligned in their values and goals, they experience a sense of mutual purpose that reignites their enthusiasm for each other and the relationship.

In essence, creating shared meaning is a journey of exploration and co-creation; an invitation for couples to embark on a quest for deeper connection and understanding. As you navigate the intricacies of your relationship, remember that creating shared meaning is not about erasing differences or conforming to a singular mold. It's about weaving together the threads of individual identities to create a rich tapestry of shared experiences, values, and aspirations.

So, embrace the journey with an open heart and a spirit of curiosity. Lean into meaningful conversations, cherish shared experiences, and celebrate the shared space within your relationship. Most important…have fun along the way developing your own rituals of connection! Couples who seek out and nourish a sense of shared meaning will find the true essence of love; a bond that transcends time and space, anchoring you to each other amidst the chaos of the world around us.

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