Create Shared Meaning
Dr. John Gottman‘s research found that a pivotal part of a healthy and long lasting relationship is a couple’s sense of shared meaning: an explicit and implicit commitment to the relationship and believing your partner is there to support and understand your life dreams and goals ( these life dreams and goals include an understanding of the relationship).
Shared meaning occurs when a couple shares “relationship symbols”. Both members describe the relationship similarly and they believe that there is an understanding of what they are trying to build and maintain together. This shared meaning could be joint financial goals, a desire to have children, or even a mutual understanding of how they enjoy socializing as a couple. Usually the shared meaning supports the couple in realizing life dreams and goals. The happiest couples help each other realize both individual and joint goals. These couples have a sense of building a legacy together.
How can you check your current shared meaning? Try to define your relationship in 4 sentences by sharing with your partner how you believe other people might describe it. Start the description with “We are the type of couple that…”. Follow up by exploring as a couple if you agree or disagree with the statements.
Open and honest communication is pivotal to getting on the same page with your partner. In the beginning of a relationship it is normal to put on a facade as the other person is getting to know you. However, make sure that you’re clear and honest about your desires when appropriate. Try not to agree just to agree. If you’re worried that you have conflicting values or goals make sure you’re discussing this. You do not have to agree on everything but you must talk about your disagreements. There are many things you’ll never be on the same page about and that is okay! Research has found that the average happy couple is bubbling with perpetual or unsolvable problems. However, these couple’s maintain happiness because these problems are discussed in healthy ways.
One way to get on the same page is to create rituals of connection in your relationship. These rituals will create a shared meaning between the two of you. You can even ritualize how you have disagreements. Shared meaning even occurs in the way you both agree to disagree!
Examples of Rituals that create “Shared Meaning”:
- “A State of the Union” check in where you discuss hot topics. These should be scheduled and consistent.
- Kissing goodbye each morning.
- Finding out one thing about your partner before he or she leaves for the day.
- Understanding how holidays are celebrated in your relationship.
- Weekly activities that you both look forward to (trying a new food, cooking together, taking a jog, or a wine night)
- A shared TV show that you watch together.
- Anniversary celebration
Elizabeth is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth provides individual and couples therapy and specializes in supporting relationship issues. Elizabeth is trained in Gottman Method Couples therapy and other forms of systemic therapy to help individuals and couples develop the tools to improve their communication and heal from past hurts.