Relationships are hard. And as the epitome of human connectedness, intimacy, and proximity, marriage might be the hardest of them all. The reason marriage is so difficult is because two people have to merge into one (while also keeping unique identities). This is also what makes marriage so beautiful.
Done well, marriage can be a source of energy, encouragement, and fulfillment. Done wrong, it can be a mitigated disaster. While many of us are struggling deeply, all of us have work to do. There is no marriage that has it all figured out (despite what it might look like over your fence).
Every Good Marriage
Shared vision is something every healthy marriage has, whether they call it that or not. Vision is about assessing values, agreeing on a purpose to pursue, and committing to chase after that purpose at all costs.
Some marriages do this instinctively. Maybe their upbringings were similar, their values inherently agreed upon. Even so, people in these marriages will lose sight of the vision and chase other things if they do not name it and cultivate it.
When we talk about communication being so important in relationships, what we are really saying is how vital it is to have a shared vision. Vision is the purpose of communication. We talk so that we can “get on the same page”. This is just another way of saying that we want to understand what the relationship is about and commit to its greater good. We do this by valuing its individual members and the entity as a whole. But all of that communication leaks out in the wash if we don’t ground it in vision.
Vision is simply the mission of your marriage. What is the point? The purpose. Why are we together and what does it matter?
The answer is never about one or the other. But both. There are too many individual desires for it to be about any (or all) of those. Vision becomes the slogan for the marriage. It becomes the thing “we are about”.
Again, some marriages seem to come to this pretty naturally. After all, what drew you together was an interest in the same realm of visioning. For most, it is more difficult to come to. There are two sets of experiences. Two sets of fears and familial pressures. Two sets of perception about the world, gender roles, and the approach to raising kids. Shared vision is the only thing to keep these two factions united. It’s the thread that pulls the gaps together.
The only way to discover a shared vision is to talk about one. What values are going to drive our marriage? What is the transcendent goal of our life together? We have to name these things and commit to them. Otherwise, our selfish, well-established, individual assumptions about what this is all about will start to take over. And when that happens, we often view our spouse as an obstacle toward those selfish gains. Only by agreeing on a vision, that we both truly care about and are both willing to sacrifice for, can a marriage make it through all the ups and downs of life.
Marriage takes work. There is a magic to it that might ‘come naturally’, but if you aren’t putting effort into your marriage, it isn’t thriving.
Shared vision gives a focal point toward which to aim that effort. Let us work toward ‘unity’ or ‘celebration’ or ‘serving the world’ (all examples of a shared vision for couples). In the midst of a fight, let us remind one another of our aim; not in a passive-aggressive way that tries to manipulate the other to give in, but in a way that realigns our stance to remind us we are on the same team. In the midst of joy, let us feel peace and passion toward the fulfillment of a meaningful purpose rather than superficial accomplishments and the hoarding of wealth.
Purpose is the calling card of humanity. Some press into it. Many spend a lifetime running from it, denying it, or chasing shadowed manifestations of it.
The only way to truly pursue meaning is to establish a shared vision. Step one is to talk about it.