5 Ways to Encourage Shared Meaning in Your Marriage

5 Ways to Encourage Shared Meaning in Your Marriage February 25, 2024

A successful marriage is about more than raising kids and paying bills. It is about building a relationship of shared meaning and purpose. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about marriage, as a couple’s counselor, is that shared meaning is the main ingredient that can help preserve a marriage.


Shared meaning is about fostering a relationship that is full of significance and involves setting goals for the future while prioritizing time and resources. It encompasses your legacy as a couple — the stories you tell, your beliefs, and the culture you create to form an identity as a couple and family that has value to both of you.

Shared Meaning Can Help You Build a Solid Foundation

In fact, creating shared meaning is the highest level of Dr. John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House which provides couples with a template on how to have a healthy relationship. In The Science of Couples and Family Therapy, he explains that shared meaning is the attic of the house where couples can intentionally create a sense of purpose together that will allow them to find long-lasting love.

Couples who take the time to develop shared meaning and goals are more likely to cultivate intimacy—a hallmark of mature, lasting love.  Intimacy is something not simply arrived at by chance. It is something that is deliberately nurtured over time. Keep in mind that maintaining a deep connection to your partner does not mean you put him or her on a pedestal or that your relationship is without problems. However, it does mean that you like and respect who they are and how they conduct themselves in their world.

5 Ways to Encourage Shared Meaning and Goals:

  • Share your vision for life. When you and your partner have a shared purpose, the inevitable difficulties of marriage are less bothersome. Creating a larger context of meaning in life, can help you to avoid focusing on the little stuff that happens and to keep your eyes on the big picture. For instance, Kyle and Delia want to help their town build a new playground.
  • Communicate about your vision. Taking time to discuss your individual objectives and dreams for your future can bring you closer. A crucial goal for couples is to intentionally create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her convictions. When couples talk about their hopes and dreams openly, they’re more likely to be happy—and less likely to feel disconnected.
  • Date night: spend at least two hours a week for talking and checking in emotionally with each other. The conversation can begin with something like, “How are you doing? What’s on your mind?” The focus needs to be on both talking and listening to each other. Look into your future and envision your dreams. Even if you are busy and don’t believe you have the time, making time to share your dreams can help to nurture shared meaning.
  • Create a culture of acceptance and respect for your partner, even when you are going through a rough patch. You will probably have dreams that your partner does not share but can respect.  True intimacy is not about sidestepping conflict. Accepting differences can make you stronger as a couple. The more you can agree about the fundamentals in your life together and learn to compromise, the richer and more meaningful your partnership will become.
  • Implement your shared goals. For instance, your goals might include volunteering in the community, raising your children in a positive way, building your own home, or travel. Regardless of what your shared vision or goals are, they can strengthen your bond.

By expanding your knowledge of each other and nurturing your shared dreams, you’ll experience lasting intimacy. Daily rituals and small gestures of affection are simple, low effort ways to show your love for your partner. So, cuddle on the sofa and hold hands when you go for a walk. In a successful marriage, positive interactions outweigh negative ones.  Bringing more positivity to your relationship can make dealing with daily stressors and challenges easier to handle.

Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.

I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry 


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