Relationships are an essential part of us. From the moment we are born, to the moment we draw our last breath – we’re all interconnected through a series of relationships. Relationships are, in fact, inevitable. But, there’s that one meaningful relationship that is the most vital and complex of all.
With the wrong partner, your best efforts for a relationship will flounder. But even with “The One,” the honeymoon “high” wanes, reality sets in, and your attention can be distracted from the level of connection that leads to shared meaning. If you add the passage of time, the cumulative effect of stress, and a few unexpected difficulties, your relationship could really be in trouble.
Together with our partners, it is possible to have a unity that brings meaning. However, it will require us to dig a little deeper to understand our union’s “shared meaning.” It’s getting a little confusing right now, but it needn’t be.
Consider this Scenario:
Two people are seated side by side at the beach, gazing into the clear blue waters. One of them is calmed by the crashing of the waves against the rocky shore and the ocean’s vastness. The other one is terrified of how endless the sea seems to be. Isn’t it astounding how two people looking at the same thing interpret it differently?
This is the same scenario that could be playing out in your relationship right now. Remember, you are two individuals who’ve had different life experiences that will inherently shape how you perceive your environments. You don’t have to agree or interpret the world equally but you do need to find harmony and a shared understanding for a lasting relationship.
How Do Couples Cultivate Shared Meaning Together?
Communicate about what Matters. Listen up.
So, what’s the point we’re trying to make? To find the perfect rhythm of our relationships and coexist as two people with connection, we must share more than just basic information. As we describe our feelings and interpretations of everyday life and our partner listens mindfully, we begin to know each other at a deeper level. In other words, our communication must do more than break the surface of facts and figures and the endless to-do list. It must expose the weak, tender, and soft aspects of our persona, the way it did when we first felt connected. When you are open and vulnerable with each other, you enjoy more profound levels of intimacy.
This is the time to listen more, respond warmly and create the moments that allow the relationship to progress into something more profound.
Honor a Shared Culture
Shared culture is found in the activities you and your partner do every day and what you believe in. It could be the meals you enjoy together, shared anniversaries, daily habits, and seemingly small everyday rituals. It could be about the things you and your partner agree with or the things that never come up in a discussion but are part of your everyday life together.
A great example could be an unspoken action, such as when you and your partner lie on the couch as a regular part of your life. You don’t have to tell your partner you’re coming to lie down beside them. They know you’re about to do that, so they scoot over to make space for you with open arms. It could also be a song you enjoy together without ever stopping to ask each other what it means for either of you. Common culture is found in the secrets and the habits you share and how you make them a part of your relationship.
Do More Together.
It’s also important to create shared positive experiences. Hobbies are a great way to do this, and some are better suited to joint engagement than others. Perhaps it is a social club or volunteer work together. Another way to build a stronger bond is through activities that let you face challenges together as a team. As a bonus, exciting activities that increase your heart rate will let you benefit from the misattribution of arousal. So, for the sake of your relationship, continue traveling, exploring, mud-running, moving cross-country, and taking risks — as a team.
Discover Your Partner’s Love Language
Different people may have various descriptions of their relationships. However, the most common unifier of relationships is how you show love to each other. You shouldn’t assume that your partner speaks the same love language as you or other people you’ve been with. For example, some people appreciate gifts more than they do words of affirmation or acts of service.
Your relationship should mean so much to you that you give your partner the attention they deserve to elevate and enhance your union. If you have no idea what makes your partner’s heart sing, you won’t have an important building block to harmony.
Shared Goals and Vision
Your shared individual and relationship goals and vision will help you find meaning in your relationship. Discussions about the movement and direction of your life, keep you in tandem and on the same page. Ultimately, you become each other’s confidante and go-to person. The one who “gets them” and feels most like “home.” To best support each other, I suggest you write down and regularly review these goals to see how you have changed over time and with new circumstances. Some goals may need to be revised and a vision retooled. You strengthen the relationship as you both get stronger within your union.
Developing a Purpose Statement For Your Relationship
Your goals and vision is where you want to go while purpose is your reason for being. Sometimes, we don’t question the events in our relationships until we experience problems within them. Ask yourself what you’re doing in the relationship. What’s the real reason? Take time to discuss the why’s and how’s of your relationship. Ask each other if the relationship aligns with your personal values. Consider compatibility, standards, sacrifices, honesty, trust, and all that you’ve never talked about. Make new commitments based on purpose. These conversations can lead to synergy and lasting happiness in your relationship.
Develop Your Sense of Intimacy
You may be tempted to believe that shared meaning comes naturally. But, apart from those few serendipitous moments, this is not always the case. Instead of just “expecting it to happen” look for intimacy around you and imitate and adapt. Examples of intimacy exist in art, in great movies, and in role models around you. In fact, just remembering some of your own best moments together will direct you to the day-to-day events that become “your thing.”
Talk about these treasured moments, repeat them often, and make them significant. In addition, create enjoyable new rituals and activities to heighten your sense of intimacy. You also increase your intimacy without the need for discussing ways of doing it.
With their best efforts, your partner is bound to make mistakes along the way, and so are you. With forgiveness, fun, and freedom in your relationship, shared meaning is unrestrained. Forgiveness means you’re mature enough to let go of the past. Fun ensures your relationship doesn’t feel like a business arrangement, and freedom means you and your partner are comfortable expressing yourselves.