“Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together — a culture rich with rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you..." according to Gottmans 40 years of research, working with thousands of couples. He claims having a share meaning is what makes for a happy, fulfilling and lasting marriage and it is his seventh principle in his book "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" that has sold over a million copies worldwide. I have found this extremely useful in bringing couples closer together too, especially after an affair and infidelity.

When I work with couples after affairs & infidelity or other marital problems, I ask each separately what is their vision for their future? what shared goals do they have? what dreams do they plan to support each other achieve? Creating shared meaning increases togetherness, that can reduce conflict and help solve problems.

Even if you are not in a relationship right now, it helps to be clear on your values, vision, expectations, rituals of connection when considering potential partners. The more aware you are of what matters most to you, the more likely you will be able to attract the right match and quickly filter out those that won't make you happy long-term.

There are different elements that help make up and support a shared meaning:

1, Rituals of Connection

How do you connect with each other? Have you developed your own family rituals? Is it a special meal on the weekend: like takeaway Saturday or Sunday roast? In what unique ways do you celebrate religious holidays? Do you have a ritual for love making? Many couples find it works best when they have an intimate ritual to look forward to. Do you perhaps dedicate a day or night per week for family or romance? Discuss the rituals of connection you have, whether they work for you and create some new ones if desired.

2, Support for Each Other's Roles

When couples come to me a lot of the problems stem from the fall out of what they think their partner "SHOULD' be doing verses what they are actually doing. I hear often: "As a husband he "should" be doing this, fixing that, paying for X... giving me X. Similarly I hear it the other way round too, "a wife SHOULD respect her husband more, cook and clean if not working, stay in with the family, contribute to the finances.

The happiest couples according to Gottman agree on the roles they define for themselves and support each other with them. For example

Ahmad and Rana decided his role was to provide and protect, her role was to nurture and that worked well.

Karen and Tim believe that both have to contribute as equal as possible to the finances, home and childcare.

Sharad and Reema agreed that Rana's role is to care for their bothparents, while Sharad provides financial cover for them..

Because they all have a similar outlook on their roles it worked well. If Ahmad was married to Karen or Sharad to Karen there would be enormous friction. The problem is that these assumed roles are often never discussed, in my pre marital counseling it is one of the first things I cover, as supporting each other to be who you want to be is crucial.

Having similar views on parenting also adds to the shared meaning, so does your views on the interaction you expect to have with your parents, siblings and cousins Do you consider them part of the family or does distance need to be created?

Even the views on what it means to work, the significance of work in your life and how much work is part of your life can be disputed or shared. Some individuals I work with get jealous and annoyed at their spouses involvement with work, staying late or socialsing with colleagues on the weekends can cause tension for some couples, others agree work comes first and encourage each other to be the best they can possibly be.

The extent to which you feel similar about these issues, the stronger your marriage and connection. This doesn't mean you need to agree on everything, it's just the closer you are living out your expectations the happier and more fulfilled you will be. If you are struggling in this area, you have two choices 1, start creating change to meet your unmet expectations and ask your partner for support or 2 let go of your expectations.

3, Shared Goals

Part of what creates a meaningful life are the goals that we strive to achieve. Many (myself included) wouldn't be where we are today without setting goals and going for it. Without a direction we become aimless, lifeless even. Imagine a ship in the ocean that has no route to follow, direction-less it will float aimlessly and get nowhere. Marriages are the same. The goal of a relationship is not to get married and that's it. We need positive goals for our shared time together.

Many times we haven't talked about our deepest desires. Sometimes we haven't even asked ourselves the question, as we are too busy with life to notice.

When we start to explore and define our shared goals we will increase intimacy, meaning and purpose. When united by a goal, we can let differences go more easily.

4, Shared Values

What do you value most about being part of the family you belong to? What family stories do you consider pride? What does home mean to you? What activities or objects symbolize to you a meaningful and well-lived life? What symbols or objects show who you are in the world?

Create Your Shared Meaning

At the end of my relationship revitalizer program I ask couples to discuss all of the above over a romantic dinner and come back to me in one statement what their shared, agreed upon meaning is, here are some of their examples:

"to heal and have a peaceful existence" (after a difficult previous relationship & childhood)

"creating a family filled with laughter & love"

"enjoy life to the max- travel, explore, adventure and excitement.."

"to step into parents footsteps and care for the whole family and business."

"give our children the best education and watch them flourish together"

"have our dream home on the beach and retire (early) in luxury"

"Live god's mission together, wherever that may lead us."

"Set up our own business and leave a legacy"


These 4 elements are what make up a shared meaning. If you don't have a shared meaning... create one. List your 1, 5 and 10 year goals, rituals, roles and share your dreams...

Happy couples create a family culture that includes both of their dreams. In being open to each other’s perspectives and opinions, it brings happy couples naturally together.

Hope you enjoyed reading this today.

From my heart to yours, Nicola

Author's Bio: 

Nicola Beer is an International Relationship & Divorce Coach. She helps couples on a verge of a break up to create more love, passion, fun and respect to save their marriage. She is an expert on living passionately after infidelity, whether the couple decide to stay together or separate.

As a child of divorce Nicola knows how it feels to be angry, lost, alone and relieved at the same time. So works with parent's and their children to help them through it.
Nicola focuses on enriching her clients whether single or married to create new beginnings. She continues to inspire people, spreading great insights, passion and love into people's lives, through coaching, writing and podcasting. She is the co-author of 3 Amazon best sellers and two podcast shows "Love Talk with Nicola Beer" and "Divorce Talk with Nicola Beer" which are available on Itunes, soundcloud, stitcher radio, which you can download or subscribe for free.

On her website she has 3 e-books FREE available for you as well. visit www.purepeacecoaching.com

"7 Secrets to Saving Your Marriage"

"10 Simple Steps You Can Take Now To Creating A New Life After Divorce"

"Protect Your Children Through Divorce - Avoid 3 Common Pitfalls Most Parents Make"