Over the past several years, I’ve written several articles about how to improve your marriage and prevent divorce. However, it struck me recently that all of these articles were missing an essential element of a lasting marriage — the ability to create shared meaning, a purpose, or a dream with your partner.
Viktor Frankl’s award-winning book Man’s Search for Inner Meaning, which he wrote in nine days while a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, describes the importance of a purposeful life — allowing us to transcend the self and the present moment. In fact, Frankl theorized that the pursuit of meaning in life is more important than the pursuit of happiness, because it is more enduring — connecting us to the present and the future.
Some authors even believe that our focus on couples being compatible may be overvalued. Zach Brittle, a certified Gottman Therapist writes:
Personally, I think compatibility (or lack thereof) is overrated. Couples of all shapes, sizes, nationalities and creeds have the ability to make it work. But research shows that the happiest and healthiest couples have a unique ability to create shared meaning.
In fact, creating shared meaning is the highest level of Dr. John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House, a template on how to have a healthy relationship. It is the attic of the house where people can intentionally create a sense of shared meaning in their life together. Dr. Gottman posits that a healthy relationship involves building a life together that is full of meaning and prioritizing time and resources. It encompasses their legacy — the stories they tell, beliefs and the culture they create to form a shared meaning system.