The 7 Principles For Making Marriage Work: #7 Create Shared Meaning

The 7 Principles For Making Marriage Work

By: John Gottman

“Create shared meaning.” When you get married, you create something that has never existed before. No matter how much you and your partner have in common. No matter how long you’ve been together. Whenever two people choose to “become one,” that one thing is perfectly unique. Not only that, but the act of being in a long-term committed relationship actually changes you through the many sacrifices and compromises it requires.“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, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the family you have become,” Gottman says.

And that’s what it means to develop shared meaning. Happy couples create a family culture that includes both of their dreams. In being open to each other’s perspectives and opinions, happy couples naturally come together.

I urge you to build rituals into your relationship. Twyla Tharp, one of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the modern era, famously champions ritual as part of the creative process.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it – makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Your rituals help you on the long road of relationship. It can be an annual ritual or something more frequent. Dr. Gottman recommends rituals of connection to begin and end each day. You might also have weekly rituals like a Saturday hike or a Wednesday lunch. Building these in early will habitualize your connection and tether you to one another and the relationship.

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