The goal of partnership is not just about being stable and happy - it's about being immersed in the living process that transforms us into better human beings.
The vehicle for that process is the relationship itself. When you form a union with another individual, you become more than just a sum of two people.
You are creating a third mode of experience - the unity of both of you together.
Let me explain.
You could think of the dynamics of a relationship as having three modes of experience.
- There's the experience of yourself as an independent and mature individual.
- There's the experience of your partner as an independent and mature individual.
- And then there's the experience of the two of you together - that sense of "we-ness."
This third experience may not be immediately obvious to couples, but if you pay attention to it, you'll notice when it's present.
It's that ethereal quality that you feel when you're blissfully snuggling, when you're taking a peaceful walk together, or perhaps when you're dancing like wild things on a Saturday night. You also feel it when you are doing things that you love, expressing to the world what you're about, and giving of your unique gifts and talents together.
When you nurture this quality, it nurtures you. John Gottman's research on thousands of successful couples indicates that those who are most fulfilled have developed ways to cultivate more meaning, or more "we-ness," in their partnership.
Otherwise...you're just roommates.
So how can you be more intentional about increasing this quality of experience in your lives together?
Create a mission statement together.
Think about the things that you truly value. What are you both passionate about? How does your relationship feed you? What are the things about your relationship that you can't live without?
Having a conversation about your shared values is the first step towards creating your mission statement. The second part is having a conversation about how you can bring those values to life.
For example, if you value being appreciated as partners, how can that appreciation be best communicated? In what ways? How often? In what form?
If you value honoring each other's dreams, how do make sure you know what your dreams are? What does supporting each other's dreams look like for you?
What you are doing here is creating the culture of your relationship. These are your unique guidelines for the quality of connection you want in the partnership.
This is what makes life as a couple worth living.
For those preparing to marry, these mission statements can be your wedding vows. However, any serious relationship at any stage can benefit from this exercise. These statements are your "North Star" - a reference point upon which you can build on to ensure that your partnership continues to grow.
For inspiration, take a look at some of the "Vows that Wow" that I crafted for you. You can use them as a starting point for your own powerful intentions as a couple.