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Creating Shared Meaning in Your Relationship

Relationships between partners/spouses take work in order for the relationship to continue building and growing. According to Dr. John Gottman, one of the most important things couples can do to help with this is what he calls create shared meaning. Creating shared meaning is important because it is the act of creating experiences that are unique to you and your partner, ultimately helping to grow your friendship/bond and bring you closer. Below are some ways couples can work to build shared meaning in their relationship.

Make a Mission Statement for Your Relationship

One thing you and your partner can do to create shared meaning is to write a mission statement that reflects your shared values and goals for the relationship. If you think of the purpose of mission statements in general, they usually present a company or organization’s goals and values that they operate their work by. It can be a helpful activity for couples to do this as well in order to think about and lay out what they want their relationship to look like and brainstorm how they will make sure they are able to carry this out.

Set Shared Goals & Share Your Hopes and Dreams

Another way to create shared meaning is to set joint goals for your relationship, including things you want to accomplish together in the future. This can include things such as planning a future vacation or renovations you would like to make to your home. Making these joint plans can help you feel like you are part of a team with your partner. In addition, many partners never share their biggest individual goals, hopes, and dreams with each other. But according to Dr. Gottman, having an open conversation about these (both for each other and for you both as a couple) can help grow your bond.

Create Rituals

Gottman emphasizes the importance of creating what he calls rituals of shared connection, which are intentional acts that are unique to the couple and that each partner can count on occurring repeatedly. For example, couples can create a weekly date night, come up with a special holiday activity to do each year, or even something as simple as cook dinner together a few nights a week. These rituals are important because they are acts that are special to you and your partner and can help to build your underlying friendship.

While the above ideas focus on creating shared meaning in romantic relationships, shared meaning can also be important in other types of relationships, such as family relationships. If you and your partner (or family member) would like guidance and support in enhancing this piece of your relationship, couples and/or family counseling can be a great place to dive into the above further with the support of a third party.


Gottman, J. M. (1999). The marriage clinic: A scientifically-based marital therapy.

WW Norton & Company.

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