By Sarah Lebeck-Jobe, MS, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist
Some psychologists believe the key to a happy, resilient relationship is expanding your everyday conversations from transactional exchanges (such as what’s for dinner and who’s picking up the kids from school) to a deeper level of communication: sharing the meaningful aspects of your past, present, and future with your partner. If your relationship needs rejuvenating, you may find the following suggestions helpful. This article is the final piece of a three part series.
Focus on the Future: Creating a Shared Purpose
What are your shared goals as a family that bring meaning to your life – saving for your next vacation, raising children, volunteering, or watching every episode of your favorite TV show on Netflix? Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses how to live a meaningful life in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: “People who find their lives meaningful usually have a goal that is challenging enough to take up all their energies, a goal that can give significance to their lives. We may refer to this process as achieving purpose.” Having a purpose, especially one that is shared with your partner and family, can enhance your level of enjoyment in life and bond the family together by finding activities that provide an orientation to your days and helping the entire family experience flow.
Flow is a desired state of being where you are “in the zone” and time seems to stand still because the challenge of the activity you are engaging in is well matched to your skill level and there is an overall cohesive plan to your efforts. Csikszentmihalyi believes that “To provide flow, a family has to have a goal for its existence. Some of these goals might be very general and long-term, such as planning a particular life-style – to build an ideal home, to provide the best possible education for the children.” A shared family purpose helps to develop an integrated life where everything fits together into a larger plan. Imagine if more of your life held a sense of flow – even your commute to work would contain meaning because it would be tied to a larger sense of purpose of contributing to the success of your family or another important goal. A focus on the future through shared goals may allow you to increase your relationship’s resiliency and well-being.
Questions to Start Developing a Sense of Shared Purpose
1) What are our short-term family goals?
2) What do we want our legacy to be?
3) What is our purpose as a family?
4) How do the smaller tasks of our lives relate to our larger purpose?
If the thought of talking to your partner about both the good times and the difficult times seems overwhelming, it might be a good idea to contact a couples counselor to start the conversation. Therapy can provide a safe place to rebuild the foundation of your relationship and learn techniques to improve your communication skills. We offer couples counseling at Madison Marriage & Family Therapy and we aim to strengthen relationships, one conversation at a time.