Home Archive Prev Next

Remember the Shared Purpose at the Heart of Your Relationship

Wood carving of two people touching headsPHIL: Do you know that feeling of satisfaction that comes from working with someone on a project? It might be sweeping leaves or planning an event. Perhaps it’s cooking together or being on a sports team. Working with other people is deeply satisfying because that’s how we survive as a species. It gives us a sense of shared purpose. Of course, we also exist as individuals and get pleasure from autonomy and the sense of control over nature and our environment.

The balance between these two varies by culture. In the West, and in the USA most of all, the individual is so revered that our connections with other people often go unexamined. The individual and the group are seen as opposed, yet that viewpoint is a mistake. It downplays our cooperative nature.

This attitude of individuality can extend into relationships, too. Yet it is in the nature of relationships to have things in common; it’s impossible to imagine a relationship without any overlaps. Some are the obvious clichés of online dating like hiking, movies, books and walks on the beach, but you can match on those and yet not fit as a couple. Much more important is your shared purpose – what kind of a life do you want to live. This is both personal: you might seek excitement, security, family, or it can be your purpose in society, like being of service to others, whether that is helping directly or more generally by making the world a better place, like helping the environment or working in public service.

By looking at what your purpose in life is, your aspirations and goals, and looking at how they mesh with your partner, you become more comfortable with your place in the world. It grounds you and raises your viewpoint above the daily events to a wider perspective, perhaps one you haven’t thought about in a while. And by looking at how you share these with your partner, friends and colleagues, you gain a sense of direction that you either forgot about or never knew.

MAUDE: Have you and your partner talked about your shared purpose? Have you spoken it aloud to each other ever, or recently? A sense of shared purpose often binds and holds people together, and speaking it aloud can be a wonderful way of reinvigorating your relationship if you have lost touch with what it is. If you have never formulated it together, it can act to create an underlying element of connection and closeness that will help you through many bumps and challenges.

This sense of meaning and direction takes two forms of expression; one for the relationship and one for the world.

For Phil and me, it takes both forms. We are dedicated to sharing the radically different way of harmonious relating that we experience: sharing that the possibility for this kind of relating exists and what the factors are that make it possible. And we are certain that this is a method for changing the world; creating and spreading peace one relationship at a time.

Recently a friend of mine was upset about a couple she knew. She felt they were being taken advantage of by someone, and told the husband he shouldn’t allow this to happen. He explained that his wife and he viewed what they were doing from a dedication they shared. He told my friend that they shared a common purpose which was to be of service to individuals and to the larger group. They were united in their determination to do this always and to do it to the very best of their ability. This unshakable shared purpose had helped them many times get through rough patches where the work load seemed insurmountable or where the involvement had them not being together as much as they might have wanted. They always knew that they could come back to that deep shared goal and find solace in their understanding that they were dedicated to the same thing, and that they were very much together in that.

When in your relationships you are involved with a shared purpose, something that goes beyond just yourself, it brings you a special pleasure; one where you directly experience the cooperative nature of the world – and not just in potential, but in its realization. Touching this higher part of your nature can raise up your relationships and strengthen your ability to meet the changes and challenges of daily life together.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes

We love hearing your questions and feedback. Click here to post them on the bottom of the blog. 
 Headphone iconClick here to listen to Phil reading this blog.

Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfIn this week's blog, we said to remember the shared purpose at the heart of your relationship. Here are a few different viewpoints on why this is so important.

A Couple Mission/A Shared Purpose "As in all of life’s opportunities, those who set goals and work toward them are most likely to succeed. Couples who are not clear about why they are together or how to reach their dreams often react to personal interests, peer or family pressure, temporary goals, or crisis events. These influences typically do not sustain affection, confidence, or meaning—and often leave couples confused, conflicted, and crippled. Since love or good looks are not enough to build a satisfying, long-term commitment, couples need a sense of purpose to guide their choices and challenges."

Enriching Your Marriage by Creating Shared Meaning "Just because you fall in love with someone, that doesn’t mean that love will stay alive without nurturing your partnership. If you find yourself asking, “What is missing from my marriage?” your situation may be similar to Brian and Teresa’s. What might be missing is what Dr. John Gottman refers to as a sense of shared meaning. A successful marriage is about more than raising kids, paying bills, and getting chores done. It is also about building a meaningful relationship that has a spiritual dimension and is rich in rituals of connection

Goals Are a Relationship Necessity "I believe that happiness comes from moving toward what you want, not necessarily getting it. What this means to you is that in order to be happy, couples need to have goals that they are moving toward. How can couples motivate and support each other to achieve individual and relationship goals? Here are 10 steps that will enable you and your partner to create and reach your goals and keep your connection as a couple strong."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
Read our blogs at PhilAndMaude.
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram
Email us at philandmaude@philandmaude.com
If you are interested in newsletters you've missed, see our archive.
Do you know anyone who would enjoy this newsletter? Tell them to sign up at https://philandmaude.com/signup/