Create Meaning in Your Marriage

I’m a tad late getting this post up for this week, we were making merry on the beach this week!

We have reached principle seven in the “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” from John Gottman. This last principle is about making meaning – to create an even deeper connection in your marriage.

Let’s hear from John Gottman to get started:

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 symbols and 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.

Each marriage and family creates their own little ‘culture’ in their family. We do this by what we find important and take time to celebrate and acknowledge in our lives. We create culture by the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and how we operate (like being a team in marriage – that is a story that creates a ‘culture’). Or the holidays we celebrate, and how we celebrate them.

We also create a culture by honoring the dreams of our spouse. While we won’t always agree to everything, or even be able to achieve all the dreams we have together and separately, learning about them and not stifling them also helps create culture in your family.


The more you can agree about the fundamentals in life, the richer, more meaningful, and in a sense easier your marriage is likely to be. You certainly can’t force yourselves to have the same deeply held views. but some coming together on these issues is likely to occur naturally if you are open to each other’s perspectives. A crucial goal of any marriage, therefore, is to create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her convictions.

Gottman suggests there are 4 ways to create more meaning in your marriage. The Rituals, Roles, Goals and symbols you have or create in your marriage.


Rituals are those informal things that you do in your marriage. An after dinner talk, Christmas eve church service, how you start and end your day…all are rituals that can bring you closer together.


Rituals don’t necessarily have to derive from your respective childhoods and family histories. You can create your own. New rituals might come from a sense of what your family lacked. If you wished you family had gone on outings together on the weekends, you may want to incorporate that into your weekly routine.

Think about the rituals you have around: dinner, morning time, bedtime, weekends, holidays, when you are sick. Others to consider and talk about are entertaining friends, making love, serving others in the community, and special events.


What are your perspectives on the roles you play in life? We are all several things – husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons. Plus throw in there the work you do – that also is a role you play. Take into consideration each of these roles and how important they are in your life.

What meaning do you attach to being a parent? What meaning do you attach to the work that you do? You have to remember that your spouse may not attach the same weight to a similar role in their life. But taking time to understand each others take on the roles they have and perform in life gives you better perspective into who your spouse it.


Many times, our deepest goals and dreams are hidden or buried when we get married. Like we discussed in the chapter about overcoming gridlock, talking about our dreams in an open honest way can draw us together with our spouse like little else.

Gottman suggests that…

Not only will you increase the intimacy of your marriage by sharing your deepest goals with your spouse, but to the extent that you work together to achieve shared goals, they can be a path toward making your union even richer.


We are surrounded by all sorts of symbols that we assign value to. It usually starts with our home. But it also includes pictures and items we collect over the days of our lives. When you share the “weight”of the symbol, it gives you a deeper sense of connectedness and meaning in your marriage. So, don’t just surround yourselves with random tchotchkes. Select items that have meaning for your and also for you and your spouse together.

More reading about creating shared meaning in your marriage:

Examining your rituals from the Gottman Blog

Create Shared Meaning from The Gottman Blog

The End

This is the last full chapter in “the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work“. There is an afterward though that I will cover next week.


What did you enjoy about this chapter?


For the next Several weeks we are reading John Gottman’s ‘The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work’. It’s one of the original books on marriage that helped me begin this blog and podcast. I wanted to reread some of those first books to renew my dedication to healthy marriage, and also to go deeper for myself. You can join in by purchasing the book and reading along with us, and leaving comments here or at the Facebook group.