When the honeymoon is over and reality sets in, when the guests all go home and the two of you are sitting in your house alone, the question arises: What are you going to do for the next 50 years together?
Human beings need meaning like they need water. Married couples need to share something meaningful together in order to create a strong marriage bond.
The old joke is you can pick out the married couples in the restaurant because they’re the ones who aren’t talking to each other. Why? They aren’t talking to each other because they don’t have anything important to talk about.
In our society, to the degree that a couple shares something meaningful, it usually is focused around building a family together. Having children and raising a family are certainly meaningful experiences to share. But take the time to consider other, perhaps even more meaningful goals to pursue beyond having children. The “empty nest syndrome” — when couples divorce once the kids leave home — is the result of a marriage whose sole meaning was the children. This is why it is so crucial to go beyond children, and certainly beyond that which is materialistic, and share deeper moral and spiritual values and goals.
Fixing the world
This need to build a marriage upon something meaningful is implicit in God’s imperative to Adam and Eve, not just to be “fruitful and multiply” but to “fill up the land and subdue it” — that is, to take responsibility for the garden of Eden “to work it and manage it.”
God directs Adam and Eve to do nothing less together than to take responsibility for the world. Now this is a shared life goal with meaning!
There is a well-known insight based on the Hebrew words for man and woman that captures this idea in a powerful way. The word for woman is ishah and the word for man is ish. Each word shares two common letters, aleph and shin. They each have one letter that the other does not have — yud and hei. Yud and heispell one of the names of God. AlephM and shin spell “fire.” The sages tell us that when God is removed from the relationship between man and woman, what is left is fire. Without shared life goals to focus their energies upon, the passions of a man and woman will devour and destroy each other.
If would like to explore some ways to add meaning to your lives and build it into your marriage, here are some practical tools and suggestions.
- The most important question anyone can ask him or herself is: “What am I living for?” The key to finding meaning in life is a function of trying to figure out if life has some ultimate purpose or not. A related question is: “What is the greatest good that I could achieve in this world?”
- Another approach is to ask yourselves as a couple, “Do we share a common mission in life?”
Ask yourselves: “How can we help our community? What do we feel strongly about? Is there some social ill that we feel we’d like to take on as our personal responsibility? With a little exploration, I’m sure you will come up with many options.
5 Steps to a Great Marriage #2: Be a Team