Central to being On-Purpose is the living out of the Purpose Principle which brings meaning and purpose to relationships at home and at work. This is about aligning the Purpose of the person with the Purpose of the organisation (Pp<->Po). The organisation, of course, can be a home, a marriage, a business, a government department, a country and so on. Central to this alignment is significance and belonging. Where people feel their contribution is not meaningful and they don’t feel valued and part of a team, then this alignment is missing. This means that people, by definition, are Off-Purpose in that environment and relationship.
In this blog, I want to suggest ways of strengthening this alignment in marriages and partnerships. Nearly half our first marriages are failing (43%) and this figure rises (67%) in second marriages. Clearly, the Purpose Principle is not evident in these statistics. The high cost of divorce and relationship breakdown is seen not only in the break-up of the family but has ripple effects financially, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s a national disaster as it touches nearly all of us personally at some stage and in some way. Just as the discussion on global warming and its effects may be an “inconvenient truth”, so too are the effects of relationship breakdown equally “inconvenient.” It’s time that this topic is elevated to the sustainability debate also.
If you find that your marriage or partnership is not as strong as you would like, or if you would like to restore romance back into your marriage, you may wish to consider some of the following strategies as ways to make your relationship more On-Purpose. You do not need to make huge changes to see encouraging results.
- Marvellous Memories
Remembering the past good times is a great first step. Wind back the DVD of your early times together. Walk down memory lane together. Talk to your partner about how you first met, your first restaurant meal together, a special place, your first movie together, where you have been, where you have come from, what you have experienced together. Sharing those significant and meaningful past experiences and history is powerful and bonding. So make a date and reminisce. Bring out the old photo albums and videos and remember the height of love from which you may have ‘fallen’. Some of you may believe the height of the fall to be so great that it would be impossible to climb all the way back. Not true! Many people have in fact climbed back and made a success of their relationship and in fact are more able to love now than they ever were. Memories also assist couples to weigh up the gravity of their decision to divorce.
- Three Things Today
For years now my wife and I have practiced reflecting on positive things which happen each day. At night around the dinner table or before retiring, we ask each other “What are three positive things that have happened today?” (It’s interesting that the benefits of this activity have been supported by the positive psychology work of Dr Martin Seligman). Include your children in this too if you have any. No matter how insignificant you think things are, speak about them to each other. You will be amazed at how this will strengthen your relationship. Allow time for discussing “not so good things” too as children in particular need to commence building psychological flexibility and resilience from a young age.
- ‘Playtime’ with your partner
Everyone is busy including you and your partner. There are always dozens of things to be done on top of work. If you fail to invest time into your relationship ‘account’, it will become bankrupt. You cannot afford to neglect investing time with your partner. Try some of these ideas. Spend an hour together each night before retiring, have a weekly date, catch a movie, curl up together on the same sofa, go for a walk, cook a meal together, go ice skating, have a coffee or do something new together or something unexpected. Creatively ‘waste’ time together. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Take pleasure in the moment, and enjoy the “now” and have some fun together. Such activities are important in developing significance in your relationship.
- ‘Real’ relationships
Significant relationships are transparent and open. So often we think that if we can change the behaviour of our partner we will be happy. Take your focus off the ‘sins’ of your partner and start looking at your contribution to the success of the relationship. Take ownership, be responsible and accountable for your own feelings, attitudes and behaviours, not your partner’s. Keep your ego in check and say sorry when you ‘muck up.’ Marriage is not about being ‘happy ever after.’ Dynamic marriages are made up of two growing people. A relationship is only as good as the two individuals make it. When we see the flaws and weaknesses in our own behaviour, (not our partners) we are in a stronger position to love, be honest, extend grace, communicate, solve problems and resolve conflict.
The big love ‘breakers’ in marriage are angry outbursts, disrespectful judgements, annoying behaviour, selfish demands, dishonesty, domineering spirit of control, unfaithfulness, abuse, desertion, and passivity. Your role is not to find these faults in your partner and to apportion blame but to see if you exhibit any of these yourself.
So, in essence, the greatest thing we can do to develop a significant relationship is to take a good look at ourselves, face the reality of our own failures, begin to grow and solve problems and learn to practise unconditional love. When things aren’t going well, we need to look in the mirror for the source of the problem.
- Personalising Purpose
In our Life Planning Programs we work with our clients to develop their own Purpose Statements. This includes developing their Purpose and aligning their Vision, Missions and Values to their life Purpose. We do this at the macro level and also for each of the seven life accounts – Family, Finance, Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical/Health, Social and Vocational. Have you done that for your own life? Have you worked through this together and shared your Purpose, Visions, Missions and Values with your partner? This is powerful and gives a level of meaning and significance that you may never have experienced before.
© Dr Edward Gifford, Nov 2012