“The number one thing I would recommend to save your marriage is for each of you to find your Purpose and for you to find a purpose together!“ It was the response of one of the premier marriage and family therapists at a worldwide conference when asked about saving marriages.
At the moment, I wasn’t sure why that response choked me up. But perhaps it was because I had never been in a relationship where that had been the case. What if I had only known?
That was years before I developed my signature program, The Power of Purpose. I did not create the program specifically for couples. But after the first year, I was acutely aware that in our follow-up work, some of the most powerful testimonies were about couples that the program helped. Many relationships and marriages were saved.
At the time, I couldn’t find much research on “purpose” and the quality of a relationship. Since that time, there has been a plethora of relationship research regarding Purpose.
The results are compelling and contain things such as:
- More intimacy
- Better communication
- Less arguing
- More peace in the home
- Increase in financial status
- Fewer family problems with children
- Increase in health
- And the research goes on …
In a dedicated and devoted search to understand this research, I launched my own project. I invited dozens of couples who lived on “purpose” to participate in a survey.
I could write a book about the results. But the area that was most impactful to me was what these couples believe. They believe that what they do creates a life of “Living on Purpose” both individually and as a couple.
Perhaps I was most intrigued because I deeply desired to create that kind of relationship.
Here are the five interesting habits these couples all identified:
1. They practice gratitude with one another regularly (at least daily)
2. They live within the guidelines of zero negativity
3. They have a two-night rule about being separated
4. They ask for dedicated time when there are issues to discuss
5. They pray together
Whether or not you know your Purpose individually or as a couple, these habits might just get you started on the road to grab all of the great benefits.
Let’s talk about all five of these. This is the feedback I received through the second questionnaire after couples considered these five habits:
1. They practice gratitude with one another regularly, and at the very least daily.
If you follow my posts over time, you are aware that I often write about gratitude. I often speak about how we must set our RAS (reticular activating system) in our brains to look for the best in our partners. Such daily sharing of gratitude allows couples to experience the full richness of love and intimacy.
So it came as no surprise to me that couples say this practice is key to living with Purpose as a couple. The benefits to their relationship follow.
What did come as a surprise to me was how many of them were aware that they were consciously sitting their RAS to enrich and deepen their relationships.
Most of these couples did not have a history in psychology. But, it surprised me that many had studied my writings on neuropsychology. They used this knowledge to harness the power of their brains for the good of their relationship.
Most of them commented on ways they reminded themselves to practice gratitude several times a day. Some set an alarm on their phones. Some decided to express gratitude in the morning before they got out of bed, and again at night when they went to bed. Some chose to do it at mealtimes and on break at work. The common theme was, they were quite intentional about it and did whatever it took to discipline themselves to do it regularly.
2. They live within the guidelines of zero negativity.
Several years ago, Drs. Harville and Helen Hunt Hendrix launched a program called “Safe Conversations.” They started in Dallas, and now it’s expanding around the globe.
One of the components of safe conversations is to move your relationship to zero negativity –about one another, toward one another, about the news, the economy, frustrating family members, financial problems, and job/career/business issues. No negativity across the board!
Harville and Helen speak often of how difficult it was when they got started on this journey. But they also noted major changes (that ultimately saved them from divorce), and greater connection and intimacy.
It’s not an easy thing to do. But a number of years ago, I committed to zero negativity. I certainly cannot say that I don’t ever find myself in negativity ever. Nor can I say my life has been miraculously transformed into some kind of euphoria.
I began the journey about seven years ago by severely limiting my watching or listening to the news or current events. I want to be informed, so I do read news headlines (and dig into subjects if needed).
Then I began managing the people with whom I spent time. When I noted a lot of negative conversations, I began decreasing the time I spent with those people. I also began increasing the time I spent with people who were dedicated to positive conversation.
I regularly added other things to make sure I was practicing zero negativity. I was in great hopes that someday I would find a prince charming who was also willing to walk this “road less traveled!” LOL!
Yes, zero negativity takes work and dedication. But I can assure you that the couples who dare to practice this habit have great intimacy! They live great purposeful lives together!
3. They have “agreements” about how to keep the relationship safe and fulfilled.
I found safeguards in place in every couple. Each couple did it in their own way.
When I ask for clarification, here are some of the things that couples shared:
- We have an agreement that except in cases of emergency, we are not apart from one another more than two nights consecutively, or more than four nights a month.
- We don’t hang out in bars unless we are together. We believe each other has good intentions, but not everyone in a bar does. Bars attract lonely people, and we refuse to be among the number who become unfaithful because of an innocent night in a bar. (Research reveals that over 60% of affairs begin in an interesting, but innocent, conversation in a bar. The other 30+ percent come from the workplace.) If we want a drink, we can get it by stepping away from the bar. (Into the restaurant, for example.)
- We know the greatest needs and desires of the other and meet them regularly, ensuring they are fulfilled.
- We have a weekly or bi-monthly meeting to discuss and score the relationship and discuss how it could be improved.
- We invest in the relationship on a daily basis as if it were our last day together. Another couple said we each ask ourselves what we wish the other person would do on a daily basis, and then make it happen for the other.
4. They ask for dedicated time when there are issues to discuss.
We have taught this practice in therapy for many years. But it seems it is specifically used by those couples focused on living purposely. These couples consistently embrace this habit.
Our culture has trained us to seek instant gratification. Drive-through food in three minutes. Microwaves. Entertainment on our screens in one minute.
The idea that we can (and should) manage our thoughts and feelings (called emotional mastery) has become foreign to us. But we can (and should) monitor our feelings. We can, for example, give ourselves a chance to come up with potential solutions to conflict rather than launching attacks on the spur of the moment. We can avoid “dropping bombs” on our partners!
Couples of “purpose” said interesting things about this issue.
Here is one of my favorite comments: “I learned to tell myself that if it’s a crisis at this moment, it will still be a crisis later this afternoon.“ So very true!
Another said, “I realized how pompous it was of me to think I had the right to bring my thunderstorm into her world without any warning. Asking for dedicated time helped me to be aware of my own need for healthy inner change — and gave her an opportunity to be prepared and centered.“
Another said, “I just wanted to blow off some steam, and I thought he should be the one to hear it. But then he said in counseling that my blowing off steam singed his eyebrows and what little hair he had left! I thought it was time to step in line with what I knew in my heart was right.“
Certainly, in the workplace when we want to discuss issues, we don’t barge into our boss’s office unannounced. (At least not if you value your job!) Hopefully, we value our relationships even more and offer at least equal respect.
Across-the-board, couples said that it created a greater sense of peace and calm in the relationship. They knew that they would be asked for an appointment and have time to prepare themselves.
No wonder they can live hand-in-hand as a true partnership, fulfilling their purposes and reaping all of the great benefits. (If you missed all of the benefits, click here to check my Facebook post. Or click here to read my blog about it).
5. They pray together.
This could be the most important habit of purposeful couples. It is also perhaps the one that I was both most surprised by and most delighted by.
It certainly is a great confirmation of the research saying that couples who pray together have less than 1% chance of separation or divorce.
After I saw that 100% of these couples made note of this, I asked for more specifics about prayer. Here are the comments I received:
- We never make it long
- We each pray
- We hold hands
- We pray concisely about current issues in our family, and those we know and love
- We pray for our relationship, specifically
These are terrific guidelines to use in our prayer together!
To me, all of these five habits make living with Purpose as a couple seem so very doable.
The reward of living purposefully together is priceless!
Whether you have a relationship right now or perhaps you’re hoping for one, begin practicing these five habits now.
There truly is Power in Purpose!
If you know your Purpose, practice it purposefully and passionately!
If you don’t know your Purpose, embark on a journey to find it.
I have several programs that can help you. (Click here for more info).
Your life truly will become extraordinary!