Finding Purpose In Your Marital Relationship
By Jon Jaehnig
Updated March 02, 2020
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
Every marriage should have a reason for its existence, right? Otherwise, you would not be married at all because marriage is an optional state. It's not required.
Ideally, you had an idea of why you wanted to get married to your partner before the wedding day. But if you are already several months or years into your union and wondering why you are there, you may need to define the purpose in your marital relationship. Don't look at this as a problem with the relationship; look at it as an opportunity for the relationship to grow and strengthen.
How To Find Purpose
Finding purpose in your marital relationship can take two main forms. The first of these is rediscovering your purpose. The second is defining a new purpose for your marital relationship.
Rediscovering the purpose for your marital relationship is common in relationships that are still fairly young or in couples that have had some hardship. As mentioned above, you probably had a reason for marrying your partner in the first place. However, if you have been very busy or life has been more difficult than you expected, you can forget what that purpose was. There are few feelings more enjoyable than remembering what that reason was and discovering those emotions again. Some people can do this by just talking to their partner about their early relationship or going through photo albums. Others may try to revisit places where you once visited or do activities that you once enjoyed, but this doesn't work for everyone.
Defining a new purpose can be necessary for people who have been married longer, who married younger, or who have been through other significant changes together. In these cases, you may have had reasons for getting married, but now those reasons may not seem to apply anymore. That doesn't mean that your marriage is necessarily over but to keep your marriage a priority you should try to determine what it's purposes are now that you and the relationship have changed or matured. It makes sense if you think about it: you're not the same person that you were when you got married and if the marriage isn't changing with you, what good is it? Just like rediscovering your purpose for your marital relationship can be very rewarding, deciding what it means to you in new stages of your life can be like falling in love all over again. Some couples can do this by talking about the things that they need from the relationship or how the relationship meets their needs even if these cases have changed since the relationship began.
But, we keep talking about "reasons for a marital relationship." What does that even mean and what might some of those reasons be?
Reasons For Being In A Marital Relationship
For many people, marriage is, at least in part, go into for love and companionship. It's something that you do because you want to be a part of your partner's life, and you want your partner to be part of yours.
However, marriage is also a legal union. When you get married, many aspects of your life become entwined -finances, taxation, parental responsibilities, insurance, schedules, as well as others. As a result, some people get married because they feel like they have to whether for legal reasons like staying in the country, financial reasons like using the other's income, or societal or religious reasons like raising a child together.
You need to know whether the primary reasons for your marriage are found in love and companionship, other benefits, or some combination of the two. Usually, it's the last one. People get married out of love and then find that it's much easier - and more enjoyable - to get by on two incomes, to share responsibilities, and raise a family with a partner.
There's also the sexual aspect of the marriage relationship. For a lot of people, the idea of a sexless marriage sounds horrible, and to some, the idea of sex outside of marriage is morally incomprehensible. Others may have gone into marriage for non-romantic companionship and may not care about sex one way or the other. And yet others may practice consensual non-monogamy in their marriages. There are many alternative ways to find satisfaction and purpose in a marital relationship.
Further, these ways often change as the relationship and its members change. For example, many couples find that sex plays less of a role in their marriage as they get older. Some couples may look for new excitement by inviting others into their sex lives, and others may find that this kind of lifestyle only makes them appreciate being with their marital partner more.
Of course, sex isn't the only reason people get married. Another huge reason behind getting married is creating a stable family within which to raise children. And all those other reasons - emotional, legal, societal, and financial - affect the lives of the child or children that you and your partner may have together. That's why when you consider the purpose of your marriage, you need to think about all the different reasons and determine their priority in your relationship.
Here's another thing to think about, though: Your marriage is a partnership. That means that part of the purpose in your marital relationship is for both you and your spouse to reach your individual life goals. You are each other's, support team.
Finding Your Purpose
Because the purpose of your marital relationship is to have a teammate who helps you in reaching your own goals, you need to know what your purpose is for your spouse to support you in that. And support for life goals is an important purpose for marriage to serve. Yes, other friends and family can also offer support as you reach for your goals, but your spouse is usually the person who is with you the most. For most of us, there are also things that we can tell our spouses that we wouldn't want to share with other friends and family members.
Marriage should not take away your purpose. And seeking out your own goals and growing towards them is one of the best ways to keep your marriage healthy. Having individual goals that you can support each other towards creates a balanced relationship where each of you can continue to learn about the other throughout the long-term. That means you should also be supportive of your partner's goals and endeavors. If there is an opposite to the problem of not knowing what the purpose of a relationship between individuals is, that opposite does not know what the purpose of individuals is outside of the relationship. It can be all too easy to forget that that person sleeping next to you is more than just your spouse; they are their complete person. In this article, we use terms like "spouse" and "partner" to be inclusive of all different types of readers and relationships without falling down the grammatical rabbit hole that is pronoun structure, but if you can look at your partner as more than just your partner your relationship can become much deeper and nuanced.
Talking To Your Partner
If you find your marriage lacking meaning, your partner doesn't seem receptive to supporting you in your individual goals, or you're having difficulty supporting your spouse, tell them. This can be a difficult discussion to have. You may be afraid that you will hurt your partner's feelings by saying that you aren't sure about the purpose of the relationship. Many people also feel defensive, believing that they are having these problems because they are somehow week or foolish.
If you are worried about how your partner will take it, just move slowly and explain yourself. Tell them that you still love them and value the relationship but that you feel like it could mean more to you and that you want to make it stronger.
If you are worried about what your partner will think of you, don't be. Your partner should be there to support you, especially if you are worried about the relationship. Further, most people go through this kind of phase at least once in their relationship. Like we said above, relationships grow and change, and the people in them grow and change. Wanting to understand and define your marital relationship doesn't mean that you are doing something wrong or even that there is something wrong with your relationship.
What To Do Next
If you can't manage to bring up your concerns with your partner, or if you and your partner have talked about the purpose of your marital relationship and don't seem to be getting anywhere, it may be time to consider starting couples counseling to help get your relationship back on the right track.
Couples counseling is like therapy but for the whole relationship. Your couples counselor will try to understand your relationship and the problems that you are experiencing to help the two of you work out ways to fix those problems.
Some people don't want to go through couples counseling because they see it as a sign of weakness that they can't navigate their relationship. However, if this article has been about anything, it has been about the fact that relationships are bigger than just two people. There are a lot of moving parts in a relationship, and that means that there are a lot of ways that they can go wrong or just not go like you may have expected.
To learn more about how you and your partner can undergo couples counseling with a certified and professional couples counselor from the comfort of your own home by being connected to one over the internet, click on the link above.