Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Is The Purpose of Your Marriage?

"What? What do you mean 'what is the purpose of my marriage?' " Most people will ask (somewhat indignantly), because isn't it a given that people get married because they fall in love and want to live happily ever after? Yet this assumption mixed with the expectation that "happily ever after" will take care of itself, promotes a hazy "non plan" for the most important endeavor of one's life.
How many of us go into marriage thinking, well..."that's what people do" or "that's the next step of the life process, right?" or "I'm in love so naturally that's what happens next"? Then once married, many couples-having not defined their roles, their expectations or their needs--seem to be "lost" more or less, in their new enterprise. If they had good role models for marriage in their parents or others they may assume that their marriage will automatically "be like that". If they had poor role models, they will want to be "different" but may not know how. After children start arriving, these couples can become even more lost. The work and the effort involved in creating a happy, successful marriage and family can become sheer drudgery or even seem unobtainable as they go from task to task or activity to activity without a sense of an overall goal that guides, uplifts and motivates them.
If you were in school just doing homework, writing papers and studying for tests without the concrete goal of why you are doing this (eventual graduation, great career, etc.), it would be very difficult to stay excited and motivated to keep writing those papers--it's all you would see is just a paper that had to be written and not the reason why. How demoralizing would that be?
So many times, when their purpose isn't defined, people will fall into one that they otherwise would not have conciously chosen (like the husband who falls asleep every night in front of the TV). People need stimulation; people need a purpose and if they don't choose one, someone or something will choose them. How often do we see couples--mothers, fathers-- recreating in their own lives and families the very things that they told themselves they would not do?
That is why going into marriage with a firm vision or philosophy of how we want our marriage to be and what kind of "results" we want it to "produce" can be extremely helpful. This may sound unromantic or clinical, but every legitimate, and successful company has a mission statement so why not have one for a marriage? (Which basically is the forming of (it is hoped) a partnership for life (and beyond)!
A mission statement tells what a company does. For example, consider the mission statement of the very successful ice cream company Ben and Jerry's :

"To make, distribute and sell the finest quality, all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment."

What does your "company" do?

How quickly could you articulate what you do as a couple? Did a statement that sums up your goals, philosophy and purpose flow readily? If not, do you want to think about and define this further? How about a mission statement for your marriage?

A mission statement clarifies your purpose and focuses your energy. It motivates and inspires and paints the big picture of what your "company" does. It describes how you do and why you do it. Marriage is work, it is about purpose and it is about creating. Creating is work, requires vision and a plan. Afterall, you are creating a world together--you are building a life.

Where to begin?
  • Articulate your purpose, but do it as if you were explaining yourself to the public - what - how - why
  • Sincerely ask yourselves: "What do we stand for?" What is our fundamental purpose?" "Why do we exist?" "What's important for the future?"
Developing your mission statement can be started by simply using the phrases:
"We are..." "We like..." for as many items you feel are important. For example:
  • We like to learn new activities
  • We take very opportunity to learn something new
  • We do not go into debt
  • We give service to others on a regular basis
  • We are neat and organized as we do our best in a clean and calm environment
  • We are very loving to each other and make it a priority to contribute to the other's happiness in a real way each day.
  • We are physically active
  • We exercise everyday
  • We like to be prepared for whatever physical challenges come our way
As you work on your mission statement together you will find out what is important to each other. Many times we find out something new or something we didn't understand how important it is to our spouse--even if you've been married for years.
Once your statement is developed and written (maybe even framed and hanging on the wall!) you can put your statement to work. As you set specific goals and choose specific actions, run them through your mission statement. If they do not go along with it or are not supported by it, then you can make adjustments and get back on track. (Using artifical flavoring and making their ice cream in a smoke emiting factory would never be supported by Ben and Jerry's statement, hence they would never do it!)

One of my favorite young couples developed the following mission statement:

"We are a unified, loving, friendly family that is close knitted. The communication in our family will bring us closer together and creat trust and deep rooted bonds that are not easily broken. We are an eternal family which will require obedience to all of the commandments of our Heavenly Father. We are a physcially fit, morally straight and mentally awake family."

When this couple (family) set specfic goals they included: family dinner at the dining table nightly, weekly date for couple in addition to weekly family outing, kneeling, nightly prayer, and performing weekly service to someone in need. You can see that all of these specific things are things that contribute to and are supported by their mission statement.

Try writing yours and see what a difference this can make in your attitude and choices as you go through the daily steps, routines, schedules, work and activities that eventually become the sum of your life.

Who knows what "euphoric concoction" your marriage will become!

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