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Layers of Meaning in Marriage

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Having meaning in one's marriage may be a concept that is never even thought about.

Boy meets girl... First comes love... And they lived happily ever after...

Why do we need more than that?

Meaning is an often overlooked ingredient because so much of marriage is already loaded with meaning. It is already baked in. You don't need to add meaning to a marriage because marriage, in many ways, is the meaningful answer to the other questions in your relationship.

You've found someone you love in almost inexplainable ways. You want to honor and cherish them for the rest of your life. You want to make a home together, build a family with each other, and go on adventures side-by-side. You want to grow old together. All of that intention, we still (for the most part) wrap up into marriage.

Sadly, what happens in many marriages is that the rainbows and butterflies slowly get overtaken by storm clouds and mosquitos. Love grows then love grows weary. In the bleakest of situations new questions arise - Why did I marry this person? What did I see in them? Why are they so annoying? Do they love me anymore? Do I love them? Am I happy?

You might not be there, but if you are or not, understanding the power of meaning can either help dig you out or keep you from falling into that dark place.

Let's look at meaning as 3 different but connected layers.

The kind of meaning in the innermost core of your relationship is what has been previously mentioned. This intrinsic meaning exists because two people love one another and have made the deepest, most sincere vows that two people can make to each other. Your marriage means something because if it didn't mean anything, you would not have gotten married.

Separate from this, the second layer of meaning in marriage comes from a sense of belonging. The bridge between layer #1 and layer #2 is that you belong to one another. As a unit you also have things/people/places/groups you belong to. This could be a church, a club, a team, or your extended families. There are also the things/people, etc. that belong to you. This could be children or pets. It can also be a house or a cellphone plan. It could even be something ethereal, like a shared dream.

The outer layer of meaning is more outwardly focused. Where does your marriage fit into a grander scheme of things? You have a story, but your story is a part of a bigger story. When we identify ways that our lives have effect on the world around us, this brings meaning. This does not need to be some grandiose and noble discovery. Maybe you bring left-overs to the single guy that lives down the street. Maybe you watch your neighbor's dog when they are off on vacation. Maybe its something bigger than that, maybe its something even less significant.

In our recent (and new) podcast we have, over the course of three episodes, worked through a marriage project to help you find meaning. The aspect of meaning we focused on for this particular project is that third layer. You can find that content in episodes 2-4.

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