A spiritual purpose statement answers the question: Why am I here?
by Steve Pavlina, from stevepavlina.com
A spiritual purpose statement for a relationship answers the question: Why are we in each other’s lives?
Yesterday I felt inspired to create a spiritual purpose statement for my relationship with Rachelle. I figured it would be simplest if I took a first stab at it, and then she could decide if she wanted to add, subtract, or change anything.
She’s presently in Toronto while I’m in Las Vegas, so I brainstormed a list of ideas and emailed it to her.
Here’s the list I shared with her:
- encouraging and supporting each other creatively
- honoring our vegan lifestyle together
- making each other feel loved, appreciated, and cared for
- traveling, exploring, learning, and sharing new experiences together
- giving each other the freedom to explore and grow as individuals
- expressing our love with abundant touch and affection
- forgiving each other’s mistakes and transgressions
- stretching ourselves to keep trying new things
- stimulating each other mentally, physically, and emotionally
- having fun together, playing together, and sharing many laughs
- communicating with honesty, directness, and caring
- cultivating balance between healthy living and indulgence
- being each other’s best friend
- being mutual fans and admirers of each other’s work
- saying “I love you” every day
She liked the initial list as-is and didn’t see anything to change just yet. We can of course refine the list as we have more time to reflect on it.
When I read this list, it makes me smile. Writing it even brought a tear to my eye. I felt immense gratitude for our relationship, which is currently in its sixth year.
I think that if you have high compatibility with someone, it should be fairly easy to come up with a relationship purpose statement that you both like. You could brainstorm together, or one person could write the first draft; I think it can work well either way.
If you can’t agree on why you’re together, why is that? Are you each wanting to take the relationship in different directions? Has the relationship lost its meaning and devolved into a mere collection of habits and routines? Does it no longer make sense to continue investing in each other?
Fair and Balanced Relationship Offers
You could even write a relationship purpose statement before you’re in a relationship (including if you’re currently in an unhealthy relationship). What do you want the spiritual purpose of your relationship with someone to be? How would you define a healthy and meaningful relationship?
I’ve known people who’ve quickly attracted delightful new relationships into their lives shortly after defining a spiritual purpose for such a relationship. The key is that they create a fair and balanced offer that represents a good deal for both sides. Their offer includes receiving what they want to receive, but only from someone who truly desires to give it. And the offer includes giving what they want to give, but only to someone who will truly appreciate it.
Greediness, sacrifice, and compromise are all foolish notions that should be avoided in a healthy relationship. Greed is receiving more than you give. Sacrifice is giving more than you receive. Compromise is giving more than you’d like while receiving less than you’d like. All of these are misalignments.
The higher standard to shoot for is genuine compatibility. This means giving your best and receiving the best without shortchanging either side. For this to work, you need a partner who will appreciate what you desire to give, and who desires to give that which you will appreciate. If you have one of these but not the other, it’s a mismatch, and the flow of value in the relationship won’t be fair and balanced. For a win-win relationship, you need both.
The universe seems to appreciate fair and balance offers. From what I’ve seen, people who make unfair offers tend to receive little or nothing. They also seem to sabotage themselves or sit around doing nothing, probably because they know their offers are somewhat ridiculous. When they do attract relationship partners, they seem to cycle between semi-abusive mismatches and utterly boring mismatches.
On the other hand, people who make fair and balanced offers tend to see them fulfilled. Usually they’re first tested with one or more partial matches to see if they’ll settle for less. If they settle for less than a fair offer, they can sidetrack themselves for years until they realize that settling is a mistake. But if they can stay true to their standards and believe in the fairness of their offer, they’ll decline the partial matches and wait for the full match because they know it’s worth waiting for. Eventually it shows up, sometimes in the most amazingly synchronistic ways. It’s a beautiful thing to see. I love it when people share those kinds of stories with me. Happiness radiates from every pore. 🙂
The vibe that emanates from a truly compatible relationship is so different from the vibe of a partial match. With a partial match, the lightness and playfulness just isn’t there (unless perhaps it’s drug-induced). With true compatibility there’s an ease and lightness to the relationship. It’s carefree, flowing, and spontaneous. Such people are energizing and uplifting to be around.
Universal Ideas to Include
Let me share a handful of ideas that you may consider universal enough to want to incorporate into your relationship purpose as well.
It’s well-established that a capacity for forgiveness is crucial for a fulfilling long-term relationship. Human beings will make mistakes, even when trying to avoid them. There must be a pressure-release valve that reduces negative feelings when mistakes are made. Otherwise those feelings will turn inward, resentment will build, and intimacy will die a slow and tedious death.
You often see this in couples that haven’t had sex for months. Or when they do have sex, they’re just going through the motions. They have sex with their bodies, but their minds and hearts aren’t fully present to each other. The lightness and playfulness is missing. Trust has been diminished. Wounds haven’t healed.
I’d recommend to anyone that forgiveness should be an aspect of your relationship purpose, unless you feel it’s such an obvious aspect of any healthy relationship that you don’t need to list it.
I think it’s also good to know how you’ll express forgiveness. Do you prefer verbal apologies and deep conversations? Written love letters? Make-up sex? Teary-eyed cuddle sessions? Playful penances? You don’t necessarily need to include these in your purpose statement if your mechanisms for forgiveness are well-established, but if emotional withdrawal or stonewalling have been issues for you, then I’d recommend including the how-to details. It’s important to see if you both agree on how to heal and recover from emotional injuries before they become chronic, intimacy-killing wounds.
Having fun together is easy to overlook, but it’s also crucial for a healthy relationship. Mira Kirshenbaum lists the lack of fun as a good and valid reason to break up in her amazing book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay. As she notes in the book, people who break up due to a lack of fun are usually happier in the long run than people who chose to stay in such relationships.
If you don’t have fun together, you don’t belong together. That may seem like an overly strong statement. Often the importance of fun isn’t obvious to someone who’s been stuck in an unfulfilling relationship for a while. They might not regard fun as essential, and the lack of fun isn’t seen as a valid reason to break up. But to someone who’s currently in a relationship that includes lots of mutual fun, the importance of fun usually seems obvious; it just wouldn’t make sense to settle for less.
You’re not an android. Your relationships deserve an element of fun, adventure, spontaneity, and aliveness. So much of your bonding and so many cherished memories will result from having fun together. Why are you in each other’s lives? Please let one of your answers be that you are playmates.
(My apologies to future androids who read this long after I publish it, in which case, my advice may or may not apply to you, depending on your programming. Either way, I’d be fascinated to learn more about the role of fun in android relationships too, so please feel free to drop me a note about that and tell me about your experiences, assuming I haven’t yet been terminated, upgraded, or assimilated.)
I receive many emails from people in relationships that either lacked strong values alignment from the beginning, or their values have drifted apart over time. I keep seeing the same patterns. Resentment builds. Intimacy drops. Thoughts of breaking up become almost obsessive. When these people ask me what to do, they already know what to do. They know it’s time to move on and that the relationship isn’t salvageable in a way that will be fulfilling for everyone. They just have a hard time surrendering to that realization, usually because they really don’t want to hurt the other person.
If there are values which you hold sacred, it’s important that your partner shares those values. I don’t think it’s enough to say that your partner “respects” your values but doesn’t share them. That’s compromise, not compatibility. It’s win-lose, not win-win. You owe it to yourself to match up with a partner who truly shares your sacred values; that kind of intimacy is beautifully fulfilling.
Freedom is an important value to Rachelle and me. For us to have a fulfilling relationship, we need to give each other enough space to learn, grow, and explore as individuals. When we hear someone say that their spouse won’t let them switch careers because the spouse is worried that it might diminish their standard of living, we feel disgusted. We would never get in each other’s way like that. We couldn’t imagine telling someone we love to remain in an unfulfilling career just to maintain the couple’s standard of living. We know that it enhances and strengthens our relationship when we give each other the freedom and the encouragement to keep learning, growing, and exploring. This is a much higher lifestyle priority for us than maintaining some arbitrary material standard of living.
What values are so important to you that it would be nearly impossible for you to celebrate and cherish your relationship if your partner didn’t share those values? Those values are good candidates to include in your relationship purpose. Part of your purpose then becomes the exploration and expression of those values with your partner. You can also deepen your alignment with your values if you’re in a relationship with someone who holds those values as sacred too.
Do you respect and admire your partner professionally? Do you honor and support the work s/he does in the world? Are you a fan of your partner’s work? Is s/he a fan of yours?
When you’re in a relationship based on mutual admiration, your partner can play the role of being your #1 supporter. You can bounce ideas off each other and receive valuable feedback. You can serve as resources for each other, even if you work in different fields.
When mutual admiration is present, part of your relationship purpose is to enhance and support the work you’re both doing in the world. You are teammates.
If, however, your partner doesn’t admire your work or vice versa, maybe it’s time for a new line of work that’s worthy of such admiration, or maybe it’s time for a new partner who admires and appreciates what you do for the world.
I love seeing Rachelle on a stage performing one of her plays. I love seeing the audience enjoying her talents, especially when she makes them laugh. I love seeing people come up to her afterwards and tell them how much they enjoyed and appreciated her performance and what it meant to them.
I also love it when she sits in the audience or in the back of the room at one of my workshops or speeches. I like feeling her love and support beaming at me. I like that we each have our own unique ways of expressing our creativity and sharing ideas and inspiration with people.
I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a critical item to include for everyone, but for many people it’s pretty high up there. Is it essential for you? If so, be sure to include it in some way.
How you express your love to your partner matters a great deal. Does your partner receive love the way you naturally express it? Do you receive love the way your partner expresses it?
Make it part of your relationship purpose to express love in the ways your partner desires to receive love, and vice versa. If this is too difficult with your current partner, why stay? You could experience a more purposeful and mutually fulfilling connection with a partner whose natural expressions of love are aligned with yours.
Rachelle and I express and receive love primarily through touch and physical affection. Even when we’re communicating verbally, we’re often using kinesthetic communication at the same time. We can be talking about plans for the day while our bodies are simultaneously saying “I care about you” with a gentle caress, or “I appreciate you” with a squeeze, or “I think you’re sexy” with a nibble on the neck.
If you try to express love in ways your partner doesn’t recognize as being loving, it’s like building a house for someone who doesn’t want to live in it. Eventually you’ll realize that your efforts are pointless, and you’ll stop bothering altogether. That same house (and that same expression of love), however, could be deeply appreciated by someone else who truly wants it.
Continuing with the house analogy, you could learn to build the type of house that the other person wants to live in and abandon your original plans if you think that’s doable. But if you happen to like the way you build houses, and if you think that someone out there would really like and appreciate what you’re building as-is, you may find it easier to seek out a more compatible customer instead. Just be sure not to make the mistake of trying to convince someone to like a house that they don’t want; that isn’t going to work. Yet how many people nudge their partners to go see a therapist or counselor because their partner has an incompatible love strategy? That may enrich the therapist, but it’s a dead end for the relationship.
Expressions of love need a compatible receiver. Many people will not receive love the way you desire to give it, and they won’t give love the way you desire to receive it. When you match up with a compatible partner, the expressions of love become much more powerful because they fulfill their intended purpose. Even the smallest expressions of love are received with appreciation and gratitude. Making each other feel loved becomes incredibly easy. You simply do what you’re naturally inclined to do, and your partner feels very loved. Likewise, your partner is able to make you feel loved with ease, just by behaving normally and naturally. No special effort is required.
If you aren’t helping each other grow, then your relationship is stagnant, and you’ll always feel a longing to be with someone who can and will help you grow.
A healthy relationship is a growing one. It’s constantly moving and changing and never stays still for long.
As Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet:
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
A purposeful relationship will sculpt you and your partner into more conscious people. You will gain and you will shed. You will laugh and you will cry. You will experience the full richness of each season of love — together.
Why are you in each other’s lives?