Shared Symbols

Another sign of shared meaning in a marriage is that your lives are surrounded by things that represent the values and beliefs you share. Often, these “things” are literally objects. Religious icons like a crucifix or mezuzah are the most obvious symbols of faith a couple may display in their home. But there are other, more personalized ones as well.

For Jenna and Michael, their dining room table held special significance. They had saved up for many years to have it custom made by a local carpenter who was an expert carver. Every time they opened it up for family celebrations, its beauty and strength spoke to them of the beauty and stability of their own marriage. Another family kept a little statuette of a baby angel on the mantel in memory of their first baby, who was stillborn. The angel commemorated the baby but also represented their own resilience and deep love and support for each other, which had gotten them through this tragedy and allowed them to go on to have a large, happy family.

Some symbols are abstract but no less significant to a marriage. Family stories, for example, can be symbolic of a whole set of values. In that sense, Helen’s story about her great-grandparents who kept their love alive even when separated by an ocean symbolized the family’s deep sense of loyalty. Every time that story was retold (and almost by definition, family stories do get told over and over again through the years), it was symbolic of the great value they place on loyalty.

Her husband Kevin’s story of his great-grandmother’s general store and her gracious generosity toward the poor was also a metaphor for another deeply held family value–that money is not as important as being connected to your community. Even a home itself can be of great symbolic meaning to a couple. They may view it not only as the place they eat and sleep but as the spiritual center of their lives together–the place where they consummate their love, where their children were conceived and grew, and so on.