“Say, friend, where are you heading?” Whether it’s a road trip or a relationship, the question is meaningful. The question is often an excellent conversation starter, especially for folks at rest stops and travel centers. The fellow-traveler may not respond, perhaps thinking, “What business is that of yours? Why do you want to know where I’m heading?” But most folks reply with a disclosure about their destination, then you follow up with your response, and the conversation is underway.

 If we’re referring to our human relationships, the question and the response are far more complicated and challenging. Consider your own relationships for a moment, and then ask yourself several questions. “What is the destination for my relationships? Where am I heading in my relationships? What’s my ultimate goal? What’s my purpose?”
Too often we’re a lot like Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She asked Cheshire-Puss, “Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?” The cat replied, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice said, “I don’t much care where--.” “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” the cat interrupted. Alice continued, “—so long as I get somewhere.” “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” replied the cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
 I’ve asked numerous couples in therapy about their marriage: “So, what’s the purpose of your relationship?” In the majority of responses the relationship purpose is non-existent or extremely vague. “We don’t have one.” “Uh, well, I guess I’ve never thought about it like that.” It’s no wonder that we wander in circles, take wrong exits from the “relationship interstate,” or simply bypass our destination without even recognizing it. Saying “we just love each other” may sound romantic, but the lack of clear purpose will usually undermine the love that we feel, and our relationship journey will be filled with stress. How can we “stay on course” if we don’t know our destination?
 So, what’s your purpose? You may subscribe to the typical purpose promoted by our culture: “to make yourself happy” or “to find happiness.” Such a purpose is appealing, but it can cause many obstacles on the roadway of your relationship journey. Making “personal happiness” our main purpose often encourages selfish goals and self-centered behavior. Our selfishness usually creates a heavy burden for other people. One woman lamented her marital stress as she asked me (referring to her husband), “Why do I have to hurt so much just to make him happy?” If happiness is a key part of our relationship roadmap, we must make certain that our concept of happiness harmonizes with the underlying and motivating purpose of our relationship.
 “Say, friend, where are you heading?” Let me encourage you to spend a little time exploring this basic question of relationship purpose. As you ponder the purpose of your relationship journey, remember the following Relationship Travel Guide.
Identify your relationship purpose and let the fulfillment of that purpose become a vital part of your relationship journey. Make sure that every personal decision and every life transition you make will help you to fulfill your purpose and further your progress toward your relationship goal. Your purpose will provide the direction you need, and, with that clear sense of direction, you will stay on course.

Best wishes in your relationship journey!
                                                                                   Healthy Relationships #101

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