|Rituals to Sustain Your Relationship [relationship]|
|I recently worked with a couple who craved rituals in their life for different reasons. She had grown up in a family with a rich and textured home life, his parents had divorced when he was young and the most consistent ritual in his life was shuffling between his parent’s apartments. They longed to create experiences they could rely on, experiences that would signal to them that they were in a stable and healthy relationship. |
Their instinct was right. Research shows that the more rituals couples share, the greater the likelihood they will stay together.
Rituals: Not Just For the Holidays
This couple wanted things they did regularly to celebrate the various holidays during the year. What they didn’t realize was that they already had wonderful rituals that brought them together. She makes them coffee every morning as they get ready for work. On Saturdays they cuddle together in bed relishing the prospect of a free day. Once a week he goes to the farmer’s market to buy the ingredients for a great soup which he cooks for the two of them. She does the dishes when he cooks.
Rituals Need Structure and Heart
Rituals have two key ingredients; they’re structured (happen at predictable times of the day or week), and they are infused with a commitment to connect to one another — they have heart. Rituals that are structured but lack heart are not going to bring you closer together (think throwing his discarded socks on his cereal bowl every morning!), and rituals with heart but no structure are simply not sustainable (think the day you both played hooky from work and went to the beach instead).
Don’t Let Family Rituals Replace Relationship Rituals
Inevitably, I started thinking about my own marriage and the rituals that sustain my relationship. As parents, my husband and I have been pretty good at creating rituals that bring our family together and honor what we value. So it was with some amount of horror that I realized we had preserved precious few rituals just for the two of us.
Here’s the beginning of my list of opportunities for creating rituals in case you find yourself in the same ritually poor mess as me:
* “Honey, I’m home!” — Usually, when one of us gets home at the end of the day, the other is busy making dinner, tending to kids and homework or at the computer working. The one who is home can stop what s/he is doing, welcome the other with a hug and offer a greeting like, “Hey, I am so happy you are home”.
* “It’s 10:00 p. m; do you know where your partner is?” — I guess we’re not night owls, because at that hour, one of us is bound to be asleep. Inevitably, after dinner we have each drifted to our own separate activity, usually in different parts of the house. We have become adept at getting into bed quietly so as not to wake each other. What we should do is decide on a time to meet up in bed to review the day, check in, and snuggle.
* “Do you have anything good for me to read?” — My husband usually asks me this at the start of a weekend or vacation. We love reading and books, but it’s been a long time since we hung out together at libraries and book stores. We could institute one night a week (okay, let’s be realistic — once a month) when we go to the bookstore together, see what’s new and popular, read excerpts to each other and sit with a warm drink, appreciating our mutual enjoyment.
Rituals are touchstones. They are moments that we intentionally create to solidify our identity as a couple. Rituals say, “This is what we care about”. Take a minute to think about the rituals in your own relationship. Are they working for you? If yes, celebrate them and share them with us.