Shared rituals both large and small play an incredibly important part in each partner’s sense that the relationship is safe and supportive. They also give the relationship a sense of continuity, along with a regular sense of connection that stays intact even in the face of the busy-ness of everyday life. They also give both partners something to look forward to.
Anything can be a connection ritual as long as it’s important to both of you: A particular kind of exercise, a favorite TV show, even a household chore done together — the most important thing about having rituals is that they’re important to both of you.
Following are some rituals, both informal and formal, that I invite you to discuss with each other.
Are any of these worth adopting? Being aware of (and guarding) your connection rituals is a powerful ingredient in sustaining a good relationship.
Normal Life Rituals
Regularly eat at least one meal a day together, with cell phones and TV turned off, in order to easily talk with each other or with the family.
When leaving the house:
Always find your partner and give him or her a kiss, making sure you know at least one thing he or she will be doing while you’re away.
When arriving home:
Always make sure to find your partner and give him or her a long and loving kiss. Do this before you do anything else.
Talk time each night:
This is a high-priority ritual: Make sure to spend time every evening sitting and talking to one another about your day, sharing what you’re thinking and feeling, and catching up on family news. It can be helpful to meet in the same place.
It’s important to spend at least a few minutes cuddling and kissing in bed. If one of you goes to bed earlier than the other, do this then.
Especially if you have children, it’s crucial for the two of you to schedule (and protect) a regular Date Night — preferably once a week, but at a minimum once every two or three weeks. It allows you to escape your everyday responsibilities and create romantic and special “couple time” together. Date Nights don’t have to be expensive — a picnic on a blanket under the moonlight costs no more than a meal at home. Take turns organizing these.
A regular romantic weekend, even if it’s once every few months, is a powerful, relaxing connection ritual. Again, it need not be expensive; take turns planning them.
Special Circumstance Rituals
When one of you is sick:
For most couples, how their partner cares for them when they’re sick or feeling vulnerable is important. Are you someone who likes a lot of attention, or do you prefer being left alone? Talking through this in advance allows you to best provide for each other when the time comes.
A promotion, a milestone, a personal goal: When one of you has achieved success, how do you celebrate it? Do you create a culture of praise for and with each other and your family?
Bad luck, failures, or exhaustion:
How do you support one another when one of you is stressed out, exhausted, or experiencing failure? Do you acknowledge his or her difficulty? Does the other step up and carry more of the load? (There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.) How do each of you prefer to be supported in tough times?
Do you have an agreement and a divided workload for entertaining visitors? Who cooks? Who cleans? What do you do together? How often do you entertain? How late does it go? Do you clean up at night or in the morning? Do you wait for each other to go to bed, or not? What do each of your prefer?
Keeping in touch with friends and family:
Do you have particular rituals around staying in touch with friends and family? Who contacts whom? How long between catch-ups? Do you do the same routine each time or change it up?
With the daily schedules of life (and particularly with children), making time to make love can be difficult, particularly if you believe sex and lovemaking should be spontaneous. Research has shown that you’ll have a better sex life if you make love regularly, so it can be a good idea to plan a “sex date” together at least one night a week. For many couples, this can often coincide with Date Night; for others, late afternoon on the weekend might be a better time.
How do you take vacations as a couple? Who comes up with the idea? Who organizes the details? Do you always travel together, or do you sometimes go places alone? Do the two of you prefer active or relaxing holidays, or some of both? Is it okay to work on vacation? Do each of you have time to “do your own thing”?
Birthdays and anniversaries:
How do you celebrate these important events? For the two of you as a couple, what’s the norm (and the budget) for of gift-giving, going out, and trips away? Are there particularly special ones to acknowledge? Would you like these celebrations to be different in any way?