When two become one
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Drinking coffee together every morning . . . celebrating an anniversary . . . calling to say “hello” to your spouse at lunchtime . . . staying home for “family night” with the kids each week . . . praying together before bed—these are all shared rituals or traditions that can help sustain relationships. Some may be learned from one partner’s family of origin and others might naturally evolve. For example, a child who found it reassuring to see her parents kiss goodbye every morning may, as an adult, engage in the same tradition with her spouse. Or, after adding exercise to their routine to lose weight, a couple may discover they look forward to the time together during their 30-minute evening walk.
Everyday responsibilities, jobs, and the presence of children can sap energy out of even the strongest relationship. Regardless of how they are established, rituals help create and bolster a couple’s and family’s identity and provide a sense of meaning by reminding us of what we share and value. Shared traditions also help us cope with family transitions—such as a birth, death, or “empty nest”—by allowing us to reconnect through stories and rituals unique to a particular relationship and by expressing intimate feelings that deepen our love and sense of belonging.
Often, it is not until we stop engaging in a tradition or ritual, or lose a loved one who was an integral part of a tradition, that we realize how much it meant to us and to the relationship. There are also times when we discover that our relationship is without rituals and is suffering because of it. Couples need to be intentional about establishing and maintaining meaningful rituals and traditions, such as those in the following suggestions.
Create daily rituals. Try to integrate repeated and significant shared interactions into daily life. Share in the preparation of the evening meal, hide notes in your spouse’s lunch box,
or incorporate a meaningful greeting or
Have fun together. Share activities that both of you enjoy. Go to the mountains every weekend in the summer, paint Easter eggs together,
attend sports events, or visit art galleries.
Avoid unnecessary conflict during your special time together.
Prioritize conversation. Establish a regular time to talk and learn about your partner’s life.
Develop shared private rituals, such as a
signal to let each other know when you are
in the mood for sexual intimacy—perhaps
a secret phrase or turning down the lights
in the bedroom.
Create your own special-occasion rituals, such as a getaway to the city every New Year’s Eve or making your partner a different “themed” birthday cake each year.
Pause to reflect. Consider occasional meeting times, as a couple, for reminiscing, enjoying,
or discussing your unique family moments
Erin F. Boyd-Soisson, Raeann R. Hamon,
and M. Njoroge Mbito