When veteran parents give advice to new parents, they often start by explaining the value of routines: bedtimes, storytimes, mealtimes, etc. Well, guess what? We may outgrow footed pajamas and Sippy cups, but we don’t outgrow our need for rituals—repeated, regular events you come to rely on, routines that help you gauge your days.
The Power of Love Rituals
Your relationship can benefit from the structure of routines as much as you do. The key is to create rituals with your partner. Of course, this isn’t to say that you and your partner shouldn’t be open to spur-of-the-moment decisions, too. A well-balanced life includes both spontaneity and planned activities. The lesson here is to learn how to share them with your partner.
Couples’ rituals should include things of a romantic nature as well as very ordinary, simple activities. Because much of life consists of mindless chores that have to get done, don’t just think of including your partner when it seems exotic or grand: include him/her with some of the mundane details of life and you transform basic life tasks into opportunities for strengthening your couplehood.
When you create rituals around things you and your partner share, you create a new life, a synthesis of two previously solitary lives, and thereby create a sanctuary from the outside world. Choosing and maintaining routines as a couple makes you stronger and happier at home and therefore better equipped to handle the often-stressful, demanding world outside your home.
The alternative—coming together only when you absolutely have to—is a sad one. Even if many of your pursuits are solitary or undertaken with friends, if you’re maintaining a household together, you’ll have to meet with your partner around certain issues. And if you only share things when life forces you to, you’re sharing only life’s unpleasant necessities (which are often financial), many of which are highly stressful. Follow that scenario a step further and you’ll see how it’s then easy to associate your partner with the difficult facets of life.
Before we go any further, it’s important to clarify something. The suggestion to create couples’ rituals with your partner does not mean that you shouldn’t have activities that you carry out either by yourself or with friends. In addition to caring for your relationship, you must nurture yourself as an individual, too, and it’s certainly appropriate for each of you to have routines that don’t include the other. However, when those outweigh common ones, you need to turn your attention back to your relationship and see where shared routines can fit.
If you’re having trouble thinking of some, here are a few ideas:
Eat. Okay, so you have to eat. Make food fun rather than just a means of survival. Eat together whenever your schedules permit. Choose a day of the week when you’ll eat out together (and don’t let anything interfere with that time). Plan meals together, grocery shop for those meals together, and even prepare them together. Can’t cook? Take a class together and challenge yourselves. This is a simple way to take something you have to do (sustain yourself through food) and create special, shared rituals around it.
Love. It’s no secret that a physical expression of your love increases intimacy and therefore strengthens the bond with your partner. But when your list of things you must get done exceeds the time you have allotted, pleasurable, voluntary things like making love often get postponed. If you find this happening, set aside a day or a time of the day when both of you are alert, available, and ready to show each other how you feel (without needing to say a word!).
Learn. Create rituals around opening your minds and expanding what you already know. Take a class together. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a new language and your partner loves to travel; try to blend those interests and learn the language of the country your mate would most like to visit. Learning a skill together is a ritual you undertake today that paves the way for future rituals.
Relationships often start big—with big events and big feelings that sweep you off your feet. However, those initially explosive things won’t hold a relationship together in the long run. It’s in the day-to-day rhythms that you create, the small but meaningful interactions with your partner, where the two of you will connect, discover and re-discover each other and make your union resilient for the years to come.
For more ideas on how to create rituals with your partner, visit http://StrengthenYourRelationship.com/ and sign up for the free Relationship Toolbox Newsletter. You’ll also receive two FREE reports that will help you achieve your relationship potential.
Rich Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples protect the sanctuary of their relationship.