Intentional Rituals You Can Start Today
In Wired for Dating, Stan Tatkin, PsyD. states that “you can and should be your partner’s best antidepressant and anti anxiety agent.” The following rituals not only create opportunities for connection but also reduce the stress burdens many of us carry today.
Sit down with your lover and select two rituals below that you’d like to try out in your relationship. Before implementing them, talk together about why these rituals will be meaningful to both of you. If there are prior experiences that come to mind during this discussion, such as childhood memories, take the time to share those in depth.
Finally, hash out the when, who, and what of how the ritual will occur to ensure that it is feasible to add the ritual to your lives. Try it for a trial period and then check back in with each other to assess how it went.
At mealtime without kids, you may find yourself plopped down on the couch watching the latest Netflix series, or browsing social media while sitting at the dining table.
With kids, conflicting work, school, and extracurricular activity schedules make it tough to find the time to connect with your lover at mealtime, or to have the energy to cook healthy food.
When meals are eaten together in a space that facilitates conversation, couples often feel more connected and as a result, tend to have fewer petty fights.
Here are 4 tips for enhancing your mealtime:
- Discuss who does what; such as who buys the food, who cooks the food, and who sets the table. One couple I worked with has one partner cook while the other partner sets the table before the kids join. Another couple takes turns cooking their favorite dishes.
- Think about how you connect. During the cooking process, a few couples would play some light music, pour a glass of wine, and talk to each other before the kids joined for the meal. It’s helpful to consider the environment of where the couple or family eats as well. Does it have a TV playing? Are cell phones allowed? Intentionally think about potential distractions and interruptions and decide in advance which ones both partners are okay with.
- Consider what the family as a whole might talk about at mealtime to further strengthen the bond. A billionaire’s father used to ask, “What have you failed at this week?” Other families discuss what they appreciate, or something they have accomplished. It’s also helpful to have clear rules around what shouldn’t be discussed, such as marital conflicts.
- Is the start and end clear? What signals the start of the meal? Is it a specific start time or someone telling the family it’s time for dinner? When does the ritual end? Is this when everyone has finished eating? Does everyone help out with the dishes?
If you struggle to find time for a romantic or family dinner each night, think of opportunities during morning and weekend meals, such as a regular Sunday brunch. Maybe on certain nights you can go out to eat, creating a ritual such as Taco Tuesdays.
Waking and Sleeping Together
Couples with mismatched sleeping styles, as in the case of an early bird paired with a night owl, can experience instability in the relationship. This can lead to more conflict, less time for shared activities, less sex, and less connecting conversation.
Tatkin believes that it’s healthy for partners, even those with different sleep styles, to discover ways to begin and end their days together with rituals.
Here are some ways to stay in sync:
- Get up early and share coffee, or go back to bed after a 15-minute conversation
- Cuddle for a few minutes before starting the day
- Tell each other one thing you appreciate about each other
- Cook breakfast together
- Pillow Gazing: Look into each other’s eyes and focus on softening the gaze for a few minutes before falling asleep
- Have some calming tea and talk while in bed
- Read to each other
- Express gratitude for your partner
Leaving for the Day and Reuniting at Night:
Home is wherever the relationship is, and how couples part and reunite influences their energy, self-esteem, and emotional connection.
When you or your partner leave for the day, do you embrace each other? Do you kiss? When you reunite, do you hug and tell your partner you missed them?
This study of 30 couples found that the men who returned home later in the day received no acknowledgment from their distracted family members. Being greeted in a loving way is a fantastic start to an evening at home. Here are some ideas:
- A six-second kiss. Dr. Gottman who has observed thousands of couples for 40 years calls this kiss a “kiss with potential.”
- A nice full hug that embraces both partners (not a one-arm type hug)
- Asking your partner what are they most excited about today? Or what are they worried about today? Dr. Gottman calls this building a map of your partner’s daily life.
- Tatkin suggests a “Welcome Home routine.” Greet your partner and give them a long hug and kiss.
- Hugging to relax: Dr. Schnarch, a renowned Couples Therapist, encourages partners to hold each other until they relax. This physical connection can help reduce stress and reconnect the couple. My partner and I often embrace for at least 30 seconds when the last partner gets home.