Marriage Rituals

November 7th, 2011

In a previous post, we discussed how to make time for your partner. With all the over-scheduling that occurs in families these days, we can do well to make time for one another even just for a few minutes.

Along with making time for our spouse, William Doherty—author of “Take Back Your Marriage”—also suggests creating marriage rituals.

Rituals are repeated, coordinated, and significant actions that have a positive emotional meaning to both parties. Rituals are different than routines in that they are able to express love and deep connection in everyday life. They allow couples to say, “I love you and you are special to me,” just by their small actions.

There are three different kinds of rituals: connection, love, and special occasion. Connection rituals are more low-key, everyday actions that show comfort and love to your partner. Love rituals express deep affection and passion. And special occasion rituals are pretty much explained in the name. They are rituals that you have for anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, etc.

I want to focus more on connection rituals. Connection rituals are very important for relationships because they are able to show your partner that although you may be busy, you are still being intentional in your efforts and expressing love whenever you can.

Almost anything can be turned into a connection ritual as long as it focuses on the relationship. My husband and I have a ritual when my husband leaves for school in the morning. I am not a morning person at all. And if the baby is still sleeping, then I’m still sleeping. So when my husband leaves for school, I’m not always awake and coherent to give him a meaningful goodbye. So what we decided is if I wasn’t awake when my husband left for school, he will come in to give me a kiss on the cheek before he leaves. And then usually I wake up to actually say goodbye and I love him.

For us, this is a great ritual to help carry us through the day and remember our love for one another. My day is always so much better if my husband takes the time to kiss me on the cheek. And it means so much to me that if he forgets to kiss me on the cheek, then I’m worrying the whole day that something is wrong. That’s how important it’s become for me.

Doherty tells a memorable story about a connection ritual from a woman in the audience at one of his conferences. She said that at one point in her marriage, she was feeling disconnected from her husband and it was creating stress in their marriage. They both led busy lives at work and home. One day she came home and no one even seemed to notice, no one, that is, except the dog.

The dog came bounding to the door with a tail wagging so hard it was nearly lethal, jumping up on her and barking and licking her face. Then it struck her. Later that evening she asked her husband as non-judgmentally as she could, “Why aren’t you as happy to see me as the dog?” Rather than take her question as a criticism, he said, “You’re right. I should be happier than the dog.” She confessed that she was guilty of this oversight too. What happened next is memorable. Right there they decided to implement a daily reconnection ritual. When one spouse got home from a long day, the other spouse had to out-do the dog in their greeting! She described some of the antics this entailed and the audience roared with laughter. But then she related how it may have saved her marriage. It was a key to reminding each other how important their marriage was and encouraging daily action.

Each relationship will have different rituals that mean something to them. What are some rituals you and your partner have to help connect during the day or week? Or what are some rituals you hope to start implementing? Share them in the comments!