Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW
THE GOTTMAN RELATIONSHIP BLOG
In his book The Intentional Family, Bill Dougherty discusses “rituals of connection” as an important tool for successful relationships. A ritual of connection is a way of regularly turning towards your partner that can be counted on.
Erica and Rob, both in their late forties, have been happily married for ten years and are raising three children. When I asked Rob about the rituals in their marriage, he reflects:
We hug every day when I get home because physical touch is one of my Love Languages. Erica is not as affectionate as I am, but she’s up for it because she know’s how important it is to me.
Couples with relationships rich in rituals and traditions are able to create shared meaning, the top level of the Sound Relationship House.
Daily rituals shape our lives in positive ways
In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains that habits are crucial to success in all realms of our life. Overall, they make us more productive and healthier. In a relationship, Dr. Gottman calls these habits rituals of connection.
Here are five rituals to help your relationship thrive.
1. Eat meals together without screens
It may not be possible to do this for every meal, but whenever possible, turn off the TV and put away your cell phone. Your emails and Facebook feed can wait.
2. Have a stress-reducing conversation
Spend 30 minutes each day having a “how was your day, dear?” talk. Kyle Benson explains that the purpose of this conversation is to discuss external stress. It’s not a time to bring up issues about your relationship. Couples who actively listen, take turns sharing how they feel, and show compassion to each other will reap the rewards of more emotional connection in their marriage.
3. Take a vacation
Take an annual vacation without the kids to somewhere you both agree upon. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have an annual honeymoon in the San Juan Islands off the coast of British Columbia. If your budget doesn’t allow you to take a vacation, you might try camping or looking for moderately priced accommodations nearby for a long weekend.
4. Exercise together
Go biking together every Saturday morning or take a daily post-dinner walk with your partner. Add a little novelty and excitement by trying kayaking in the summer or cross country skiing in the winter months. Studies show that sharing an exciting experience can bring couples closer together.
5. Share a six-second kiss
A daily six-second kiss will increase your emotional and physical intimacy. According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone), can improve our mood (for days), and can help you stay calm. Holding hands, hugging, touching, and making out can reduce your stress hormones (cortisol) and increase your sense of relationship satisfaction. If kissing for six seconds feels like too much, share a hug like Erica and Rob.
Never underestimate the power of intentional time with your partner. Doing fun things together like singing in the shower or riding a bike can bring joy and laughter. Telling jokes, watching funny movies, or anything else that brings you both pleasure can ignite passion and keep you connected.
Dr. John Gottman suggests that couples commit to a magic six hours a week together, which includes rituals for saying goodbye in the morning and reuniting at the end of the day. Sticking to these rituals will help you to reconnect when life gets in the way.