The Rituals in Our Marriage That Keep Us Close
Terry Gaspard identifies the six habits of happily married people.
There is definitely an art and a science to successful marriage. In order for your marriage to thrive, it’s important to create daily rituals of spending time together, showing fondness and esteem to your partner, and learning to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. Shared meaning and friendship are the glue that can hold a marriage together.
According to relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman, the key to a successful marriage is to reflect daily upon the importance of how you spend your time and developing rituals that promote better communication and attunement with your partner.
Most of our daily lives are run by habits and rituals and they keep us productive and emotionally regulated. For instance, did you take a shower first thing this morning and then have your morning cup of java before you jumped in your car to begin your day? In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg posits that habits are crucial to success in all realms of our life. They make us more productive, healthy, and shape our lives in a multitude of ways.
It’s about time we looked at ways to adopt daily and weekly habits or rituals to enhance our marriage. As a nation, we tend to invest more time in work and social activities than we do in our intimate relationships. It’s no wonder our divorce rate hovers around 50% for first time marriages and over 60% for second and third marriages in the US today.
Creating daily and weekly rituals with your partner will help you to learn more about his or her passions and dreams. Author Nathaniel Branden explains that if you find time to admire your partner, not just for how he or she acts with you, but for how they operate in all spheres of their life, it will strengthen your love when it is being tested by adversity and conflicts. In The Psychology of Romantic Love Branden suggests that admiration is the most powerful foundation for a relationship.
6 Rituals for a Successful Marriage:
Eat meals together daily. It may not be possible to do this each day but if you strive to eat five meals a week together, you’ll probably find you’re sitting down at the table together most nights. Turn off the TV and cell phones (no texting) and tune into your partner.
Set aside at least 30 minutes each day to sharpen your communication skills. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey advises us to seek first to understand: then to be understood. Open up the lines of communication with your partner by tuning in to what he or she is saying and validating him or her — even if you don’t agree. This should not be a complaint session but rather an opportunity to discuss things going on between you and to express your thoughts, feelings, and wishes.
Adopt a time weekly time to discuss a positive vision for your relationship: This will help you feel connected and develop a clear picture of where you are heading. Discuss your values and thoughts about a range of topics such as mundane matters (purchases) as well as heavier topics such as in-law issues and raising your children and/or stepchildren. Start with setting three goals that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that it can take up to a month to see any change.
Write down your shared vision and prioritize: Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep the focus on spending time together alone and with your kids. For instance, in our house we have pizza on Tuesday nights and eat at a restaurant twice a month. This gives us six nights a month to spend more time together when we aren’t so focused on cooking and cleaning up.
Find time for physical exercise and excitement each day. Try to power walk around the neighborhood or on a hiking trail or bike path. 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.
Hug it out and find ways to show physical affection. It has been proven that hugging your partner for even thirty seconds a day actually increases your intimacy and passion. According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases feel good hormones. Holding hands, hugging, touching, and making out can release oxytocin (the bonding hormone) that reduces pain and causes a calming sensation. Studies show that it’s released during sexual orgasm as well. Physical affection also reduces stress hormones — lowering daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Never underestimate the power of having a great time with your partner. Doing silly things like singing in the shower together or body surfing at the beach 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.
Creating daily or weekly rituals will enable you to spend quality time together. Carve out time to be with your partner so you don’t become “two ships passing in the night.” Focus on spending time doing enjoyable activities that bring you both pleasure. Dr. John Gottman suggests that couples make a commitment to spend a magic five hours a week together. Taking time to process your dreams can bring you closer and strengthen your marriage.