To start off this month’s blog, I want to ask you an important question. In your everyday life, how much time you do you actually spend with your partner? Not just being around him/her, but actually spending quality time with them and connecting? Compare this to the amount of time you used to spend with them in the first year of your relationship. If you’re finding that it’s a lesser amount, you’re not alone. In the midst of our busy life, it is really easy to take our partner for granted and miss the opportunity to actually connect with them. This is especially true when you have kids. Over time, you become more like roommates than lovers. When we don’t feel connected, conflicts tend to escalate quicker. It’s easier to get caught in the blame game. The antidote to this is what renown marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman, calls Rituals of Connection; time put aside each day to truly connect with our partner.
Although the term ritual often has religious overtones, it really only refers to any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner. They can be anything, as long as they are performed in a regular and set pattern. Performed enough and eventually it will become a ritual, because your partner will expect that type of behavior from you at specific times. They, in turn, may either pick up the same ritual or develop a complementary response.
So, how do you incorporate rituals into your relationship? There are actually important moments during the day that you can use in order to create a better connection with your partner.
Leaving the house
When you leave the house in the morning, take a minute or two to connect with your partner. Ask them what their biggest task for the day is or if there’s a specific goal they want to focus on. Then, let them ask you something about your day.
Coming back home in the evening
Reuniting at the end of a long day apart is the perfect opportunity for a ritual. Spend a moment or two reconnecting physically by giving them a hug or a kiss, as well as verbally by asking them a couple of questions about their day. Ask what the highlight of their day was and what the most challenging part of their day was.
Whenever you have the opportunity to sit down and have a meal with your partner, you could make it part of your ritual to eliminate distractions. Leave your phones in another room, turn off the TV, and put on some gentle background music. Set the tone for having meaningful interactions with your partner and connecting with them.
Going to bed at night
Your partner is the first person you see every morning and the last person you see every night. Once you are in bed together, spend a couple of minutes to enjoy each other’s undivided attention. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect physically: cuddling with each other, holding hands, back rubs, etc.
Having a date night
Establishing a date night is another great ritual. Figure out what day, time of day, and frequency works best for you both. Add Date Night to your calendar. I also recommend coming up with activities to do beforehand so you’re not stuck figuring out what to do.
If you currently aren’t observing rituals in your relationship, I would highly recommend trying them on for size. Again, they can be as simple and small, or as intricate and involved, as you want them to be. But they will definitely add a special touch to your time together and, simultaneously, increase your feelings of connection to your partner.