By Tracy Henderson, LMHCA
How many times have you had a conversation with a friend or colleague about their recent weekly “date night” and all the while they were beaming with excitement projecting a joy that you haven’t felt in some time? Meanwhile, you power through the conversation and reciprocate your happiness for them but subsequently walk away with a hint of angst regarding your own “date night” dilemma. When you learn to create your own ritual, you create more connection.
Your mind races back and forth dissecting the advantages your friend or colleague has over you. Their advantages include close family nearby to watch their kids and flexible work schedules. Your challenges include a partner who travels frequently and families that live several states away.
There are numerous logistical challenges associated with consistently executing a weekly “date night.” You’re not alone in this battle. In addition, to the logistical challenges of setting up a weekly ritual there are also many mental stressors that can weave their way into the situation. You may be asking yourself what should we do? Where should we go? Why am I always the one planning this? My partner always shoots down my ideas.
When couples find themselves in a situation where they see more challenges to connect than opportunities, I like to offer an alternative perspective. While it is important for formal rituals of connection to be a part of the relationship there are numerous informal opportunities that can take place everyday. The beauty in these everyday informal opportunities is that they already exist, all you need to do is acknowledge them as rituals and create an intention around them. Dr. John Gottman has often written about the importance of rituals in both relationships and in families.
- Set the alarm 30-45 minutes ahead and make time to cuddle and share physical affection.
- Eat breakfast or have a cup of coffee/tea together to welcome the day.
- Before your partner leaves for the day find out one thing that is going to happen in their day.
- Always send your partner off with a warm hug and meaningful kiss.
- Call your partner and check-in regarding their day or send them a thoughtful text message.
- Always welcome your partner home with a warm hug and meaningful kiss.
- Share in preparing dinner or cleaning up afterwards together.
- Turn on some music and relax together while listening to your favorite songs.
- Take 30 minutes each night to sit quietly and allow each other to share what is happening in each other’s world.
While formal rituals such as “date night” can be a well deserved nice escape they are often few and far between. Which is why I commonly advocate for more informal connections. As part of this process, it is critical to share the underlying meaning and why the need is important between each partner. When we know what our partner needs and understand what our partner gets from these rituals, we unlock a powerful opportunity to create more frequent rituals of connection with one another.
The key for these informal rituals of connection to be successful is understanding what it means to your partner and how it brings you two together. On the surface, it may not sound sexy to set a ritual of folding the laundry and matching socks together although, I have heard from my clients that while the laundry doesn’t always get folded, a new ritual of connection takes place!