Does it ever feel difficult to find time to nurture your marriage amidst the hustle and bustle of life? You are not alone. The trend in our society seems to be moving toward adding more and more things to our schedules. Whether it is taking care of the kids, work commitments, driving the kids to the sports practices and music lessons, volunteer responsibilities, school, etc. Just thinking about it all makes me tired!
So how do we make marriage a priority while not neglecting our other responsibilities? Dr. William Doherty, a well-known marriage researcher, suggests daily couple rituals as a simple means to make each other a priority in a marriage relationship. I suggest them to couples I work with in counseling all the time because they improve the emotional connection in a marriage. Couple rituals are social interactions that are repeated, coordinated, and significant for both of you. They may not be convenient, but they are essential for healthy emotional connection. Here are 5 simple rituals:
1. Talk rituals: Set aside 15 minutes each day for un-interrupted talking time. Let the kids know that it is mom and dad time, and unless they are bleeding profusely, don’t let them interrupt. It can actually be very healthy for kids to see their parents having healthy communication. Make sure you are not folding laundry, checking emails, or anything else that would distract you from paying attention to each other. Don’t talk about logistical issues such as who will take the kids to soccer practice tomorrow. Think about the type of things you talked about when you first got together – talk like that. I recommend you set a specific time (such as right after dinner, after you put the kids to bed, etc) to ensure that it happens every day. If one of you travels for work, talk by phone.
2. Greeting rituals: Anytime one of you returns from being gone for more than an hour or two, stop what you are doing, give each other a hug and a kiss, tell each other it’s great to see you. It won’t take more than 10 or 15 seconds, but it will help nurture your relationship. If you need ideas, think of how a dog reacts when you come home. They stamp their feet and spin in circles. You have no doubt the dog is happy to see you. Wouldn’t it be great if you got that excited to see each other?
3. Departure rituals: Making sure you always say goodbye with affection. This is similar to the greeting rituals. Shouldn’t we all be sad to say goodbye to our spouse? Show it. Tell them you love them.
4. Message rituals: I suggest you try to send some kind of nice message to each other every day. You could leave notes for each other, text each other, send cute emails, write on each others Facebook page, etc. Be creative.
5. Sleep rituals: Go to bed at the same time. This is not the same as going to sleep at the same time. I bring that up because couples are always using the excuse that one likes to go to bed later than the other, or one works the night shift. If one of you wants to stay up after the ritual, that is fine. It his healthy for a relationship to have a ritual that ends the day together. It could be as simple as having 5 minutes to connect again at the end of the day, give each other a hug and a kiss, debrief the day, and let each other know you love each other.
If you are not doing these things at present it may feel a bit contrived at first, but that’s ok. Give it time and it will start to feel natural. Doing all of these things will only take a total of about 30 minutes a day. They will be 30 minutes that really count for your relationship because you will be making your relationship a priority. If you don’t think you have the time, make it. It will be worth it in the end.