Rituals of connection are ways you and your partner can turn towards one another to consistently connect. They are reliable ways of building intimacy that range from informal daily interactions like saying goodbye before work to formal holidays and annual celebrations like birthdays. Of course, rituals are not just for partners. They occur within family units and in society as well. From bedtime routines with children to graduations and weddings, they’re all around us. For this article, I will emphasize how it appears in a couple, but the importance of rituals in any context is equally valuable and relevant.
What do they look like?
Rituals vary between partners, families, communities, and cultures. But below are some examples of dependable ways many of us promote care and respect with our partners.
- Greeting each other or saying goodbye.
- Eating meals together or as a family
- Showing appreciation
- Planning date nights
- Initiating sex
- Respectfully declining sex
- Planning and going on vacations
- Hosting parties
- Celebrating birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries
- Caring for one another when ill
- Dealing with stress or difficult days
- Bringing up issues in the relationship
- Getting children ready for school
These rituals are especially important during difficult times such as stress, conflict, or grief. The aim is for them to be integrated into our lives so that over time we do not have to consciously think about them. Or at least not very hard. They’re already there for us to build closeness with our loved ones without a lot of effort or thought. Some examples of these societal traditions include weddings and funerals. Both of these events require a lot of energy and often come with a lot of stress. The traditions around them provide structure to the events and grounding amidst big decisions and changes. That’s not to say that stress is eliminated, but it can be lessened due to the approaches already in place.
Developing a ritual of connection
What is a ritual you both already have or one that you’d like to incorporate into your lives? Consider the questions below to ask yourself and one another as you create this ritual.
- What is meaningful about this for you?
- When will this take place? Day, time, or after certain events.
- How often will this be done? How long should it last each time?
- Who will initiate it?
- Who will do what in this ritual?
- What will happen next?
- How will it end?
- How can we integrate this into our lives so we can count on it?
Given that these ways of connecting with our partner can be counted on, this builds trust within the relationship. The message that is often sent over time through these interactions is along the lines of “You matter to me and I want to prioritize this in order to connect with you.”
Rituals during conflict
There are daily rituals as well as circumstantial ones such as what to do when one or both partners become flooded. Or perhaps a ritual around how to address “difficult topics” or issues that have led to conflict in the past. It is often said that how a conversation starts is likely how it will end. So going in with a soft startup and clarifying the above questions can set you both up on the path towards connection even amidst conflict.
It’s not just about the rituals. It’s also how we respond to them with our partners. A ritual is much like a bid for connection, it’s just occurring more consistently. But we still have the choice to turn toward, away from, or against these rituals. Consider the rituals that already take place within your home and with your partner. What is working with them and what might need some tweaking? Are there rituals of connection you’d like to incorporate into your daily lives in order to promote affection and trust within your relationship? If so, which ones and why? Refer to the above questions to create a new ritual with your partner.
Consider what rituals were present in your family growing up. How did they form? What purpose did they serve? How were they maintained? Are there rituals that you continue in your life now? How are they serving you? Or how are they not serving you? Reflecting on our past can inform our needs and hopes moving forward.
Keep in mind, these rituals take time to develop. It may take energy up front and these rituals can be adapted over time depending on your needs. But the idea is to intentionally make rituals so that they promote connection within your relationship, family, and community.
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