Marriage is awesome and also hard. Embroider that on a pillow. My profundity amazes me.
Taking time and intentional effort to nurture this most important relationship (second only to God) makes all the difference. How do we carve out time for marriage nurturing with all the things we have happening in our lives? There’s chores to do, cars to maintain, food to buy and prepare, kids to manage…and feed…and put to bed, shows to watch, hobbies to pursue, and the list goes on. The answer here is to establish some marital rituals.
One of my favorite researchers is Bill Doherty. He write about intentional marriage over at smartmarriage.com. There I found this explanation of intentional marital rituals:
“A marital ritual is a shared activity that you do on a repeated basis
(from daily to yearly) that has meaning for you as a couple. It can be
small or big, splashy or simple, as long as it is a regular part of your
life that helps you stay connected as a couple.”
On his website, Doherty has invited people to share their fun and bonding marital rituals. Lots of people talk about a regular (weekly or monthly) date night, where phones are off and the focus is on the couple. Others talk about annual traditions that they love. Y’all should definitely check it out. One of my favorite examples is from Doherty himself. He tells about a talk ritual he and his wife employ: after dinner, they send the kids to play for 15 minutes and just chat while they drink a cup of coffee.
According to Doherty, there are three parts to a marital ritual: 1) transition to ritual space, 2) enactment of the ritual, and 3) exit.
Surprise surprise, I love the first stage and the idea of having a PLACE to connect. Sometimes it’s an after dinner cup of tea on the porch, or other times it’s a candle-lit dessert after kids are asleep. It could be snuggled with a cozy blanket to watch a movie together on the couch, or holding hands while falling asleep in bed. All these things happen in PLACES, and the places and “props” trigger a memories, feeling, and particular behaviors, just as the set and scenery in a play make the story make sense and come alive.
Another of my favorite marital rituals embraces what’s known as the “crossroads.” Crossroads are when paths intersect, when family and time transitions are happening, and which include when people come and go from the home. When someone in the family (especially a spouse) passes through the doors of the home we have a huge opportunity to reinforce love. Some coming and going rituals can just be verbal reinforcements, and might include:
“Goodbye dear!” with a hug and a kiss.
“I’m so glad you’re home!”
“I love you!”
I read about a couple who made it a goal to “top the dog” with excitement when their spouse came into the house. They ran to the door (literally racing Sparky) and greeted the missed loved one with exuberance. That’s funny. And awesome.
I remember being a little girl with my bedroom above the garage. When my dad left for work in the early morning and I heard the garage door go up, I would SPRING out of bed and high tail it to wave him goodbye. (Okay that’s not a couple ritual per se, but you get my point.)
Chase and I always call each other when we’re about to start the journey back home from wherever we might be. For instance, when he’s all packed up from a day fishing on the lake and has started back, he’ll call and let me know. This gives us a chance to connect about the activity that just happened (“There were millions of fish! It was amazing!” Or “That was a really fun play date- we’ll have to come back to that park as a family!”) while the memories are fresh. It also gives the person coming home a chance to feel out the situation they’re about to walk into (“The kids are in bed and I’m just reading!” Or “Hurry up and get home before I lose my mind.”…. hypothetically…).
My challenge to you today is to find a crossroad, a leaving or coming, a going to bed or waking up, an after dinner or right before lunch, that you can ritualize with your spouse. Share your ideas in the comments below!