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Connecting through Shared Rituals

It isn’t uncommon to have a couple in my office who is fairly stable, and happy in their relationship to pose this statement: “We communicate well, we respect & trust each other, we manage our conflicts well, we are both on the same page with our finances, our sex life is great…but something seems missing!

This isn’t a new story. Couples describing that level of stability will generally continue to grow in their love and appreciation for each other. But what if there was that next level? Dr. John Gottman, in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, describes the importance of creating a shared meaning like this: “Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores and making love. It also has a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner-life together – a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be part of the family that you have become.” Simply put, shared rituals lead to a deeper sense of connection and identity for a couple, family, and as an individual.

We can begin by doing some very simple ideas to nurture our rituals of connection, such as:

  • Pick a place to have special family or couple time. Maybe it’s a café or restaurant. Maybe it’s a bench on a hiking path, a beach, or maybe even your sofa or kitchen table.

  • As a couple or even as a family, explore what gives each of you a feeling of togetherness. Games? Baking? Talking? Volunteering? Bed time routines? Waking up routines? Holidays?

  • What do you want these moments to look like, feel like? What were they like as a child? What did you like, and dislike? How will we make these things special for us?

Shared rituals help us connect to our partner and to our children in many different ways – emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, and establishing healthy rituals can guide us through the bigger existential questions in life that was posed at the beginning – what’s missing?


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