Thanksgiving is upon us and that warms my heart. Over the past 20 years my husband and I have unwittingly developed rituals around this day of gratitude. We honor his family tradition of tamales and football and my love of Brussels sprouts and my friend Mary, who has spent 18 of the last 20 Thanksgivings with us. When any of these things are missing from our day, it simply doesn’t feel right.
And that is how rituals go. They are routines that create shared meaning in relationships and strengthen emotional connections. Notice that Creating Shared Meaning is at the top of the Sound Relationship House, the model we use in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. Rituals are important in relationships because we look forward to them . . . they symbolize who we are as a couple or as a family. They have the power to smooth over rough spots and transitions that we all naturally experience over the course of time.
We tend to think of rituals on holidays, especially ones that honor cultural heritage, faith or family values. But rituals on a smaller scale are equally important. How couple and families routinely come together creates a sense of belonging. Rituals demonstrate that we take time out of our busy schedules to make one another a priority.
Here are some examples of rituals from my own family, as well as ones I have heard from other couples and families:
Rituals create positive memories and are like glue in relationships . . . they keep you connected. What are the rituals in your relationships?