January 16, 2009

Rituals of Connection

I see so many couples in my practice who are “crazy, busy,” as one recent book describes it. I have used the term “always on,” to describe the current state of the contemporary American. This often leads to couples telling me they have no time for the little things I suggest they do to work on their relationship. Research shows that spending more positive time together every week is critical for improving marriages. Because it is unlikely society will slow down, it is critical that we take responsibility and have the intention to change, and invest the attention and time in those we say we love.

One way to do this is to create “rituals of connection,” those little daily or weekly habitual things we can do to invest in each other. I use the term “invest” specifically, because we often take for granted that our relationships will flourish on their own. If I had forever to live, one of my projects would be to go into every bookstore and library and change the last line of every fairy tale from …”and they lived happily ever after,” to “… and they lived happily ever after, because they worked their butts off.”

When I asked a wife years ago about the little things she and her husband did to keep their relationship alive, she responded, “Like Q-tip notes?” I told her I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but I was interested to hear more. She told me that she and her husband would spell out little love notes on the bathroom counter for each other using Q-tips. I said, “Perfect.” Those are the little things that we can all do to keep the intimacy (being friends) and the passion (being lovers) alive over time. Now, I am not suggesting a stampede to the nearest pharmacies for Q-tips, as this is a ritual that works for this couple. But, we must be intentional and creative in making these little things happen on a regular basis for love to remain alive. In fact, I will be writing more about this issue in a short article on keeping intimacy and passion alive over distance and time in the near future.