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Relationships need rituals. With our children, we all recognize the need for rituals. We hug and kiss them goodbye and hello. We might have the ritual of reading or singing to them before bedtime, eating certain meals together, perhaps engaging in a spiritual practice, or we might have a ritual of doing something together like gardening. When my children were small I used to put a note of encouragement or love in their lunch box on a regular basis. Perhaps, you have a personal sharing ritual with your children? For a while, we used to do the “What was the best part of your day?”- Question at dinner. In fact, the day with children is full of deliberate moments of ritual behaviour.
We say the children need rituals. I would like to claim that it is not just the children but the relationship itself which needs the rituals. Rituals give us predictability and help us to be emotionally connected with each other; they make our relationships stronger. As our children become older, some rituals change or fall by the wayside. However, those rituals were part of the reason why the connection between us exists.
We all have birthday rituals. In our family, the birthday girl or boy is being woken up with a song in the morning. The cake later in the day, with the ritual of singing and blowing the candles out, making a wish is another common ritual in many families. Birthday presents are rituals. We all have our rituals around different holidays. They all strengthen the bond between the members of the family engaging in those rituals.
“Rituals are an important part of belonging. They are repeated, intentional ceremonies that recognize a special time or connection. Rituals engage us, emotionally and physically, so that we become riveted to the present moment in a positive way.” (Sue Johnson, Hold Me Tight)
My dad calls us every Sunday morning. This is a ritual established more than 60 years ago as his mother, my grandmother, could already be counted on calling every Sunday morning. When I know we will be out, I’ll let him know, not because he will otherwise worry, my dad is pretty laid back despite being in his 80ties, but because it acknowledges our ritual and shows both of us that we value and treasure it.
Fourteen years ago, when I first moved to this area, I very quickly made a new friend, another mother from the school my older daughter was attending. Right from the start, we established a strong ritual. Once a month we went on a girl’s night out, going to dinner and a movie afterwards. This ritual lasted long after our children were not attending the same school anymore and they had lost touch with each other. Our friendship remained strong due to our ritual.
Then our lives became so busy that we did not have a lot of time anymore to go out at night and we changed our ritual to go for lunch. However, that new ritual did not have the same strength as our old one. I am sad to say that our lunch dates became more and more infrequent and our friendship drifted apart. Friendships need rituals. Some friendships need regularly shared activities, other friendships can survive on picking up the phone twice a year on each other’s birthday. However, without recognizing the bond in an intentional way, the friendship is going to struggle to survive.
The one relationship which we sometimes forget when it comes to rituals is our partnership or marriage. When I was married to my first husband, we didn’t go out anymore for regular dates after the children were born. We didn’t recognize the importance of alone time and rituals to keep our bond strong. Regular small gestures or ways of connecting go a long way in keeping a relationship healthy.
What rituals do you have—or would you like to establish—in your primary love relationship? Do you touch, kiss and hug as part of your day, on waking up, going to sleep, leaving the house or coming home? Do you call or text during the day, not just to exchange information but to connect emotionally? Do you take a new class together, for example learning a language, or taking a cooking class, or dance class together? Do you have a special time together, for example having your morning coffee together or maintaining a regular date night or weekend getaway?
Other bonding rituals, deliberately structured moments of connecting, are validating your partner’s struggles and victories on a regular basis, for example, “I am so amazed how you are able to…”, “I am proud of you for pushing through…”, or “I saw you struggle in that situation. You did your best…”
Publicly recognizing your partner and your relationship in front of friends or family members is another way of strengthening the bond. Some couples renew their vows; others are comfortable expressing their love on Facebook. But even a simple thank you in front of other people on a regular basis is a ritual that strengthens the relationship. Or a gesture of gratitude like bringing flowers home with a sincere thank you “for everything you do”.
Attachment theorist Sue Johnson (“Hold Me Tight”) views our intimate love relationship as the primary way to heal childhood attachment issues. She teaches that the way to save and enrich a relationship is to reestablish a safe emotional connection.
As mentioned above, one ritual for some couples is to take a workshop together. Many couples who have taken our workshops have established a ritual of helping each other to change subconscious beliefs. I am teaching muscle testing during the four-day Shadow Energetics Workshop. We will learn to muscle test others and how to do self-muscle testing.
To learn more contact
905-286-9466 (free phone consultation) or
For 2016 workshop dates and locations go to Upcoming Workshop.
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