Alex and Paige* have several relationship rituals that keep them connected as a couple.
“Before my wife and I leave the house, we always kiss,” Alex says. “And when we kiss, we always kiss three times. Once a month, we have spa night, with a bubble bath and full body massages.”
Alex and Paige might not know it, but relationship rituals such as theirs have been the subject of study for decades. Results show that rituals strengthen marriages if they are meaningful to both husband and wife.
According to research by Michael I. Norton and Ximena Garcia-Rada of Harvard, couples with symbolically meaningful rituals feel more satisfied with their relationships than couples without rituals. They experience more positive emotions and feel more committed to their relationship.
Experienced counselors agree that regular rituals help couples stay connected.
“Here is essential marriage advice,” writes Peter McFadden in an Institute for Family Studies blog. “Marriage is long — we’re all going to get comfortable, busy, and tired at times — so establish daily rituals of connection to get in the rhythm of starting every day, reuniting every day, and ending every day with a positive connection.” This New York-based marriage coach has seen the power of positive relationship rituals over the years as he’s worked with 5,000 couples. He says positive rituals should last at least two minutes.
What rituals do you share with your spouse? If you want to build connection in your marriage, check out these ideas gathered from several Christian couples.
Examples of relationship rituals
- “My husband remembers our wedding date by doing something on the twelfth of every month. I try to make him a special meal on that date each month.”
- “When holding hands, we give three hand squeezes that mean ‘I love you.’ ”
- “My husband and I will leave sticky notes around the house when one of us leaves for a trip. Sometimes we’ll hide the notes and make it a game for the other one to find them all.”
- “We try to date at least once or twice a month. When we go to bed, I always put my left leg over his right leg. Since it gets too hot to cuddle, it’s our way of still having the physical touch to let the other know we love to be close to each other.
- “We hold hands when we pray.”
- “We sometimes sing questions and answers to each other like, ‘What’s for dinner?’ or ‘You got enough gas in the car?’ It’s silly and our own thing.”
- “We’ve prayed together every morning and night since before we were married 41 years ago. Before cell phones [when he wasn’t home], my husband would find a pay phone so we could pray together or even pay extra for long distance at the hotel.”
- “Something we instilled from the beginning to keep each other as our focus is no phones after 8 p.m. each night, no phones at meals, and every Friday is date night with no phones starting at 5 p.m.”
- “We text each other in the morning and go on a date every Sunday.”
- “In our neighborhood, we’re known as the couple who always takes a walk together at the end of the day.”
- “Before my husband leaves for work, he gives me a kiss while I’m sleeping. Then he goes to work and texts me, ‘Good morning my love.’ He’s never missed a day.”
- “We always say, ‘I love you’ when we leave for the day or go do something. I can’t leave without that ‘I love you’!”
- “We give each other a quick kiss before leaving or when coming home, and we talk or text at least once a day to stay connected.”
More relationship rituals
In Norton and Garcia-Rada’s research, couples shared similar simple — but meaningful — rituals:
- “Every Friday night we make popcorn and watch a movie together.”
- “We snuggle together in bed, watch films together, then we make love.”
- “When we kiss, we do it in threes. Not sure why this started, but after 22 years, it feels really weird if it is not in threes.”
- “I bring my spouse coffee in bed every morning.”
- “Every morning I text her good morning beautiful.”
- “We pray before I leave for work every day.”
- “We go to church at least every other week.”
As you consider how you’re daily connecting with your spouse, you might also examine your “relationship rituals” with God — individually and as a couple.
After 12 years of marriage, David Clarke and his wife, Sandy, were feeling disconnected. Through long talks, prayer and searching Scripture, David says they learned how to connect as a couple again.
“To love with God’s love in your marriage, you need to be connected to Him and joined spiritually to your spouse, placing God at the center of your relationship and growing closer to Him as a couple,” David says.
Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley also experienced a time when they were disconnected as husband and wife. After several years of helping others strengthen their marriages, the Smalleys realized they had neglected their own advice because of busyness and exhaustion. In their book, Reconnected, they share how God helped them reconnect and how other couples can also move closer to God and each other.
It shouldn’t be surprising to Christians that regular meaningful connection makes for stronger marriages, since we’re made in the image of a triune God — a God who wants us to be in relationship with Him and each other.
“When God says it’s not good for man to be alone, this is not some simple statement that sets the scene for the creation of Eve…” writes Glen Stanton in The Family Project with co-author Leon Wirth. “It explains to us that the need for intimacy with others is as basic as food and water… God put it so deeply into the smallest parts of us because we are created in His image.”
*Names have been changed.