Rituals for a Better Marriage

Rituals: A Bowl of Comfort Food for the Couple

As far back as 20,000 BC, people began making soup. Of course with limited resources and ingredients, it was not a hardy bowl of your modern day chicken, noodles, vegetables, and delicious spices. It was not until the 1700s when immigrants began contributing their own ingredients and spices that the originally simple broth we called soup burgeoned into a universal dish of endless varieties. Today, every country has a soup that represents some of its staple ingredients, culture, and history. Individuals similarly enter relationships with their own recipes of what life should look like on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. When one person’s ingredients for tradition and routine combines with another in a relationship, they have created their own soup or rituals unique to them.

Rituals are routines in relationships that carry a specific meaning. They can occur repeatedly at different time periods. They can be as simple as dinner every night at a specific hour to how and where birthdays are celebrated to the way in which you take care of one another when one of you gets sick. We need rituals to deepen our relationships because they give us a sense of belonging, meaning, and security. Rituals also help the couple learn about each other’s values and the beliefs they hold close to their hearts.

I always tell my couples no matter how similar their cultural backgrounds or whether they are the same ethnicity, the household in which you grew up in your family is ultimately the culture unique to you and only you. The experiences, both good and bad, the way your family handled conflict, the order in which you opened Christmas presents, the person in charge of carving the thanksgiving turkey, the pizza toppings you chose for Friday movie nights, these are all unique to your household culture. As they are repeated, they become the ingredients that become a part of who you are and how you approach life. Inevitably you will carry these ingredients of life with you into your long-term romantic relationship, expecting your partner to love the “taste” until you’re reminded that the delicious soup you had been used to all your life demands an acquired taste.

Today, more and more couples are moving in together before getting married and when they are asked what changes they anticipate after saying “I do”, their response is almost always, “we’ve lived together for a while now so getting married isn’t going to change anything”. But this is a very common misconception…marriage changes everything. Making a commitment isn’t just about moving from apartment 203 to apartment 415. When you move in with one another, you are sharing your ingredients, you are showing your significant other what a typical Monday looks like for you, how you prepare your meals the way mom did, what you expect the morning of your birthday because that’s what your family did for you every year. It is easier to understand you have different ingredients to offer when you first move in together but eventually the couple reaches a point in their relationship when they must combine what they brought into one pot and let it stew. At this point, your rituals and my rituals become our rituals. Sounds beautiful but some couples don’t transition so smoothly into this pot of comfort; change is not always a comfortable feeling for us humans, especially when it goes against behaviors and traditions we value. As mentioned before, rituals give us a sense of belonging and security so modifying our rituals might feel like we are giving up a part of who we are. So yes, when we view combining rituals from this perspective, that may be true; however, what if we viewed it as making room for other delicious ingredients we’ve never tried before? What if we viewed it as a recipe for the love we share with our significant other? What if we viewed it as an opportunity to create something we can call our very own? What if we viewed it as a chance to understand what gives our significant other comfort, meaning, and hope in life and why?

Rituals are an opportunity for growth. They are an opportunity to take your favorite ingredients and your significant other’s favorite ingredients and make something new and delicious. Making your bowl of comfort food requires patience, understanding, flexibility, and love. Allow time for the flavors to come together, accept that there might be certain ingredients that you may not be fond of but remember that openness to new ingredients will make a richer and more nutritious soup.

How to Make Your Relationship Soup Without Making a Mess in the Kitchen:

  1. Sit down with your significant other and independently make a list of your own family rituals
  2. Share your list with your significant other:

Answer questions such as what you liked and disliked about that ritual and whether you would change anything. If it is a ritual you would like to hold onto, why? What meaning does it carry for you? Help your partner understand while encouraging curiosity.

  1. Compare your rituals:

What do you have in common? What is different? Did you hear your partner mention anything that you would want to incorporate in your future together? Why do you think it would benefit your relationship?

  1. Create your own recipe

In detail, discuss the rituals in which you would like to create together. Include the specifics such as where, when, who, and how.

Sometimes it takes a few tries before getting the recipe just right. As a couple, continue playing with your ingredients until you feel you’ve created the right soup for you. Then, grab a couple spoons and dig in.