Last month, I attended the World Meeting of Families (WMOF)event here in Singapore. I had the opportunity to hear many families share about the challenges they faced and how they have worked through family and marital issues.
Many families shared on the things they did to strengthencouple & family life. For example, one couple shared that they make it a point every morning to have breakfast together before they go about their day. Another couple talked about having dates with each of their children at least once a month so that their children feel special.
I couldn’t help but recall that in the Gottman Method Couple Therapy (GMCT), one of the intervention methods to strengthen marriage is to build rituals of connection; this is exactly what these families were doing.
What is a ritual of connection?
As part of the Sound Relationship House (SRH), one important tenet of this model is to create shared meanings in a relationship. One important way to create shared meaning is to build connections – to intentionally create rituals of emotional connection – both informal & formal ones.
For example, there might be a time set aside in a couple’s life where both can talk about things and be emotionally connected. It can be part of a daily, weekly routine.It’s a time that you can count on that you can share your innermost thoughts and feelings and share each other’sattention.
According to Gottman, many couples leave important events of emotional connection as the very last thing they do in a busy schedule. Because of this, these emotional connections rarely happen, usually not because of an intention to actively avoid one another, but because people don’t plan or make time for them. If these events are built as regular rituals (formal or informal), they become dependable times that people can derive contact, connection, and meaning in their families. It is precious.
John & Julie Gottman shared their ritual of connection – annual honeymoon. They will go to the same bed & breakfast and book the same room in the same B&B in Salt Spring Island. They will spend their time kayaking and talkingto deepen their connections.
My wife Lilly and I have been married for over 30 years. So, what is our ritual of connection? Lilly and I go for a 45 mins walk after dinner every evening. We started our daily neighbourhood walks because we wanted to exercise. But it has become much more than that. During our walks, we connect with each other’s plans, thoughts, worries, etc. This is our special way to tune in to each other’s day and moods and we make this a priority to invest in this form of couple time.
The walk frees us from the distractions of the children and the house. We would hold hands during our walk, and this immediately makes us feel united and close with each other. Our conversations are wide ranging – sometimes serious or we might joke or goof around. When we talk about difficult problems, we may feel agitated and stressedbut we continue to thrash out the conversations during these walks, hard as they may be. We find that our nightly walks have become a comfortable routine which we can easily do without too much planning and the routine can be maintained even when we were on vacations. So, I believe we have clocked many steps since we have gone on our nightly walks for the last 3 decades.
Don’t be afraid to take that first step to start creating meaning & traditions in the relationships that you treasure. An examinedlife is conducive to self-connection and to others.
Our lives are meant to have meaning &our stories are unique. We are meaning-makers as a species.We are gifted with an innate ability to think deeply and neurobiologically our brains are more evolved than other living species.
Many people go through life unintentionally. However, we have choices that can change our daily lives and yet have a long-term positive impact.
So, what is your ritual of connection with your spouse or family member?
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