Having a lack of connection is one of the main sources of couple dissolution. A relationship that lacks connection can lead to decreased intimacy, affairs, and seeking comfort outside of the relationship. Having consistent times of connection can increase intimacy and decrease feelings of dissolution. Feeling that there is a lack of connection is a common concern I hear in couples counseling. The couple states they are feeling like the proverbial “strangers in the same home” or “feeling like roommates”. You may be wondering how did we get here? Where was the invisible landmine that catapulted us to this place? If you feel your relationship is become contractual divvying up of chores it’s time to start connecting again. You should never stop dating your significant other. Be encouraged the intimacy can come back if you work on connection daily.
When you feel more connected to your partner it is easier to feel like partners are come to a more mutual understanding. When the connection is off balance it is easier to get into an attack-defend or push-pull cycle. Having connection rituals bring structure and consistency to the relationship. These connections should involve the couple only. Some couples find it difficult to find time away from children. Make it a point to take time away even if that means the children are simply in the other room. An example of a ritual of connection is that my husband and I make it a point to give each other a hug and kiss first before we greet our daughter. We make it a point to keep each other the first priority outside of God.
The following are 5 categories of connection rituals. These rituals help couples create shared meaning and increases intimacy. The following are 5 categories that break down the rituals of connection.
1. The weekly one hour “State of the Union” conversation. In this time a couple should discuss (1) things that have been positive during the week, (2) exchange 6 unspoken affirmations, (3) discuss a problem if one is present, (4) ask each other, “What can be done differently for you to feel loved next week?
2. Rituals about sex. There are three separate categories that can be lumped into the rituals about sex.
a). A strategy to speak about sex. It is important for couples to be able to dialogue about their sex life.
b). A strategy to say no to sex that is not offensive. Finding a way to connect outside of physical is important. Being able to tell your partner that you are not in the mood has to come in a way that will not lead to feelings of rejection.
c). A strategy to initiate sex.
3. The weekly date. This is not to be misconstrued with a weekly date night where you go out with your significant other. This is more of a weekly emotional checkup. This is set up as having at least one hour where each person can check in emotionally. Each partner can take turns asking open ended questions to get to know what’s going on in the others world and mind.
4. The daily stress reducing conversation. This happens when there at least 30 minutes spent speaking about stressors. A key point would be to split the time evenly between each person where one person is the speaker and the other person is the listener. Having each person share their personal stress while the other partner listens is the most important part. A goal should be to solely listen, not problem solve or judge.
5. Daily cuddle time. Make it a point either every evening or every morning to have some time where you are cuddling, kissing, touching one another, embracing, holding hands, while you are engaging in another activity such as watching television, talking, or enjoying a movie. This is especially important if your significant others love language is touch. If you are unsure of your love language The Five Love Language test is a great resource.
Spiritual development. Another ritual category that I believe is important to grow with your partner in is spiritual connection. This can be daily devotionals with your partner, going to church, discussing spirituality, views, fasting and praying. Every year my husband and I fast for 21 days for the beginning of each year. Also,My husband and I do a night timedevotional on marriage or parenting each night. We also serve together every other Sunday at Church.
A great resource for learning more on rituals for connecting is Bill Dougherty’s book The Intentional Family. I love the title of the book because it does take intentionality to be a successful couple and to make quality connections. A ritual is a way that you can look forward to connecting with your significant other and grow together. In doing this you are more able to share what’s going on and creating more meaning in the relationship. Successful couples have ways they feel and stay connected more frequently than unsuccessful ones. Couples with relationships rich in rituals and traditions are able to create shared meaning, the top level of the Sound Relationship House. You can find more information on the sound relationship house and resources for connection by resourching Drs. John and Julie Gottman.