This was the question I asked many of my married friends.
BL’s crisp answer caught my attention.
“Nothing spectacular. We love movies and so we go for movies whenever new ones come out.’’
Nothing spectacular. We often think that enriching our marriage requires going to great lengths like organising a lavish birthday party, travelling to exotic destinations, or having fancy dinners at high-end restaurants.
Yet it is the day-to-day things that we do with or for our spouse on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis that can make the greatest impact in our marriage.
If these activities are shared and repeated on a regular basis, are they not routines? What is the difference?
Routines are repetitive actions we engage in every day; they create order and continuity, but they don’t have much emotional meaning. Rituals, while they have elements of routine, are symbolic, driven by intention and meaningful.
Rituals are essential in keeping your relationship strong and vibrant. Thus, if your goal is greater emotional intimacy, here’s a look at how these couples have benefited from rituals.
Rituals are especially important during uncertain times. Mel, married with two teenage boys, shared her reflection:
“The covid years where we work from home somehow inspired us to take more night walks after spending many hours working from home. During these brisk walks, we managed to talk more, and touch on many topics that would have escaped our attention during normal working hours. All the walking created a lot of self-awareness and allowed us to connect at a meaningful level.”
A trip to the supermarket with your spouse or a weekly swim or walk may seem ordinary, but couples who intentionally set aside time to exercise together relish the closeness and enjoyment they experience in sticking to these “boring” rituals.
Jennifer, married with young adult children, reflected:
“We hold hands even when we go to the neighbourhood shops or market to buy our weekly groceries. It reminds me of our courtship days where we hold hands when we are out on a date. It certainly makes me feel closer as a couple.”
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, a New York Times bestselling author on marriage, points out that “men hear criticism as contempt [while] women feel silence as hostility.”
At the heart of lies the different emotional needs of a man and a woman. We may want to avoid gender stereotypes, but we cannot deny that men often value respect over everything else, and women, being loved. Once we can understand this fundamental aspect of our spouse’s need, we can set our minds to meeting those needs and creating a positive cycle of interaction, instead of a negative one.
Read more about love and respect here.
Sylvia met and married her husband while working in Hong Kong for many years. Even after tying the knot and settling down in Singapore, the couple often reminisce their overseas experience. Thus, they establish an interesting ritual to keep their love alive:
“We love to go out and try new food together. And searching for Hong Kong food is certainly a bonding ritual. This couple activity reminds us of our courtship days and happy moments while we were working and living in Hong Kong.”
The daily rituals of talking to each other made us feel emotionally connected.
When YJ and her husband decided to take over the household chores after their helper left for her hometown permanently, doing these tasks was indisputably a chore initially. As they continued with this daily routine of maintaining the cleanliness of their home, something shifted in YJ.
The routine became a ritual of love and shared meaning, as narrated by YJ:
“Since our helper left, my husband and I took on the responsibility of doing household chores together. Providing a comfortable living environment for our children means a lot to us so we are willing to do the chores on an almost daily basis. I have a greater appreciation of my husband and his strengths. I feel so fortunate to have a partner who can complement me well, and it has brought us closer as a couple”
Jo and her husband resided in different countries for several months due to work commitments. When I asked how they protected the bonds of their marriage, Jo reflected:
“We had daily calls to check in on how we were doing, and we expressed appreciation for each other verbally or through written messages regularly. These daily rituals of talking to each other made us feel emotionally connected; it didn’t really feel like we were physically apart. The daily communication was momentous especially when we faced work challenges and couldn’t encourage each other with a hug.”
There you have it. These couples show us that rituals do not need to be splashy (although they can be) to help their marriage thrive. These simple rituals of connection that are a regular feature of married life accentuate the specialness of their relationship.
By engaging in these shared activities intentionally, they’re essentially strengthening, protecting, and affirming their commitment for each other.
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