Rituals Enhance Relationships

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Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients ...Read More

What rituals do you have in your relationships?

Have you stopped to think much about your rituals and recognized their importance in your life and in your relationships?


Rituals are regular and predictable behaviors or activities with agreed upon “rules” and have developed over time.

They provide a sense of meaning, connection, continuity and order. Once a ritual is established, people generally look forward to them and feel uncomfortable or disappointed if they don’t occur.

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Tom and Jane have a regular “happy hour” each weekday. They are more likely to drink a cup of coffee or tea than a glass of wine; however, they make sure to spend 20 minutes each night just talking over their day. The children have learned that this is a special time for their parents and, while they may try to get in the middle, they generally respect this break. Both Tom and Jane have said that it has become such an important habit that they feel a loss if it doesn’t happen.

Rituals can create memories that last a lifetime. Some of the research also shows that families who have regular rituals like family dinner time also have children with fewer behavior problems.

Adam and Joan have a ritual in their family. Dinner is a protected time and they go around the table asking each family member to share one “high” from their day. There is no judgment about choices, rather a celebration of what each person thinks has been good in their life that day.

Some rituals are private and invisible to anyone but those who participate like beginning Sunday morning by making love or 15 minutes of meditation every morning.

Other rituals are public or involve several households such as a Thanksgiving meal, annual Derby party or family trip to the beach every year.

The sense of security and positive feelings that rituals evoke can be comforting even in tough times. How many of you have carried over rituals from your childhood and may even struggle with your spouse about ways to incorporate some of them into your rituals as a couple?

When Shannon and Bernie married, it took them a few years to figure out how to handle holidays. Both wanted the security and comfort of being with their own family. Bernie even wanted to wake up in his childhood bed on Christmas morning!

Now they have rituals that include new ones of their own but also have some from their childhood and plan to pass these special celebrations on to their children.

For me, working out each morning is a very important ritual. Not only is it good for my physical health, but also my mental health. There is something about that “alone time” that I really count on to start off my day.

Meeting with a special group of friends every second Wednesday of the month is important as well. Staying connected with these special people helps me keep my life in perspective.

What rituals are important for you in your life and in the lives of your family? Think about them, talk them over with your family and friends. Celebrate them as a way of celebrating your relationships.

Keep Reading By Author Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT
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