Any act can become a sacred ritual. Learn how ritualizing everyday moments with your partner can strengthen connection through shared meaning.
Ritual: A practice made sacred through mindful intention
What is Ritual?
A ritual is any act made sacred. It may involve words, song, objects, gestures, or elaborate ceremonial performance. Ritual is private and personal but can be shared with others. Any act becomes ritual when all parties involved agree that it is. Some say it’s ritual that defines us as humans, the only living beings to attribute meaning to their lives.
What is a Ritual of Connection?
Rituals of connection are intended to help those in relationship create moments of shared meaning which bring them closer together. The term ‘Ritual of Connection’ is widely attributed to the famed marriage researcher and therapist, Dr. John Gottman. According to Gottman, Rituals of Connection help couples develop a personal inner world of language and symbols that express who they are as a team.
Shared rituals can turn routine behaviors into moments of intimate connection. Rituals often arise naturally, but can also be mindfully crafted. Partners may ritualize simple activities such as attending the Sunday Farmer’s Market, or can ritualize elaborate celebrations for anniversaries or holidays. What’s important is that both parties equally hold the ritual sacred.
“The function of ritual...is to give form to the human life, not in the way of a mere surface arrangement, but in depth.”
- Joseph Campbell -
How Rituals Improve Relationships
Rituals of connection improve relationships on several different levels. Greater connection is formed through the act of sharing in ritual, but also found in the meaning the ritual provides.
Rituals Build Trust:
Rituals build trust because they are grounding and stabilizing acts imbued with purpose and intention. When we involve our partner in ritual, our partner too, becomes part of this grounding and steady force. A ritual of connection lets us see our partner as someone we can turn to and count on.
Rituals Create Shared Meaning:
A relationship is a complex intersection of two minds, each with their own separate world. Creating shared meaning is a means through which these worlds can overlap and join together. The more a couple’s worlds intersect through shared meaning, the more rewarding, rich and profound their relationship becomes.
Rituals Build Gratitude:
When we ritualize an act, we no longer take it for granted. Instead, we intentionally bestow upon it value and importance. By ritualizing activities we perform with our loved ones, they too become part of the performance, as worthy of our recognition as the act itself. Ritual builds gratitude which prevents us from taking our partner for granted.
Rituals Build Mindfulness:
Rituals mark rites of passage, life’s moments of transition. Rituals ask us to slow down and notice. Rituals make even the most simple things sacred and in doing so, they make our lives richer. The power of ritual is only possible thanks to mindfulness. Ritual is a choice of perception.
“If you want your day to be organized, develop a routine. If you want your day to be meaningful, create rituals.”
- Unknown -
10 Rituals of Connection to Share with Your Romantic Partner
You and your partner can ritualize any of life’s moments to foster greater connection. When creating a ritual, keep it consistent. Set a mindful intention to perform your new rituals with awareness and loving kindness. By crafting intentional rituals, even the most mundane tasks can become meaningful.
1. Morning and Bedtime Rituals
Building mindful rituals around waking each day and going to bed at night marks these passages of time in a meaningful way that slows time down. We become more grateful for each gift of a new day.
Stay in bed longer before you arise. Bring your loved one coffee. Eat breakfast together. Share lingering moments of physical touch. Have a no-phone rule in the bedroom.
2. Coming and Going Rituals
Creating rituals around saying goodbye and greeting each other helps us stay mindful of how precious our time together is. Recognizing each departure as though it could be the last frees us from regret and keeps us present.
Ritualize how you say goodbye and greet each other daily as you come and go for work or on errands. Don’t just save ritual for long, sustained separations. Ritualize a special touch, a kiss, or make your words of greeting or parting somehow sacred.
3. Mealtime Rituals
Meals offer set moments within each day in which we have an opportunity to stop and connect. Ritualizing our meals fosters gratitude, mindful eating, and can aid in human connection.
Mindfully practice gratitude by sharing in grace before meals. Acknowledge who prepared the meal and where it came from. Commit to meals without screen time and mindfully listen to each other instead.
4. Mindful Listening Rituals
In relationships, it’s all too easy to fall into routine and begin to feel unheard. Likewise, when comfortable with a long term partner, we often assume we know what they’re saying, without really listening.
Intentionally set aside a time of day in which to practice mindful conversation. Listen without multitasking. Listen with your ears, your mind and your whole body. Ask questions to better understand what your partner has said. Learn to hit pause on responding.
5. Apology and Forgiveness Rituals
There comes a time in every relationship where someone owes the other an apology. Ritualizing apologies and forgiveness improves relationships by building trust and strengthening compassion.
Ritualize your apologies with words of loving kindness, a physical touch or gesture. Make an offering of flowers, a notecard or another meaningful object. Rituals of forgiveness offer freedom and ease, and can clear the air for more mindful communication.
6. Appreciation Rituals
Appreciation rituals help us intentionally practice gratitude in relationships. Practicing these rituals daily makes us more mindful of all the ways in which our partner continually helps us.
Appreciation rituals can be stronger when they take place daily, for the little things. At the end of the day, ritualize the way you tell your partner thank you. Think back on everything they’ve done for you, and all the ways they’ve helped you since the moment you woke up.
Activity Based Rituals
7. Exercise Rituals
Physical movement allows for movement of trapped energy in the body. Movement helps us connect to felt emotions that aren’t always available via the thinking mind. When physical movement is shared, so too is joy.
Make time to exercise together. Pursue movement individually, or try something together like partner yoga. An exercise ritual can be as simple as walking the dog together each day.
8. Shared Pursuit Rituals
Similar to moving the body, sharing in hobbies and creative outlets allows you to connect to your partner through shared interests and joys. We often find deep meaning in our creative pursuits, and sharing that meaning with another is priceless.
Build ritual around a shared interest in art, games, gardening, or any other hobby. Set aside a consistent time in which you pursue common interests together.
9. Vacation Rituals
Vacation rituals are less about the destination, and more about establishing sacred time together. When we make time for each other, we’re intentionally indicating each other’s importance in our lives.
Your time alone need not be fancy or far away. Create a ritual around date night, a once-monthly weekend getaway, or an annual holiday vacation.
10. Volunteer Rituals
Participating together in compassionate activities connects us to each other by opening our hearts to all beings everywhere. When we learn to broaden our love, we have even more of it to give to those in our closest circles.
Ritualize your giving. Create shared meaning around how you donate your money or time. Find causes to support together that will imbue both of your lives, and your shared life, with greater value and purpose.
For more mindful tips for the holidays, check out our complete guide to holiday gift-giving.
Create Your Own Rituals
Your own personal and private rituals of connection can be anything that creates common meaning. We can find ritual in running errands and sharing household chores. Rituals appear in how we take care of each other when we’re sick, our holiday traditions, and the little ways in which we express our love.
You might notice there are rituals you already do, although you may not have thought of your shared habits in this way. What transforms routine into ritual is mindfulness. Approaching these same activities with the intention to connect more deeply, love more abundantly, and be more fully present invites a new layer of depth to our daily activities.
Anything we do with intention leaves a greater imprint on our minds. By mindfully placing attention on our moments of loving connection, the bonds between us grow.