6 Rituals for Couples to Build a Stronger Connection
Life as we know it right now is busy, as we navigate the difficulty of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a time of uncertainty, grief, and anxiety; couples are facing increased demands in the home, financial hardships, and parenting challenges. At the same time, we are all trying to manage our regular routines and schedules. With this added layer of stress, it is no wonder that couples are experiencing a greater sense of disconnection. Staying connected has become more challenging.
Couples tend to focus on big moments, dinners out, and events that help build their relationship; however, this is increasingly difficult with the social-distancing measures meant to curb COVID-19. Research shows that it is in the small moments of turning toward each other and responding to one another's needs where couples can maintain a positive and healthy partnership.
Here are six rituals you and your partner can perform each week to strengthen your relationship during a stressful time.
1) Start Your Day with a Moment of Connection
When you first wake up, instead of jumping out of bed or reaching for your devices, spend the first 10 minutes of your day connecting with each other. If you wake up at different times, find another moment to communicate intentionally before starting the day.
2) Share a Six-Second Kiss
Physical intimacy is key for the health of our relationships, and each person has their own preferences and desires for expressing it. One way of bringing intimacy to your relationship each day is through a six-second kiss. If kissing does not feel good, try another form of physical touch (e.g., hugging, massage). Intimacy releases the feel-good "cuddle" hormone oxytocin, which helps partners to feel bonded and close.
3) Rethink Greetings and Partings
What did you do in your early dating days when you first saw your partner? Were you excited to hold and kiss each other? To look into the other person’s eyes? How did you part when you first started dating? A long embrace and kiss? For some couples, these rituals disappear because life is busy or the kids grab your attention right after work, etc. Return to some kind of ritual for greeting each other and parting. It can be an intentional hug, a kiss, or a moment of sharing appreciation for the other person. Working from home? When you shift out of work mode and into home mode, don't forget your chosen greeting.
4) Have a Stress-Reducing Conversation
One partner shares the stress they are currently experiencing. If you're the listener, your job is to try to understand what is happening for them. Instead of giving advice, try validating your partner’s feelings by saying something like “This sounds hard” or “You seem sad." Let them know verbally and nonverbally that you are listening and that you understand them. Take their side instead of trying to give them another perspective. Express affection by holding their hand, looking in their eye, or offering a hug.
5) Eat One Meal a Day Together
Depending on your schedule, find one meal to share as a couple. Turn off all distractions. Ask each other questions — even if you spent the day together — such as, What was difficult about today? What are you grateful for today? What emotions came up today that surprised you? Who did you wish to connect with that you didn’t?
6) Check in Weekly
Scheduling a set weekly meeting allows you to avoid sweeping issues under the rug until they become bigger, or announcing to a surprised partner that you need to have a serious chat. This type of meeting is about coming together; you might set three standard questions: How do you feel about the level of support I gave you this week? Where did you feel seen and appreciated by me? What can I do to support you moving forward? You may also use this time to address daily issues of household tasks or renegotiating roles. The intention is to build a connection and maintain an open dialogue about your relationship.