Rituals Create Stability in Romantic Relationships

Couples establish stability in their relationship when they create meaningful rituals in their daily lives. These moments are especially important as partners enter and exit throughout one another’s day. A hug and kiss goodbye, a secret wave, or loving words can create a sense of stability.

Many mothers naturally meet this attachment need with their small children. When a mother is leaving, she may hug her child and assure the child gently that she will return. The strength of the attachment bond is increased when a mother and child have predictable rituals such as a hug and gentle word. “Rituals have two distinguishing characteristics: routine behavior and the associated meaning for that behavior.” (Pearson, Child, & Carmon, 2010) The child feels stable for a time without the mother because their ritual created a cue for the child to know what to expect. As a result, the child feels more stable during periods of separation.

It turns out that individuals do not outgrow this need for a stable attachment when they transition from childhood into an adult romantic relationship. Physiological studies show that romantic couples affect one another biologically. A couple grows more and more connected symbiotically. Diamond, Hicks, and Otter-Henderson “investigated potential physiological changes associated with separation, focusing specifically on activity of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical (HPA) axis … HPA activity provides a potential window into disruptions in day-to-day affect regulation brought about by the loss of regular proximity to one’s attachment figure.” (Diamond, Hicks and Otter-Henderson, 2008)

As humans beings, we need each other. We need to be assured that our partner is there even when we are apart. Rituals create a special shared sense of meaning that allows partners to feel more stable during periods of separation. “Rituals aid in the creation of a unique culture of two, which allows for the possibility of generating positive individualized patterns of interactions and strong, enduring relational bonds.” (Pearson, Child, & Carmon, 2010) These moments help to separate the relationship as unique from other connections with various people throughout the day. It creates a distinct sense of “we.”

Take some time as a couple to set up some rituals that create stability in your relationship. Here are a few possibilities to get started:

  • Say “I love you” as often as possible.
  • Kiss and hug one another when departing and coming back together during the day.
  • Create an affectionate name for one another.
  • Create a hand signal that is a secret shared just between the two of you.
  • Text a loving message during the lunch hour.
  • Set aside alone time at the end of the day to hear one another’s concerns and joys.

Fuller Life Family Therapy is committed to helping couples create stronger bonds in their relationships. If you liked this article, please share it with others or like us on Facebook.

Diamond, L., Hicks, A. & Otter-Henderson, K. (2008). Every Time You Go Away: Changes in Affect, Behavior, and Physiology Associated With Travel-Related Separations From Romantic Partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (Vol. 95, No. 2, 385–403).

Pearson, J., Child, J., & Carmon, A. (2010). Rituals in Committed Romantic Relationships: The Creation and Validation of an Instrument. Communication Studies. (Vol. 61, No. 4, September – October, pp. 464-483).

Contributed by:

Jennifer Christian, M.A., LPC

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