Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we are excited to introduce the final level in The Sound Relationship House Series: Create Shared Meaning.

If you and your partner adhere to the first six principles, there’s a good chance that your relationship is stable and happy. But if you find yourself asking, “Is that all there is,” what may be missing is a deeper sense of shared meaning. Relationships aren’t just about date nights, weekend getaways, and making love. They can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together – a culture rich with symbols and rituals and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you. It is then that you will begin to understand what it means to be part of the union you have become. 

By their nature, Make Life Dreams Come True and Create Shared Meaning are inextricably linked. In fact, one of the best ways to create shared meaning is to talk about each other’s dreams which, as we discussed last week, are often deeply connected to your pasts. Another way to create shared meaning is to create traditions and rituals for your life together as a couple. Start by talking to each other about the kinds of traditions and rituals that you each had when you were growing up. What are your best and worst memories? What would have made them better? What are these rituals like for you today? What do they mean or symbolize to you? How would you like them to be now? Share each of your past experiences with these traditions and create special ones of your own – for this year, and for the many years to come!

Take the time to do the exercise below together, and talk about the rituals that are most important to you. Discovering what kinds of rituals the two of you would like to introduce or continue in your relationship will help you in many ways: to feel the comfort and trust that comes from relying on regular routines, on turning towards each other, building stronger bonds, and inevitably deepening your emotional connection! The more shared meaning you can find, the deeper, richer, and more rewarding your relationship will be.
Exercise: Examining Your Rituals

  • Waking up, waking one another up
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, &/or coffee together
  • Bedtime
  • Leaving one another
  • Reuniting
  • Handling finances
  • Hosting others at home
  • Athletics, exercise
  • Celebrations (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)
  • Taking care of each other when sick
  • Renewing your spirit
  • Taking vacations, getaways, traveling
  • Recreation, games, play
  • Dates and romantic evenings
  • Attending or participating in sporting events
  • Watching television
  • Going out to the movies
  • Going to concerts, plays, cultural events
  • Going dancing
  • Running errands, doing chores
  • Participating in community events
  • Doing charity work
  • Doing schoolwork
  • Soothing other people’s feelings
  • Apologizing or repairing feelings after an argument
  • Religious services, festivals, holidays
  • Common hobbies
  • Making art

When you discuss the rituals of connection in your relationship, make sure that you and your partner both have the time and energy for it. Remember that this exercise is meant to be an ongoing conversation and not to be completed all at once! Look forward to Wednesday’s posting on creating rituals for your whole family to enjoy.

More in The Sound Relationship House
Create Shared Meaning: Examining Your Rituals
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

  • Randall Grayson

    Wonderful suggestions for thinking about one’s rituals! For more on “couple rituals,” check out this website that has tons of detailed descriptions and suggestions — http://couplerituals.org/. Totally free.