Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we bring you an aptly timed Weekend Homework Assignment. If you read our post on Wednesday, Dr. Gottman’s Five Tips for Filling Your Holiday Season with Romance, you may remember the last step: Creating Traditions. 

This step involves having a conversation with your partner about your respective histories around holiday rituals, including sharing memories (best and worst), describing family traditions (favorite and least favorite), and expressing your respective feelings about the real meaning of the holidays in order to come up with special ones of your own this year.

We hope you get a chance to have a conversation of this nature this weekend (or as soon as possible) – connecting with your partner in this way may save both of you a great deal of stress in the coming month. All families are unique, and the holidays can look different for everyone. Considering the vast variety of ways in which you may choose to come together with others in this holiday season, we share with you an exercise from Dr. Gottman’s highly acclaimed book, The Relationship Cure.

Make some time this weekend to get together with your partner and review the list of rituals below. Take a moment to select the ones you each want to talk about – we suggest that you mostly focus on any that are currently relevant and of concern. Whether you are stressed out about handling finances, making travel plans, arranging time off from work, having guests over, or having enough time to spend with your partner over the holidays, take this opportunity to address these concerns together!

Types of Rituals:

  • Waking up, waking one another up
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Snacks
  • Leaving one another
  • Reuniting
  • Handling finances
  • Hosting others in your home
  • Special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)
  • Taking care of one another when sick
  • Renewing your spirit
  • Taking vacations or getaways
  • Traveling
  • Recreation, games, and play
  • Dates or romantic evenings
  • Attending sports events
  • Participating in sports events
  • Watching television
  • Attending movies
  • Attending concerts, plays, and other cultural events
  • Religious festivals and holidays
  • Regular religious services
  • Rituals of transition (funerals, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc.)
  • Attending another’s performance or sports event
  • Doing hobbies
  • Creating art
  • Running errands
  • Doing household chores
  • Participating in community events or politics
  • Doing charity work
  • Doing schoolwork
  • Soothing other people’s feelings
  • Apologizing or repairing feelings after an argument
  • Arriving at your job
  • Doing your job
  • Leaving your job

Questions to Ask and Answer:

1.  What was this activity like in your family or with your friends when you were growing up?
2.  Do you have rituals surrounding it?
3.  What were those rituals like?
4.  What did you enjoy about them? What did you dislike about them? What would have made them better?
5.  What is this activity like in your life today?
6.  Do you have rituals surrounding it?
7.  What are those rituals like? 
8.  How satisfied are you with them?
9.  What does this ritual mean or symbolize for you?
10. Does this ritual help you feel more connected or less connected to the important people in your life?
11.  Does this ritual foster positive or negative feelings towards others?
12.  What could be done to make this ritual a more positive experience for you? For others?

The goal of this activity is to reconnect – both with yourself and with your partner – and to share comfort and support. Take turns asking and answering questions, using this as an opportunity to learn about each other, uncover hidden dreams, discover shared meaning, and create new rituals celebrating your dreams and values this holiday season.


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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.