When I think about the word “romance” I tend to think about things like… a wedding day or a honeymoon… an unexpected love note, a surprise gift, or a special anniversary candle-lit dinner. What do these things have in common? They are all once-in-a-lifetime or even once-in-a-while events, and this is what seems to make them special. But does something need to be a novelty or a surprise to make it special and romantic?
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com),a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues, says “NO WAY!” According to Dr. Sherman, it’s the little things, particularly well-loved rituals, that let your spouse know you care. It’s all about the security of being a pair, and acceptance and understanding that comes with a deep connection.
This desire for feeling connected all starts right from the beginning when you are born and in your childhood—there’s a need for attachment to a caring figure. When couples come in for help, the biggest problem I see is a sense of disconnection and feeling that he or she does not matter to his or her partner. The question then becomes how do you let your mate know that he or she really is important to you?
Do you remember the movie, Fiddler on the Roof? At one point in the script, the couple reflects on all the things that they do for each other, but then ask, “Do you love me?” For me, this raises the issue that perhaps going out and working all day to support the family or staying home and taking care of the house and kids—as monumental as those tasks are—are just not enough to let the other person know how you feel about them.
There are a lot of things you can do to let each other know how important you are to one another. They are rituals. They say a lot about your bond, even thought they are only small behaviors.
Dr. Sherman points out that for most people, acknowlaging birthdays and anniversaries is important. It lets your spouse know that he or she is not forgotten. You can turn this opportunity into a yearly ritual that will come to be cherished over time. “You don’t even need Hallmark to do the job; my father-in-law always wrote a poem for my mother-in-law on the morning of their anniversary and left it on the kitchen table before he left for work. He wrote it on a napkin! She never complained that she felt ignored.”
Daily rituals are equally important, and Dr. Sherman shares one that her husband does to start off each day. “When he hears me get up, he comes to greet me with a hug and kiss. I can’t even tell you what it means to me to feel so welcomed each day.”
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Do something to greet or say good-bye to one another—even if the absence is for short periods.
2. Have a ritual to acknowledge each other at the beginning and ending of each day.
3. During the day, make a phone call, send an e-mail or send a text message in order to connect with each other.
4. Rather than just spending time together to resolve an issue, make sure there’s also some time put aside just for enjoyment.
5. If one of you has to go on a trip, leave a surprise note inside the luggage.
6. If your partner has accomplished something special (even if it’s around the house), let others know within earshot of your partner.
7. If your mate is having a problem, try being supportive rather than trying to fix the issue.
8. Show appreciation to your spouse for things he or she has done—even if it’s mundane.
9. Bring novelty into your relationship. When you try new things together, it helps to keep the relationship fresh. And when you share this adventure together, it’s also connecting.
10. Turn on the affection. Touch is very important for a sense of connection.
Remember, this is only a starter list. Keep it going! And remember, the more personal your rituals the more meaningful they will be. The need for connection is something you both need and when it’s there, it is very magical!
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of “Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life” and co-author of “Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last.”