Bedroom and Bathroom

Bedroom

Recommitment

While making my way from the airport to a conference, I took the opportunity to ask the cab driver about his couple rituals…

Putting Problems to Bed

We all have concerns and sometimes they’ll keep us up at night…

Lights Out, Warmed Hearts

Perhaps the simplest and fastest of all the rituals, these little nighttime endings are little flashes of connection…

Cuddling Rituals

People seem to either be fall along three points…

Dream Time

Imagine yourself on a beautiful Trobriand island off the coast of Papua-New Guinea…

Grumbles and Gratitudes

Do you know the little details of your partner’s life?

Words to Love By

An extremely common couple ritual is to read to each other in bed…

Bathroom

Bathing

Yup, bath tubs and variations – enough said…

Showering

Yup, showering – enough said…

Recommitment

While making my way from the airport to a conference, I took the opportunity to ask the cab driver about his couple rituals.  He had a lot of them and we reached the hotel before he was done.  I said, “I tell you what.  You can keep the meter running for as long as you can talk to me about couple rituals.”  He racked up another $55 on the meter before he finally tapped his memory for the moment!  My favorite ritual from that night was his morning ring “routine.”

This couple ritual is best suited for married or engaged couples that have/use rings.  Every morning, while you are both getting dressed or before you leave for your day, take 30 seconds to complete this ritual.  Hold each other’s hands and look into each other’s eyes.  Gently remove your partner’s ring and hold on to it.  As you each place the ring back on your mate’s finger, say a soft “I love you.”  Hug.  Go on with your day.

I call this ritual “Recommitment,” because it is a symbol for just that.  All rituals have symbols or are symbols in their actions.  Taking a very brief moment on a frequent basis to make a deep connection and honor the commitment to one another is so powerful because it is a small thing done frequently – remember the principle of Kaizen in the “How does one best use these rituals?” section.

For some reason, when people hear this ritual, there are gasps of disbelief and questions about how long couples who do this have been married.  Others comment on logistical problems like they don’t get up at the same time or their rings won’t come off.  If this ritual fits your relationship and life, try it out.  If not, marvel at those who have used this couple ritual for years and found it to be an incredibly powerful and meaningful part of their life.

Variations

  • People change this one by doing different things with the rings.  Some folks hold the ring to the heart, while others kiss it.
  • Quite often, couples reported doing something similar to this, but not every day.  Some did it when dressing up in formal attire, on holidays and anniversaries, or when the mood struck them.
  • The rings came off at night, and then got put back on one another the following morning
  • Restate marriage vows as you’re putting the rings back on one another
  • Instead of taking the rings off, try simply rubbing the rings.
  • One couple did it a bit differently, along the lines of a traveling ritual, yet I thought I’d include it here as a variation.  One had an engineering ring that he wore on his pinky finger; when he left for his job, he would take it off and his partner would put it on her finger.  While separated, each would notice – he because the ring was not there, and she because it was there.  When they separated, they had a little ritual of the exchange of the rings, and again when they were reunited.  Theirs was a simple gazing in the eyes for minute in silence, and then voicing an I love you.  There are many similar variations in the traveling section.

Principle Purposes Served

  • Stable touchstone
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Nurturing contact
  • Builds the relationship culture and history
  • Communicate values and beliefs (particularly commitment)

Putting Problems to Bed

We all have concerns and sometimes they’ll keep us up at night.  Talking about them helps, as does initiating at least some kind of action toward a solution or amelioration, but eventually there may be little left to say or do and yet the worry remains.  Because many couples realize that worrying borrows from the future and steals from the present, they have developed rituals to keep distressing thoughts from the bedroom.  Practicing either form of the ritual I describe here may lighten your load because of  its playfulness, and I bet you’ll find one or the other appealing.

In Guatemala and Mexico, people use Worry Dolls.  When they tell the doll all their problems and worries, they can go to sleep knowing that the doll will stay up all night and do their worrying for them.  Any little doll or stuffed animal will do.  Sit down with your mate right before bed and take turns telling your doll all of your worries.  Place the dolls on the dresser or by your pillows and then perhaps try the cuddling or reading rituals.

Along the same lines, take a moment to write your worries down on paper and put it inside a wooden box.  Lock or seal the box and place it outside the bedroom or even the house.

For those who might want to use the worry doll ritual with their children, here’s a word of caution.  Children are apt to believe that the worry doll is actually doing some magic, which would be comforting.  The problem with that line of thinking is that it puts the focus of working on a problem (either a course of action or a personal mindset) outside oneself.  Psychologists call that an external locus of control.  Such a mindset creates even more problems in people’s lives because they don’t see themselves as agents in control of what happens.  Using the worry doll ritual as a way of temporarily letting go and getting some sleep is fine, but not if you or your kids kind of believe that the doll has any power or responsibility to solve those problems.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worry_doll

How to Make a Worry Doll

  1. Take five Popsicle sticks and cut 1/3 off of three of them.  Glue the 3 two-thirds pieces together to form the torso.
  2. Cut the two remaining whole sticks in half.  The four pieces are the arms and legs.  Glue them on with the legs at a slightly open stance and the arms almost straight out.
  3. Use the 3 small 1/3 pieces to make the head by fanning them out a little bit and gluing them to the top of the torso.
  4. Wrap yarn around the small stick figure.  To make a better worry doll, use different colors for the legs, arms, torso, and head.
  5. Use a marker to add some detail like eyes and hair.
  6. A lot of worry dolls are even made from matchsticks!

Or

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Worry-Doll(link is external)

http://www.pinterest.com/pamdyson/worry-dolls/

Principle Purposes Served

  • Foster trust
  • Manage conflict
  • Emotional money in the bank

Lights Out, Warmed Hearts

Perhaps the simplest and fastest of all the rituals, these little nighttime endings are little flashes of connection.  While cuddling rituals and whispering to the heart are common variations of this ritual, the quick signal of connection here is a little bit different.

Due to the brevity and ease by which these rituals can slip into automaticity and thereby less or no meaning, special care needs to be taken so that the hearts are engaged.

Variations

  • A kiss as one person turns the light off
  • Squeezing of hands
  • Saying I love you alone or combined with another variation
  • Children’s phrase of “Goodnight, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
  • Hold one another’s wedding rings and say I love you before lights out
  • Gazing into one another’s eyes for a solid minute
  • Say a prayer together

Principal Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Foster nurturing, affectionate, loving contact

Cuddling Rituals

People seem to fall along three points:  big-time cuddlers, occasional cuddlers, or virtual abstainers.  This couple ritual will appeal to those who really enjoy cuddling.  Like coffee fanatics who have no trouble rattling off a dozen varieties of the black gold and how they like it prepared, cuddlers have their set of rituals surrounding this passion.

Couples have their favorite positions and configurations, but that really isn’t enough to make it a ritual worthy of being catalogued in a book (here’s a link of positions).  What is noteworthy is how people ritualize the act.  By far the most common cuddling couple ritual is to fall asleep cuddling in a certain way almost every night.  When the couple wakes up in the morning, they will resume that same cuddling position for a few minutes before greeting the day.

Variations

  • When the alarm goes off, plan for one snooze cycle where you cuddle together – awake.
  • You know the adage: never go to sleep when you are mad at each other.  So, no matter what, before going to sleep at night, take 5 minutes to cuddle and speak about pleasant aspects of your relationship, each other, the day, the future, or . . .
  • See the breathing, reading, and the grumbles and gratitudes rituals. They all work well with cuddling.
  • Take a cuddle break during the day.  Either person can call for a “cuddle break!” and then five or ten minutes are spent cuddling on the couch or bed.
  • Take a shower in the morning, and then get back into bed for a few minutes of cuddling before getting dressed.
  • Back scratching as part of it.
  • Putting on a movie and cuddling on the couch or in bed.

Principle Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Foster trust
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Foster nurturing, affectionate, loving contact

Dream Time

Imagine yourself on a beautiful Trobriand island off the coast of Papua-New Guinea.  The lush, exotic vegetation stretches from shore to shore on this island no bigger than a good-sized golf course.  After a fine night’s sleep in your hut that sits on stilts above the water, you lie very still for a few moments. What did you dream just now that’s trying to fade away?  The night before, the villagers, your hosts, instructed you to try and recall the details of your dreams.  So you grab that dream and make your way down the ladder.

After leisurely sauntering through the sandy, aquamarine water to the village commons, you find a lush breakfast set out and most of the villagers already there.  They are speaking to one another excitedly about their dreams; it seems to be what everyone is talking about.  No sooner than you find a spot and take your seat, someone asks you about your dreams.  It’s a bit odd, but you came prepared and you begin sharing your nighttime journeys, interrupted only occasionally by questions from your eager audience.

After you’ve listened to several other people talking about their dreams, it strikes you that they speak to one another of their dreams much like Americans might ask friends about their recent trip to Europe.  The Trobriand people share their dreams every morning, but they don’t judge them and rarely seek to interpret them.  Instead, they just enjoy hearing the stories.  These peaceful people have recognized the special and unique nature of dreams and how they can foster connection and communication.

In our culture, couples rarely spend much quality time together during the mornings of the workweek.  If both people work, and especially if there are children around, the morning is usually a rushed set of routines preparing for the day.  Imagine what a poignant start of the day it could be if partners would share each other’s dreams!  Most people aren’t standing in line to hear your dreams, but, between lovers, it can be intimate and interesting.  All it takes is seven minutes, or just one snooze cycle!

You already basically know how to go about this, but here are a few extra pointers.  Try to mostly listen as your mate tries to capture the smoke of a dream before it fades away.  People often find it difficult to recall dreams, but letting them simply talk it out freely without interruption can help.  When the dreams don’t come, why not just cuddle or try using one of the cuddling rituals instead?

Before you try out this couple ritual, let me offer a word of caution about interpreting dreams.  It’s a tricky business, because right and wrong (assuming there is one) are difficult to discern, and the focus of the ritual should be more on sharing and being together.  Dictionary-type dream books are based on the assumption that symbols have common cultural referents, and they therefore offer meanings for the more common symbols that appear in dreams.  But there are several possible connotations for a given symbol, so that this kind of fishing expedition may or may not yield anything useful.  Also, you might be on the wrong track and think you’re on the right one.  There are couples who are very serious about their dreams and  keep a journal for the purpose of having it professionally analyzed.

While the focus can shift from being more about the dreams to being more about being together, I recommend keeping the focus of the ritual on the latter.  Dreams can be fanciful, weird, silly, and disturbing.  It’s all too easy to drift from interpreting dreams to judging them and drawing conclusions.  When that begins to happen, don’t be surprised if defensiveness and even anger show up and the open door of communication and sharing starts to close a little bit.  Take a hint from the Trobriand culture and listen and enjoy the dreams in an open, interested way.

Variations

  • Partners who don’t spend every night together obviously do the dreamtime ritual on those mornings when they do wake up together.  If you don’t sleep together often or ever, try sharing your dreams in a morning phone call.
  • If it seems too burdensome to do every day, try doing it only on weekends, or when the mood seems right.
  • When no dreams come to one or both of you, throw in a cuddling or other nurturing touch ritual.
  • If a shared dream is particularly interesting, couples sometimes choose to revisit it later in the day, maybe around a meal.  When both partners work, phone calls over lunch are favorite times.  One couple that particularly valued dreams dedicated their Sunday lunch to nothing but dream discussions.

Principal Purposes Served

  • Stable touchstone
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Nurturing contact
  • Fosters trust
  • Builds the relationship culture and history

Recommended Readings

  • Robert Bosnak, A Little Course In Dreams, Shambala, 1993
  • Stanley Kripner, and Mark Waldman, Dreamscaping, Lola House, 1999
  • The Dalai Lama, Sleeping, Dreaming, And Dying, Wisdom Publications, 1997
  • Robert Vanda Castle, Our Dreaming Mind, Random House, 1994

Grumbles and Gratitudes

Do you know the little details of your partner’s life?

Sure, you probably know the cast of characters in your mate’s past, the color of your partner’s eyes, the names of past pets, the family tree, most of the heartbreaks and ecstasies, what bones were broken and how, and much of the other general life story stuff.  While you’re dating, finding out about these things helps you to know each other better and build intimacy.  As you develop a history together, you create shared tales of experiences – the people in your lives, the places, the major events, and the feelings that go with all of them.  The process of weaving your lives together is something like children dancing around a Maypole.  The ribbons start far apart and loosely connected, but through a playful, interweaving dance that results in the ribbons becoming shorter and the action more gleeful, your lives become ever more entwined.

When the ribbons become tightly wrapped around the pole, the children let go and the ribbons loosen their grip a little bit.  They are still intricately woven together, but the bond between the ribbons and their connection to the pole relaxes.  This is often the way of things in close relationships as well – especially when the “honeymoon” period has subsided.  The tight ribbons are like the intense bonds and closeness that characterize the early part of most relationships.  As time passes, the bonds (ribbons) loosen a little bit.  That can be a good thing if you’ve become too wrapped up in each other and you need to find your center again.  Where couples sometimes go wrong is in letting the ribbons unwind too much.  Your story needs to remain intimately entwined with new chapters being written all the time.  The journaling rituals can help you focus on the story you are writing together and how you want it to unfold in the near future.

When the ribbons become tightly wrapped around the pole, the children let go and the ribbons loosen their grip a little bit.  They are still intricately woven together, but the bond between the ribbons and their connection to the pole relaxes.  This is often the way of things in close relationships as well – especially when the “honeymoon” period has subsided.  The tight ribbons are like the intense bonds and closeness that characterize the early part of most relationships.  As time passes, the bonds (ribbons) loosen a little bit.  That can be a good thing if you’ve become too wrapped up in each other and you need to find your center again.  Where couples sometimes go wrong is in letting the ribbons unwind too much.  Your story needs to remain intimately entwined with new chapters being written all the time.  The journaling rituals can help you focus on the story you are writing together and how you want it to unfold in the near future.

If the ribbons are the more major events that make up your story together, the tension that binds them to each other and the core (pole) of your relationship is the connection that happens on a day-to-day basis.  Those “little” details of everyday life – the things that aren’t usually remembered a week or two later – are very important to both of you at the time, whether you realize it or not.  To put it another way, when inner-tubing down a river together, the rapids are the more memorable events in your lives together, but holding hands and paying attention to one another in the calm parts between the rapids is equally, if not more, important.  Since most couples don’t spend the majority of most days together, it is very important to both take the time to share and to bond.

Happy couples with thriving relationships ask each other how their day went.  When you ask with the intent of really hearing the story you’re asking for, both the teller and listener will enjoy the time.  As you may remember, a couple ritual is enjoyed by both, but it is also planned and repeated.  Try making the sharing time a daily ritual you can count on.  Create a time and space when there are unlikely to be other distractions, so that you may give each other your ear and heart.  Use the “Grumbles and Gratitudes” example, or create your own version with similar intent.

“Grumbles and Gratitudes”

As you lie in bed at the end of the evening, take a few minutes to ask each other about the high and low for the day.  To be more playful than “the high and low,” try calling it “Grumbles and Gratitudes Time.”  Often, what is mentioned will surprise you as much as what isn’t.  You thought the dog peeing inside was going to be the grumble, when really it was a letter from a friend that didn’t arrive today.  If you’re up for it and it fits you as a couple, choose the top three grumbles and gratitudes, or allow as many as each wants to share.

In addition to hearing about the grumble(s) and gratitude(s), the point is to keep the connection between you nourished by knowing your mate better than anyone . . . and being known.  There is something indescribable about the comfort and joy of being known so deeply.  That special knowledge and feeling will help keep your relationship healthy, happy, and thriving.

To that end, you’ll keep updated about  the current cast of characters in your mate’s life and what is going on with them.  You’ll be abreast of what your mate’s passions, dreams, trials, and tribulations are.  You’ll have a handle on the annoying and pleasant aspects of your partner’s life, and you’ll become much more interested in the life being lived right next to you.

Be careful to keep the ritual enjoyable.  If the discussion turns very serious too frequently, the ritual will cease to be something you both look forward to.  As noted in the “Rules to Play By” section, serious discussions are often best placed outside the couple ritual framework.  Having serious discussion can be made into a couple ritual, but that’s another ball of wax entirely.

Tonight, dear reader, try this one on and see how it fits.  If it works out right, you’ll have a cherished way to end every day.

Variations

  • If you hit the bed virtually asleep or have other personal or couple rituals reserved for that time, try using Grumbles and Gratitudes at the latest point in the day where it makes sense for both of you.  Sometimes, the convenient time turns out to be over the phone, which can still work, but it is less desirable because the lack of physical connection.
  • Feel free to get playful with it!  One couple described how they would throw funny things in every now and then.  For example, the man included in his gratitude list that he was grateful his mate would bring him a croissant in bed tomorrow, which was a hint, or that she was about to sing a children’s song to him, which meant that he wanted to hear one now.  Go with what fits.  Let the playful rapport you’ve developed show itself in your rituals every now and then.
  • Once in a while, go beyond the day if it seems to fit the mood.  Include things in the future and things that are always present like people in your lives, the two of you, the community on any scale, or the spiritual.
  • Putting on some candles, and simply chatting to one another about life, the universe, and everything (except problems/conflict in the relationship or strife in general).
  • Before entering the bedroom, sit down together and clear your minds of tasks and such for tomorrow by writing out lists.  Sometimes couples will scribe for one another, so they can participate in the ritual together, and share the mental lode of knowing.  Leave the lists outside of the bedroom.
  • Another frame is “Rose, Thorn, Bud.”  Rose = joy of the day.  Thorn = what was not enjoyed about the day.  Bud = what looking forward to tomorrow.

Principal Purposes Served

  • Stable touchstone
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Nurturing contact
  • Fosters trust
  • Builds the relationship culture and history
  • Opportunity to play together

Words to Love By

An extremely common couple ritual is to read to each other in bed.  It’s a simple ritual that requires little explanation.  Couples usually vary what is read, but common material includes short stories, novels, old journals, poetry, and past love letters from each other.  Take turns and enjoy the almost child-like pleasure of being read to.

Fodder:

Bible / Qur’an / Bhagavad Gita / Buddhism — Dalai Lama / Book of Mormon

Bene Brown
Pema Chodron
Eckhart Tolle
C.S. Lewis
Kurt Vonnegut
Zen and the art of _______

Lord of the Rings
Hunger Games
Princess Bride
Harry Potter
Roald Dahl
Lois Lowry
Orson Scott Card

Untethered Soul
http://www.amazon.com/The-Untethered-Soul-Michael-Singer/dp/B009NG5GSS

Variations

  • Reading to each other in the car, on the plane, after a meal, or Sunday mornings.
  • The news was mentioned several times, yet take care to not read about, generally, man’s inhumanity to man
  • So that both are free to cuddle, audio books and podcasts are used.
  • Read every other night, on weekends, or just when the mood strikes you both.

Principal Purposes Served

  • Stable touchstone
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Builds the relationship culture and history

Bathing

Yup, bath tubs and variations – enough said. 🙂

Variations

  • Bubble baths
  • One couple went swimming before going to bed together
  • Candles
  • Music
  • Essential oils
  • Hot tub / hot springs
  • Jacuzzi
  • Shampoo one another’s hair, with head massage
  • Give one another facials
  • Use a loofha(link is external) to scrub one another’s backs
  • Foot massages
  • Turning off phones, video, etc.
  • Chat to one another about the day, like “Grumbles and Gratitude” or “Tea and Coffee Ritual”
  • Favorite drink – wine, tea, coffee, water, . . .

Principal Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Provide regular opportunities for play
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Foster nurturing, affectionate, loving contact

Showering

Yup, showering – enough said. 🙂

Variations

  • Double shower head so both can stay warm and wet
  • Single shower head, because it forces cooperation, togetherness, and play
  • Candlelight
  • Rule that you can’t wash yourself – your partner has to do it, including hair
  • When one person cleanses the other, it is done as a standing massage, and not just a lathering up
  • Use a loofha to scrub one another’s backs