Travelling and Time

Travelling / Comings & Goings

The Risky Pause of Gratitude

Risk is, of course, always present, even at the extreme of an asteroid hitting the earth…

The Sweet Sorrow

One partner’s job required her to travel frequently…

Gone but Definitely Not Forgotten

When couples travel separately, sometimes they create rituals to remind each other…

Whispering to the Heart

There’s something special about a whisper in its own right…

Hug Greeting

Greeting one another can be a special moment that all too many couples let slide through their fingers…

Beat the Dog

Out of all the rituals, to me, this one seems the most off-the-wall silly…

Time / Days / Calendar

Play Time

This ritual refers to literally playing with time…

Date Night

After the dating, courting, or honeymoon days have passed…

Toast

Yup, with liquid and a vessel…

The Risky Pause of Gratitude

Risk is, of course, always present, even at the extreme of an asteroid hitting the earth.  In more common (often perceived) risks, couples will often take a moment to express and/or celebrate their connection together.

Risk in Everyday Life

  • Before getting into a car
  • Before an airplane takes off (more than 1 in a million, but a nice time together)
  • Before a bike ride on a road where there are cars
  • Before a natural disaster like a tornado or hurricane
  • Before a medical procedure
  • When one gets a serious illness, like the flu
  • Before engaging in a risky sport, like skiing

Variations

  • Hold hands for a minute while looking in one another’s eyes
  • Briefly squeezing one another’s hands
  • Taking a big breath together while looking in one another’s eyes
  • Saying I love you while looking in one another’s eyes
  • A long hug, of at least a minute
  • See “Whispering to the heart” couple ritual

Principal Purposes Served

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

The Sweet Sorrow

One partner’s job required her to travel frequently.  Her mate always made a point of driving her to the airport, parking the car, and going to security checkpoint with her.  The ritual involved waited until she walked through security, and down the jet way until she couldn’t be seen anymore before leaving.  That time together was always special to both of them and they missed it sorely when it wasn’t possible.

On the other end, a returning ritual was to greet the other with a handmade sign that changed every time, and a couple bottles of beer.  When they were home, they’d enjoy the bottles together, and one another’s company.

Variations

  • Have a little mini-ritual right when the final parting takes place.  These varied from long hugs and slow kisses, to humming a song softly together, to writing words on each other’s backs while hugging.
  • Texting or calling right before the plane is about to takeoff.
  • A parting ritual at the place of parting, which might be in the home, place of work, . . .
  • Taking a full minute to look in one another’s eyes without saying anything.
  • Stopping on the way at a favorite haunt, such as a coffee shop, a park for a little walk, a bite to eat, . . .
  • Playing a song together during the last moments together.

Principal Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Build the relationship culture and history
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Foster nurturing, affectionate, loving contact

Gone but Definitely Not Forgotten

When couples travel separately, sometimes they create rituals to remind each other how much they mean to one another and to create a connection despite the distance.

Variations

  • One couple loved scarves.  When the woman went away for a nine day business trip, her mate sewed the phrase “Nine Days Away” across the full length of a new scarf.  He folded the scarf lengthwise and loosely sewed it together with yarn.  Then, like a pea pod, he created 9 little pouches in the scarf with stitched yarn.  Each pocket held a little reminder of their connection.  For example, one pocket held chemical hand warmers because her hands often got cold.  Another held a pouch of her favorite coffee.  Two other pockets held running socks (they liked to run together), and a small wooden block with the first letter of her name.
  • In reverse, the leaving person would hide small notes or cards around.  Each day when they spoke, he would tell his mate where one of the cards was.  The card also contained a clue as to where the next card was, but if she figured it out, she wasn’t supposed to get it until the next day.
  • Each would change their background picture on their phone to that of their mate.  While they were gone, they always had (and frequently saw) a picture of one another.

Principal Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Build the relationship culture and history
  • Provide regular opportunities for play
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Fulfill needs for predictability and novelty

Whispering to the Heart

There’s something special about a whisper in its own right.  Between lovers, it’s tender and sometimes sensual.  When done in the presence of others, it has an air of secrecy.

An large number of couples have taken advantage of these qualities and incorporated whispering into a couple ritual.  The main form of it is when couples hug.  The hug isn’t normal in that it usually lasts longer, is tighter, starts with a meaningful glance, or some other signal that this is a special moment.  The whisper is either a little sweet nothing, or a call and response like “nice” answered with “perfect.”  Yes, this sounds sappy, but if you can’t be sentimental and sappy with your lover, how can you ever find out how special that feels?

Variations

  • One partner gave the other a firmer hug, and the other offered a playful little grunt, and then whisper, “Thank you.”  The other would return whisper, “You’re welcome.”
  • Simply “I love you,” and the other would repeat the same without the you “too” added on – simply, “I love you.”
  • Whispering rituals are usually done in private, but it can be nice to do it in public.  The public display of tender affection combined with the curiosity most people have about what was said can be enjoyable.
  • Instead of saying anything, try making a noise like a purr or sigh.

Principal Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Build the relationship culture and history
  • Communicate values and beliefs
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Foster nurturing, affectionate, loving contact

Hug Greeting

Greeting one another can be a special moment that all too many couples let slide through their fingers.  A hug and a peck with the brief hello is the usual fare.  Busy couples will often forgo even that little routine as they put their stuff down and go about their personal coming home rituals.

A greeting “ritual” that falls far short of the mark is greeting each other with a flood of information or complaints.  Sometimes the information is important, but it can almost always wait a minute.  Complaints are an appeal for support and understanding that may require some problem solving later.  Take one small minute to greet each other first, and both the information and the complaints will go down easier.

Creating a meaningful greeting ritual can be a very centering, nurturing way to get back in tune with one another.  As soon as you see each other after a period away, let the first thing you do be to give each other a one-minute hug.

Variations

  • Try it in silence . . . being focused and centered on each other
  • If there are children, set up an agreement where this is your time together, and they respectfully wait a single minute
  • Greet your partner with a big ear-to-ear smile and give me a big hug.
  • If there is a height difference, create/buy a “hug box” by the door that makes up the difference.  This is lovely if one partner wishes to give a hug on the same level for a different kind of connection.  One couple created this by the taller partner giving the “hug box” at Valentines day (a romantic gesture that fed the couple ritual).
  • Like sappy movies or book scenes (picture a large flowered or grass field in the media), you start fairly far apart and start slowing moving toward one another, then moving faster, then fast walk, and then full run, and then a wild, full embrace!  Ritual would often start when saw one another from afar instead of being a planned thing, although that could work, too.
  • If a minute is too long, try it for 30 seconds, but no less than that.
  • Combine this with the whispering-to-the-heart ritual.

Principal Purposes Served

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

Beat the Dog

Out of all the rituals, to me, this one seems the most off-the-wall silly.  And, to my great surprise, this ritual is present in a handful of couples that I spoke with, although not exactly the same.  More details are in the variations below.

If they really thought about it, couples would realize that, slowly, they stop greeting each other with the enthusiasm they feel (or felt) about being together again.  Who loves you and shows it with a lot of enthusiasm each and every time when welcoming you home?  Your dog!  Have some playtime and fun with each other by mimicking a dog greeting.  When I come home after a period away, my dog will immediately run up to me with a wildly wagging tail, smile a nice big dog smile, perhaps jump up on me, and freely give lots of kisses.  Of course, not all dogs are like that, but think of a Golden Retriever or a chocolate Lab or most of those little bitty dogs, and you’ll have the right picture.  I recommend you skip the butt sniffing part!  This isn’t something folks do every day, but every now and then, try and greet each other like a hyper dog.

Variations

  • Try and do it in an even more exaggerated style than a dog would; in other words, outdo or “beat the dog,” and you’ll both end up hugging, kissing, and laughing for sure!
  • Children were involved for a couple of the partners interviewed, and the greeting turned into more of a group jumping up and down party (the children were under 12).
  • One couple reported that sometimes they’d surprise the dog by entering the home without being noticed.  Then, the task was to sneak around and find the partner and greet them like the dog would, which would then get the dog in the act afterwards.
  • Mixing it up, a couple would sometimes both greet the dog together when they arrived home together.
  • After their dog died and they didn’t replace her, the couple still occasionally greeted one another like a dog, crawling on all fours, bounding through the house until they found their partner, and greet them like the dog did.

Principle Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Build the relationship culture and history
  • Communicate values and beliefs
  • Provide regular opportunities for play
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Foster nurturing, affectionate, loving contact
  • Fulfill needs for predictability and novelty

Play Time

This ritual refers to literally playing with time.

Hour

  • When traveling (only), a couple would proclaim how lucky they were to spend another hour together.  They would do this on the exact hour, if one of them happened to notice.
  • When the clock time was like 11:11 or 9:09, and one of them noticed, they’d kiss for the minute, or however much of it remained.  Sometimes a couple would notice the time was coming close, and wait for the time to change, but they were not allowed to wait for it if it was more than a minute before the appointed time.

Principle Purposes Served

  • Create stable touchstones
  • Foster trust
  • Provide regular opportunities for play
  • Emotional money in the bank

Date Night

After the dating, courting, or honeymoon days have passed, we realize that life together takes on a different feel, especially if both work and/or kids are involved. Yet, do we really want to settle for working, renting movies, watching TV, or dealing with the necessary details of life together, routines we only occasionally interrupt with forays into something new, or maybe vacations?  Naturally, people do enjoy their separate playful activities, but how many of us have some of them in common with our partners?  How often do you do the ones you do have in common?

In the hectic pace of life, it can become all too easy to let our relationships slip from first place in our priorities.  Yet intuition as well as research tell us that having a meaningful, loving relationship is the single biggest factor contributing to our happiness.  Just look at book dedications, or read about people’s musings at the end of their lives; they almost always speak of their mates and the people in their lives.

If you’re one of those lucky couples who actually have a lot of time on their hands, you probably have plenty of couple rituals and do many date-night type things together.  However, even folks who have lots of time don’t necessarily spend it playing with their partners in a consistent and meaningful way.  If you’re in the first group, perhaps the following list will inspire a new twist.  By now, maybe I’ve also convinced people in the second group that using couple rituals are important.  Perhaps this list of ideas will spark some mutual interest?

Creating stable touchstones actually creates time.  Sure, date nights can be time consuming, but in a long-term relationship, that is time spent very economically.

Surprise, surprise: date nights are among the most popular couple rituals.  They imply some excitement and romance, so who wouldn’t be interested?  Some people focus on sharing an activity, while others couldn’t care less what they’re doing as long as it is “quality time” together.  Time periods run the gamut from weekly, monthly, to when some special signal occurs.  More than perhaps any other couple ritual, this one has the most flavors.  While people have certainly shared their very quirky, personal date-night rituals, I believe a more general list will help you figure out what might work best in your situation.

Creation

There is a magic about combining creative efforts to make something that couldn’t be bought “off the shelf” anywhere.  In the end, there’s a finished product that is beautiful to its makers, no matter how wonderful or atrocious it might really be.  Perhaps it has something to do with the subtle metaphor that working together to create something beautiful is exactly what you are doing together.  The short-term nature of making something creates a tangible symbol of your efforts to create a beautiful partnership.  The most common examples are gardening, building something, crafting, home improvement, and taking lessons together (e.g., dancing, cooking, acting, pottery, etc.).

Playing
Healthy adults need and desire play as much as children.  Naturally, the form of play changes over time, just as it does in childhood.  Couple rituals are often playful and date nights are particularly so.  There are scores of games adults commonly play, but let’s focus on games that are played with just the two of you.  When more people are in the mix, couples often perceive the event as less meaningful and important than games involving only themselves.  The most common inside games reported were bowling, computer games, card, word, and board games.  Outside play included golf, mini-golf, croquet, tennis, boating, and bird watching.  Informal play is also important, such as pillow fights, wrestling, and hide and seek in the home or surrounds.  There were a lot of more idiosyncratic games reported as well, but they are so individual that they are more interesting than useful to mention.

Camping
Getting back to nature holds a special appeal for more people than I would have imagined.  I enjoy it quite a bit myself and have camped more than a month each year during the last decade or so.  Camping wasn’t a category I was going to bring up, but from executives to hippies, it was frequently mentioned as a particularly enjoyable couple activity.  Ideally, it lasts longer than a night, but lots of people reported an agreement to go camping for a night or two, so I decided to include it.  The peace and pleasure people find in natural surroundings combined with the absence of distractions make it an especially intimate bonding activity.

Random
Couple rituals can be both predictable and spontaneous.  Planning something spontaneous may seem contradictory and not have the same appeal as simply letting an idea sweep you away, but you can have your cake and eat it too.  When circumstances allow, by all means be completely spontaneous.  Otherwise, try clearing your calendars for something random to do once a week or month.  Checking the paper for events and adventures is a great strategy, as well as local online sources.  Maybe you go bargain hunting or take a class or enjoy cleaning out part of the house or . . .  Also, instead of following a specific time, try using a special signal like a sunset or moonrise to be your cue to take some time together.  Finally, while not technically random, you can also use “The fun box” couple ritual to set off on an adventure that you’re both sure to enjoy.

The date “Date night
With the random category, you both don’t know what’s going to happen.  To slice the predictable – spontaneous continuum differently, one of you plans and knows everything that is going to happen, while the other simply knows that a span of time has been cleared for something.  The frequency can vary from every week, to every other week, to every month.  Each time, the roles shift, so both of you have a chance to be regularly “surprised.”  This couple ritual is the one most similar to a romantic act, but the planned and recurring nature put it in the domain of being a ritual.  Dates don’t have to be elaborate or expensive; do what fits your needs.  Remember, couple rituals lose their power when they become a burden, so don’t bite off more than you can chew or get into a “one-upmanship” competition.

Food
Food is a central element in all cultures.  It has the potential to bring people together and put them in a good mood.  For a couple, eating together is usually a routine, but why not move it up to the level of a couple ritual?!  It can become one when it is a meaningful, enjoyable event that you both really look forward to.  In order to separate routine meals from couple-ritual meals, think about special menus and plans.  For example, once a week (other week, month), prepare a full meal with tablecloth, candles, and music.  Typically, one of you cooks for the other on a rotating basis, but you can also both cook the meal together as part of the ritual.  To give it an even more special feeling, you might choose to dress up.  A common, but dressed down variation is to have a picnic outside, or even on the living room floor.  If one of you chooses not to cook or time is short, try picking up some food for each other as a surprise and have the focus be on the time together instead of the effort involved in cooking.  You can still have that candlelight and flowers!  Of course, there is always dining out as well.

At home
The normal space, made abnormal in a good way.  If there are kids, they stay with a relative or friends . . . the home is solely yours.  Of the scores of options noted by couples, some of the more common ones include:  showering/bathing together, cooking a lovely meal together and eating it, watching something, playing a game, looking at photo albums and past letters/notes, pampering one another with spa-like treatments, grooming one another, massage, music, candles, and making love.

Doing together
Doing task-based things together certainly does NOT count as a couple ritual under normal circumstance, and yet there are a few mentions of errand/work-like tasks that couples class as meaningful (and planned and recurring).  One key distinction I appreciated here is that the task could be done by one person efficiently, and the other doesn’t really add much, and yet they chose to do it together anyway (like shopping).  That choice is because they find that time together connecting/meaningful.  This kind of ritual is challenging to keep from being mundane and thus unmeaningful, but it is possible . . . test your hearts’ warmth during and after to assess if this is ritual or routine.

Service together for another
Once a week, a couple would cook in their homes for a local shelter.  The time cooking together was what they enjoyed as a couple, with the bonus of giving to others thrown in.  Another couple would work on a house with Habitat for Humanity together.  Yet another would do little service projects together for an elderly couple in their neighborhood.

Church / Prayer / Spirituality
Whether it be going to a religious service/ceremony together, or prayer together, practicing some form of spirituality together is common.  Praying together had a reportedly higher meaning/connection for the COUPLE than did going to a service, as the latter time has attention spread amongst a larger group of people, rather than the couple itself.

Monthly anniversary
I didn’t think enough people celebrated their anniversary (technically, it’s not an “anni”versary) every month to make it worthy of inclusion.  But, just like the camping flavor, it kept turning up over and over again.  Partners use any of the date-night flavors mentioned above, or something meaningful just to them.  For example, many couples go to the same restaurant where they met and eat at the same table every month.  Another is a game of who can say “happy anniversary” first whenever that date rolls onto the calendar.  If it doesn’t involve a repetition of something memorable from their past, it is usually something they particularly enjoy doing together, or it fits the random category.

Principal Purposes Served

  • Stable touchstone
  • Money in the emotional bank
  • Nurturing contact
  • Builds the relationship culture and history
  • Communicates values and beliefs
  • Provides regular opportunities for play
  • Fulfills the need for predictability and novelty

Toast

Yup, with liquid and a vessel.

Variations

  • Toast the beginning or end of every month with some reflection about each other, the past, and the future.  It’s helpful to have the focus stay on the two of you and stay positive.
  • At the beginning of the meal, toast to the day and each other.
  • Toast topics:
    • what each is thankful for
    • what was appreciated about the day
    • what is appreciated about each other
    • a note about the future
  • Cooperative toasting . . . take turns saying something until enough silence passed and then clink glasses and drink, while looking into each other’s eyes the whole time.
  • Preface the toast (or simply do this element) with holding each other’s hands with eyes closed and take a brief moment to appreciate your togetherness.  It ends when one squeezes the other’s hand and receives the squeeze back.