There have been many Elf on the Shelf pictures taking over social media this month. Families everywhere are enjoying finding their elves in various sticky situations, blending in by sitting with family portraits, or hanging out on the mantle. It’s clear how this tradition can be a fun bonding experience for the family, but have you ever thought about how it is good for your relationship?
Couples Therapy Expert John Gottman’s research shows that successful couples engage in 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction they experience. Positive interactions are things like smiling, validation, touching on the arm, kissing, saying “I love you,” or offering help. Negative interactions include name calling, rolling eyes, sighing, brushing off, or being defensive. So how do couples maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions? One important way couples do this is through forming rituals.
Rituals are routines that create shared meaning in relationships and strengthen emotional connections. Rituals are important because partners look forward to participating in them, and therefore are enjoying spending time with each other, creating a deeper connection, and increasing intimacy. Rituals can also symbolize who you are as a couple (or family). The holidays are a time for rituals, such as hosting dinner, attending church services, opening presents with family, and doing Elf on the Shelf. You and your partner can have positive interactions and enhance your bond by thinking of creative ways to hide your family elf, looking up ideas online together, reading the book as a family, and working as a team to come up with a fun plan for your children. My elf, Zoey, is pictured above grabbing some coffee for the day. There are many ways during the holidays to form rituals that can continue from year to year, and it’s extremely important to focus on both couple and family rituals during this time.
Although holidays and special moments are important, smaller scale and daily routines are essential for maintaining a healthy relationship. How couples interact and come together creates a sense of belonging. Rituals are a way to show your partner that you are able to take time out of your busy schedule to make one another a priority. Here are some ideas of everyday rituals that you can add in to what you already do as a couple:
- Eating dinner together and talking about your day
- Going on a walk
- Making your partner’s favorite dessert for a special occasion
- Eating at the same place every Sunday
- Texting each other when you are on the way home
- Letting your partner know you are thinking about them during the day
- Weekly date night
- Leaving love notes
- Packing your partners lunch for them
- Game night
- Attending church together
- Cooking breakfast on Saturday morning
- Watching a favorite TV show together
- Kissing when you come and go
- Volunteering together
- Planning a couples retreat
Rituals also help form positive memories for relationships and hold partners together like glue. They keep you connected and strengthen your bond. What rituals are present in your relationship? What new rituals will you add in to increase your number of positive interactions? Oh, and what is your elf up to today?