Relationship Rituals Are the Secret to a Happy Marriage, Say Experts

Cheers to more coffee and conversation

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As a marriage hums along, life’s daily logistics have a tendency to take over—everything from deciding what’s for dinner to who’s taking who to soccer. Date night is one way to counter the madness, but there’s another practice that can generate even more happiness and connection, say experts: relationship rituals.

Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed therapist and self-described relationship realist, describes relationship rituals as the traditions that add meaning to your marriage. For example, making coffee for each other each morning and drinking the first few sips together; calling each other for five minutes during your commute home; heck, it could even mean sharing a kiss each time you walk through the door after a busy day.

Per Earnshaw, the value of these rituals is found in their consistency and reliability, the intent to save space for each other as you navigate life. And there’s evidence that it works: A recent study published by the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found that couples with relationship rituals reported more positive emotions and greater relationship satisfaction and commitment to each other than those without them. And real-life couples echo this sentiment; we spoke to a mother of two teenagers who touted how brief morning walks with her spouse yield a deeper connection and window into the minutia of each other’s daily lives. “A walk can be wonderfully dull, but the repetition of doing it together means it’s a time where we can really open up,” she explains.

My spouse and I can also attest to the value of rituals. For example, the 8 a.m. walk to drop our kindergartener off at school or reading side-by-side (no phones!) before lights out in bed. We’ve also recently added a new one: Breakfast together post drop-off every Friday before our work day begins. (Sometimes this takes the form of grabbing a bagel, but we still count it.)

Bottom line: Honoring the love and affection you feel for each other doesn’t have to be exclusive to date night. Relationship rituals can also be thought of as micro celebrations of your closeness—and the payoff is big.

About the Expert

Elizabeth Earnshaw is a licensed therapist and the founder of a A Better Life Therapy, which is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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