As you and your partner transition into parenthood, your marriage changes. It’s not optional, and it’s not bad. It just happens.
In the era before kids, you were free to decide how to spend your time, you got more sleep and there was less to worry about. Yes, your relationship still had its up and downs, but the downs also seemed more manageable—because you had more capacity to handle stress.
According to a survey of 225,000 married people from Lasting, the leading couples counseling app (backed by The Bump parent company), couples without kids report higher levels of satisfaction in nearly every single area of their relationships: communication, conflict, appreciation and emotional connection. Only 32.9 percent of parents felt that their partner makes them feel very appreciated, compared to 52.2 percent of those without kids.
In fact, couples without kids report more satisfaction in every area except for one: their family culture.
Parents are far more likely to dedicate energy to intentionally crafting their family culture, traditions and rituals. While that may not seem like a big deal, in the long run, it is. Your family traditions and rituals can guide your life by providing the structure necessary for both the present and the future.
Why Family Rituals Are So Important
Rituals are traditions that enhance connection in your relationship and serve as your touchpoints. They set daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms for you and your family. Contrary to popular belief, these aren’t just big annual events like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but also small things like morning coffees, date nights, family dinners, evening walks and weekend activities.
“The magic is in the small things, which occur and reoccur on a more consistent basis and enable you to prioritize your marriage and family on a consistent basis,” says Liz Colizza, MAC, LPC, NCC, a seasoned couples and family psychotherapist and head of marriage research at Lasting. “Even if the unpredictable waves of life try to interfere with your family life, with the right small traditions and rituals in place, you’ll still be more likely to stay close and connected over the long haul.”
Most importantly, an intentional family culture can help you and your partner march in sync toward your collective vision of The Good Life—your mental picture of what a satisfying and fulfilling life looks like in the future.
But despite the value of family culture, according to Lasting, only 35 percent of parents are intentional about the way they go about creating traditions and rituals. It’s significantly better than couples who don’t have kids (28%), but it’s still not great. Read on for the steps you can take to start building your most important traditions and rituals.
How to Strengthen Your Family Culture
The good news: Your culture, traditions and rituals are never set in stone. You and your partner can always keep, edit, add to or delete them. Just because your parents had steak dinners on Sunday nights doesn’t mean you need to. The Lasting app offers a Traditions and Rituals Audit that you and your partner can do together to figure out what your family culture looks like now, and what you can do to build on it. Here are the steps to follow:
• Start with your daily and weekly activities. Write down every single recurring activity in your marriage and family life. Walk through every day of the week, and be on the lookout for things you typically do in your daily and weekly rhythms. Think: movie nights, going to church, walking through the local farmer’s market, etc.
• Move onto the monthly and yearly activities. Write down every monthly and yearly activity you do as a family, like major holidays and birthdays. Write all of them down.
• Discuss your collective vision of The Good Life. If you’ve already set up your family mission statement—a declaration of the values you want your family to uphold and what you want to accomplish—then you’re ahead of the game in terms of reflecting on your life’s purpose. If you haven’t, here are some key questions to help you get to your own personal vision of The Good Life:
- What would you like others to say about your family?
- What story do you want to tell about your family later on in life?
- What types of things would make you truly happy and fulfilled?
- What do you want to be remembered by?
• Edit, delete and add to your family traditions and rituals. Do your daily, weekly, monthly and annual rituals align with how you’ve defined The Good Life? Are they making you more likely to realize your vision for you family life? If not, then how you’re spending most of your time doesn’t align with your deepest longings and values. With this knowledge, you can now edit, delete or add to your traditions and rituals list.
How to Work with Your Partner to Set Family Rituals
As you go through this process, it’s important to recognize that you and your partner are two different people. “You have two different minds and two different hearts, which means you may think differently and feel differently about certain values,” Colizza says. “Frankly, this can make it difficult to create your family culture together, but there’s beauty in the process of creating something that is uniquely both of yours.”
If you can get to know one another’s values, goals and dreams and collectively build a culture around them, you’ll combine the ways you think and feel about the world into a single family, which will bring far more meaning and purpose to both of your lives. Your culture can actually be a symbol of who you are as a team and who you hope to become in the future.
Published February 2018
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