Relationship Rituals and Family Traditions
July 19, 2019 8:28 AM   Subscribe

What structured activities do you do with your significant other to add meaning and joy in your life? I'm looking for things that are reoccurring: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or seasonally.

From sitting down each month and plotting out a menu and shopping list to hosting a Passover Seder for friends each year. Specific is good. Perhaps monthly you sit down with your partner and take stock of what is working/not between you--but how do you structure it? I'm looking for quirky variety. Thank you!
posted by grinagog to Human Relations (31 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
Every week, we do "calendar check". Even though we have a shared Google Calendar and a shared shopping list and a shared to-do list and suchlike, we walk over to the family dry-erase weekly calendar and write out and discuss who's responsible for taking the younger boy to tae kwon do this weekend and whether trash day moved because of Memorial Day and who has an early meeting so the other one has to make sure to plan to take the toddler to day care and so on.

It gives us a way to quickly catch up on whether one of us is particularly busy and make sure that we're not just taking for granted that someone is always the kids' cabbie.
posted by Etrigan at 8:48 AM on July 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

I suppose this is a boring example, but if we are both home for dinner, we always sit at the table and eat together, no exceptions. We are both pretty independent people and do a lot of things separately, but sharing meals together is automatic and assumed. He works on Saturdays, but every Sunday he cooks us a big breakfast and we eat together. We both like to eat and we both like routines, this is a big part of our relationship.
posted by cakelite at 8:48 AM on July 19, 2019 [10 favorites]

We (my wife and I) pray Vespers together every night, including intentions for each other, our family, and others. Date nights as often as possible, even if this is just an errand run for groceries/Target/Lowes. As a family (us plus kids), we pray together in the evenings. One mystery of the Rosary, each person acting as a bead. We observe the liturgical seasons (Advent, Lent, Christmas, Eastertide, and yes, Ordinary Time) and important feast days of the Church. In addition to staying close to the rhythms of worship, these habits seem to focus us on daily/weekly/seasonal horizons for lots of other things too - general planning for household things and so forth.
posted by jquinby at 8:50 AM on July 19, 2019 [20 favorites]

Guilty Pleasures night = rent a movie that's entertaining but embarrassingly lowbrow. Shoo kids off to bed. Picnic on beer, little debbie snacks and ice cream while watching.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:50 AM on July 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Each morning, my wife and I drink morning coffee together. And we don't have our phones/tablets/laptops out. We tell each other anything we forgot to about yesterday; plans for today or near future, sometimes just stare a bit in shared groggyness. On weekends, we have double coffee! Sometimes this is missed if she's in a different city for work, or I've got a race requiring a wake up time too early for her to consider, but we probably get 350 - 355 shared morning coffee days each year.
posted by nobeagle at 8:52 AM on July 19, 2019 [21 favorites]

Not sure if this is totally what you are looking for, but let me introduce you to 'kitchen time,' my family's substitution for 'date night.'

We have basically no interest in drinks/dinner/movie type dates. If we go somewhere, it's going to be to see live music, and between ticket, parking, drinks and merch costs, and the nearly-midnight start most of the bands we like seem to prefer, that can't happen on any kind of regular schedule. Especially in summer when everyone is at festivals.

So we sort of accidentally invented something we call 'kitchen time.' Kitchen time is essentially a date night at home, where housework standards for the day are low to the point of slovenly, where childcare for the evening consists of something along the lines of 'here are cupcakes and unlimited screentime see you later buddy call us if you're bleeding' and where dinner consists of easy to prepare food that can be cooked cooperatively and eaten with one hand while leaning over the kitchen sink. Primarily, but not exclusively, tacos, and we've gotten very creative with the taco styles over the years and this shared love of taco-experimentation is part of the charm. Usually a small bottle of nice tequila mysteriously vanishes over the course of the evening.

Whereas 'date night' attempts felt scheduled and stifled and performative with high expectations, kitchen night is rarely planned and usually seems to happen when by mutual unstated molecular connection to one another, the emotional stars align. During kitchen time, we are far more likely to really talk. About things other than work and our child. To talk about politics and current events (we largely agree and don't argue, but we do learn things from each other's different focuses), to talk about the parts of our childhoods that still haunt us, to plan vacations that will never happen, to flirt. To stay up too late reminiscing about high points in our relationship, momentarily recapturing the phase when all we did was walk to bars and listen to Ween and "this is the song I associate with falling in love with you."

Kitchen time is part of the glue that holds our relationship together in a world of two busy working parents, childcare, a money pit house, a tough and angry world out there and everything else. It's usually unscheduled, but if one of us says we need some kitchen time that translates as - I am struggling and I need to connect.
posted by ramble-on-prose at 8:52 AM on July 19, 2019 [58 favorites]

We have tried to make things very ritualized and utterly failed, but we have some habits that we try hard to keep:

- Every day after work, if the weather allows, we go for a walk. This is good for my mood and gives us a chance to catch up on the day.
- Every week, we peer into the freezer, decide what meat we are cooking, and then go to the grocery store together. My wife does most of the cooking (with our current work schedules - this can vary) but I take the lead in deciding *what* to cook, because she hates cooking things that I'm not excited about, and this way if I don't like it, it's my own fault.
- On or about Valentine's Day, we buy the heart of some animal and cook it. (We're not fussy about the exact date.) Heart, as it turns out, is inexpensive and delicious!
- Most nights we listen to a low-stress audiobook in bed for a little while. Even when our sleep schedules differed, we'd do that and then I'd get up and go back to work once she was asleep.
- This is only intermittently reoccurring, but we have The PMS Rule: if one of us is PMSing and conceives a desire for a snack, the other one goes and gets it, no argument, no questions asked. It's surprising how soothing a hand-delivered treat can be.

There are probably other things, but we're creatures of habit more than ritual, so I'll probably not remember them immediately.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:57 AM on July 19, 2019 [11 favorites]

If we're home on Friday night for dinner, Shabbat--candles, kiddush, challah. We started doing it a couple of years ago, and now we have a daughter so we're doing the blessing of the children as well, and it's such a lovely time to pause and think over the week.

This is also usually followed up with Saturday morning challah French toast, and then Sunday morning pancakes or waffles; both with double coffee.
posted by damayanti at 8:57 AM on July 19, 2019 [13 favorites]

Ah I forgot one - (damayanti reminded me). Sunday lunch after Mass is something we call Snack Lunch around here: finger foods, crab-dips, salsa, little sushi roles, cheese/crackers, etc and everyone eats standing around like a cocktail party. It started off as something of a joke with vaguely Monty Python roots but now it's A Thing.
posted by jquinby at 9:05 AM on July 19, 2019

Every Friday night, dinner comes from our favorite Italian deli. I look forward to that prosciutto and mozzarella sub all week.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:10 AM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

We've done one of those "one paragraph a day" journals almost every night for about 5 years now. It's really fun to look back at what you are doing the same day years ago, even though a lot of the entries are silly or mundane. We also bring a "vacation journal" whenever we go on trips and try really hard to write in it every night.

On most trips, we buy a postcard as a memento and fill it out. Last year I bought one of those hanging photo displays for the wall so all our vacation postcards can be hung up.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:16 AM on July 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Annual sunrise hike/walk on New Year's morning. The past few years we've also done some introspective journaling about the previous year and the upcoming year. We also exchange gifts on New Year's Day instead of on a religious holiday.

Walks--at least weekly, more frequently when weather & time & health permits. We share what's on our minds, discuss quibbles or issues, make decisions, talk things through, and generally enjoy the sights and sounds of wandering through surrounding neighborhoods or parks.

Seasonal fruit picking: we try to do pick-your-own strawberries, blueberries, and apples each year and have favorite farms/fields/orchards that we like to visit and revisit.

Friday Shabbos dinner & blessings; no work or chores or shopping or schlepping on Shabbos (it took years to get to that place--I used to work Saturdays), closing Shabbos with Havdalah. Having a weekly reset is wonderful and bookmarking it with home observance really makes it stand out and gives us both something to look forward to. I try to plan a special meal--not leftovers--but something fairly simple to cook since I don't usually have time to spend 2 hours cooking beforehand. Tonight will be pierogi (purchased), kale, and onions. We'll probably eat more challah with honey as a dessert.

Bedtime reading: one of us will read aloud for about 10 minutes before bed--this is right before lights out. We alternate who reads each night. Books have ranged from childhood favorites to hyper-focused nonfiction, but tend to be on the less exciting side to facilitate feeling sleepy. Right now we're reading Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:30 AM on July 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

You mentioned hosting Seder so maybe a deconstructed friday night ritual? Light some candles, open a bottle of wine, take a moment to share something the other person did in the week that you appreciate/enjoyed/were grateful for.
posted by metahawk at 9:34 AM on July 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

We try really hard to have breakfast together on weekend mornings. Typically we will go out, which has the added bonus of keeping us off our screens and making us more likely to also take a walk.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:14 AM on July 19, 2019

Every anniversary my partner and I pack a picnic basket full of fancy cheeses, cured meats, and fruits and spend the afternoon sitting in the park where we held our wedding ceremony. No devices, just some wine glasses and a cutting board and trying new combinations of foods. And we discuss our relationship.

We call this the State of the Union.

We talk about our performance as a couple over the previous year: what went great, what didn't go so great, any surprises, any concerns. And we discuss the upcoming year: plans and goals and changes we want to see. It's an annual report discussion of the Business that is our Relationship consisting of several departments: communication, dependents, the physical home, sex, money, time, health.

We started doing this as a joke, chuckling over suggested powerpoint presentations and marriage contract renewal amendments. But it has become a very helpful framework to talk about our relationship and the things that are hard to talk about, and we always feel closer to each other and more aligned afterward.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:27 AM on July 19, 2019 [26 favorites]

Shabbat dinner was the first ritual my husband and I created together and it's the basis for the rhythm of our family life. (This is the point of the ritual, we didn't invent it.) Blessings over candles, kiddush, challah; meal at least slightly a cut above standard weeknight fare; and dessert (which we usually don't eat during the week.) Now that the kids are old enough we've added benching and scripture reading too.

If you're Jewish and you don't do Shabbat dinner yet, you might be surprised how much you come to look forward to it and rely on it: it's the scheduled division between the work week and family time and really helps make that transition happen, even if Friday evening is the only time you've got dedicated in that way. When we - very occasionally - miss Shabbat dinner because of travel obligations, everyone feels off kilter.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:40 AM on July 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

Every time we moved house (which we have done a lot now) we spent the first evening in the garden drinking homemade cocktails. It became such a ritual we have even done it in winter.
posted by lollusc at 11:04 AM on July 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

When whichever one of us leaves first on a given day is leaving the apartment in the morning, I kiss her and say "have a good day, I love you," and then she says "you have a good day too I love you too."
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:12 AM on July 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

"petname and petname Tuesdays" now fall on Wednesdays, but we've never updated our shared calendar so it still says Tuesday. My wife has a lot of routines she likes to keep up, so several nights per week we usually end up doing our own things. But Tuesdays Wednesdays are date nights for us. This week, I made dinner and we stayed in. Other weeks, we've had a midweek night out on the town.

Most weekend mornings, we have French press or Aeropress coffee and some kind of breakfast together. Sometimes we'll go out for brunch if our Saturday or Sunday late mornings are free.
posted by emelenjr at 11:51 AM on July 19, 2019

Whenever one of us returns home after travel, there's almost always a new set of magnetic poetry on the refrigerator that says something sweet and or shockingly nihilistic, arranged on an A Softer World souvenir 3-panel magnetic frame with new background images cut out of magazines. It's not profound, but we've been keeping it up for five or six years and both sides of it make me smile every time.
posted by eotvos at 12:23 PM on July 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

We grocery shop together, which based on my observations at grocery stores, is kind of unusual. We've done it since the kids were old enough to leave home alone for hour when it sort of considered it a date, and now we just do it because we like to.

We also try to go away every year for her birthday / anniversary (within a month so the trip celebrates both) - even if its just a couple of nights at the beach, or a new city we haven't been to previously.
posted by COD at 3:23 PM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

We keep an old mason jar on the kitchen counter and we routinely sneak in little notes on 'happy things' that have happened. They can be big...we moved to Florida, took a special trip...or small...saw a pretty butterfly, the cat recovered from an accident, a bicycle ride together, etc. Just things that made us grateful or happy. After New Year's we read thru them all and reminisce. Some years we are happier than others. It is a good reminder to savor the little things and each other.

We have been doing this for 8 years now and really enjoy reading through all of them.
posted by SassyMcSassin at 5:01 PM on July 19, 2019 [13 favorites]

We're retired, so morning times vary, but once we're awake, Mr. K gets up, starts a pot of coffee, and stretches, since he wakes up stiff. I wake up groggy, so I stay in bed and enter the day as well as I can manage. Then, the key point; no coffee until we meditate. 10 minutes of sitting silently together, the timer goes off, and the day starts.

Also, although we don't always eat together, when we do we first click our glasses (wine or water) and say "To Life."

I think having something simple we do regularly is the key.
posted by kestralwing at 7:49 PM on July 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

I make coffee for Mrs. Armoir. Every morning. Without fail. No, not simply turning on a Mr. Coffee. I grind the beans (which I have shopped for and chosen), I make the cup with the V60 filter gizmo via the pour-over method. This is started before she gets out of bed. Without this she might not get out of bed. Without this I might have to escape the house as quick as I can. I mention this not out of pride but to inform you all that the world is a better place -- a safer place -- not just for myself, but for all of you, because this happens. LOL.

But seriously. It's a little thing, that goes a long way. In the course of our relationship, there was The Time Before The Morning Coffee Was Made By Armoir, and The Time After. The Time After hasn't been a cakewalk, but i'll take it over the former, any day.

I love this AskMe. Thank you for it.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:10 PM on July 19, 2019 [15 favorites]

We have a bunch of seasonal routines. Going to the beach in summer, a haunted house and pumpkin patch in October, a friend's Christmas party, our own post-holiday party in February, a convention in May... There is always something we are looking forward to together.
posted by Lady Li at 12:35 AM on July 20, 2019

Every Valentine's Day my husband and I stay in with wine and cheese and fruit and watch Bull Durham. We started this to avoid the absurdity of overpriced prix fixe Valentine's Day menus, but now it's just because every year we love rewatching Bull Durham more and more. We're baseball fans and it also serves as a nice "hey, winter is *almost* over, just hang on a little longer till opening day!" milestone.
posted by mostly vowels at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2019

I email a short journal to my partner every weekday. The journals cover a range of topics - from practical life things, to discussing what I'm messed up over, to fantastical stories, poetry or love notes. They serve as a snapshot into how I'm doing/feeling and more often than not makes me stop and think about me, my partner and our lives. It most regularly leads to a reflection on things my partner does that I'm grateful for.

We also have a moment, after the morning alarm has gone off, but before we haul ourselves out of bed. We have a cuddle for the purpose of taking a short few minutes before we face the day to face each other in a positive, loving way.

It's not regular in a way I can identify a particular pattern, but I send notes that are amusing or loving. I sporadically leave notes in his lunch box, in his shoes, on the wall where he sleeps, on the bathroom mirror, etc. Just every now and again as a reminder that I've thought of him.

Once a week I make his lunch (for work)...and I try to go to town. I use one of those lunch boxes that has multiple compartments and put delicious things inside I know he will love. I never tell him what is in there, so each time it is something to be surprised (and hopefully delighted) by.
posted by TheGarden at 12:56 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

My partner reads to me, every night. It started when Terry Pratchett died (Discworld conventions brought us together) and we've been working our way through all the books: there's only one or two left, and a few we've done twice. It helps that my partner enjoys amateur theatre and has a fun collection of voices and accents.

Twice a year we go away for a weekend, once for each of our birthdays. Other than that we don't really observe holidays/birthdays.
posted by eloeth-starr at 11:12 PM on July 20, 2019

Me and my boyfriend tell each other three things that we appreciated about the other from the day each night before we go to sleep.
posted by mermily at 6:28 PM on July 23, 2019

When we have date nights it’s never dinner and a movie but dinner and a long walk. Good for exercise and catching up.

We also have a ritualized ‘conversation game’ that we do with the kids at dinner every night that we’re together. Everyone has to take a turn. You start by giving your day an overall quality number from one to ten, then give a few details about your day, then answer follow up questions.
posted by bq at 2:02 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Since I bought the app, we've been doing the NYT crossword puzzle every night together (it's published at 9pm most nights, so right before bed). It's a fun way to test our knowledge, improve our skills, and be impressed with each other. Plus it's been fun to have an evening ritual - even when one of us is traveling we can each work on it remotely via the app and it's a nice way to end the day.
posted by jouir at 2:30 PM on August 3, 2019

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