Family rituals, particularly during Christmas, foster identity and belonging in relationships. They vary with individual couples’ expectations and evolve with growing children. This blog post suggests choosing which childhood traditions to continue; highlights the importance of shared dreams in couple happiness; and advocates for open communication to deepen emotional connections.


Embracing Family Rituals During The Festive Season


For families who celebrate, Christmas is a very special time. Children and their parents look forwards to the joy of sharing family rituals. From visiting Santa to baking Christmas cookies, these traditions are not just about celebration – they’re about creating a sense of identity and belonging. Particularly for couples raising young kids, these rituals can stir up fond memories. But they can also evoke strong emotions, and lead to conflicts, especially when expectations differ.


Understanding the Impact of Family Rituals


For most families who celebrate Christmas, the season includes lots of family rituals. Perhaps you’ll open advent calendars, watch festive films, choose and decorate a tree. Maybe you’ll wrap and exchange presents, spend time with each other’s families, and enjoy lots of festive food and drink.

These family and community rituals provide us with a sense of identity and belonging, which helps to bond us together. They can stir up strong emotions, and most of us love to reminisce about our childhood rituals – especially any strange or unusual ones!

These traditions can also be a source of conflict for couples, especially when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed by all the work involved in making Christmas wonderful for your children. We all have our own expectations about how special occasions will be celebrated. Fighting around this time is very common! Bear in mind that it might be down to you and your partner missing the deeper meaning behind each other’s suggestions and preferences.


Family Rituals During Christmas And Beyond


Family rituals are not just for Christmas – they include any customs or traditions families engage in regularly, often passed down through generations. You might not pay your family rituals much attention throughout the rest of the year. However, they are are central to your lives together. They help strengthen your family’s bonds, and create a sense of identity and belonging.

Parents create routines for children which then become rituals: from bedtime stories and family dinners to how you celebrate birthdays and other occasions. This is one way you pass down your family history, values, and cultural heritage.

However, it’s important to recognise that as children grow, and especially during the teenage years, these rituals might feel restrictive and need to evolve. You might feel tempted to abandon your traditions altogether, without realising how much they actually mean to you all. When you stay invested in them, adapting them instead, you’ll maintain a reassuring sense of comfort and continuity: this is how we do things here.

As Susan Lieberman says,

“Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.”


A Sense Of Purpose, Meaning, And Connection


We all need a sense of purpose and meaning. So family rituals are a great way to develop shared meaning for your life together. And this can keep you close as a family, but also a couple. It’s not just about the kids; Christmas is a romantic time for many couples, at least before children come along. Keeping up your own traditions can help you stay connected outside your roles as Mum and Dad.

Whether it’s for Christmas or beyond, think about which rituals you’d like to continue from your own childhood, and which you’d like to leave behind. Then ask your partner the same thing. This can be a lovely way to bond, and you might hear something you didn’t know, even after many years. Then you can tell your children about these memories, and see whether any of you has any other ideas for things you’d like to start doing.

Habits you build together will become part of your family story, and eventually its identity.


Creating Shared Meaning In Your Relationship: The Power of Shared Dreams in Couple Happiness


One of the keys to happiness as a couple is to recognise your individual and shared dreams, and use them to create meaning for your life together as a family.

A shared sense of purpose and meaning can be even more satisfying than an individual one. And relationships which are built around these kinds of hopes and dreams tend to be more stable over the ups and downs of a life together.

Not all of your values will be shared, of course. But when you develop this kind of family identity, it will help you to settle conflicts, pursue goals, and support each other’s dreams, which will all strengthen your bond.


Navigating Differences with Understanding and Curiosity


When you have a disagreement, you’ll resolve it more easily if you deepen your discussion to include the values and dreams that underlie each of your positions.

Even on relatively minor issues: if we can be bothered to argue about it, there’s usually a value, hope, or dream feeling threatened. So get curious about that.

By asking thoughtful questions about your partner’s perspective and aspirations, you’ll develop a more collaborative and understanding relationship.

You could try asking your partner questions like:

  • “What does it mean to you for us to do what you’re suggesting?”
  • “What’s the bigger picture or dream behind your idea?”
  • “Do you feel like we’re missing out on something that’s important to you if we do this my way?”
  • “What are you hoping to achieve in the long run with this?”
  • “What’s the main goal or value you’re trying to reach with your suggestion?”


This approach will not only help you to resolve conflicts, but deepen your connection over time.

If you ever get stuck feeling like you’re just trying to convince each other of your own point of view, this kind of curiosity can really shift the tone of your conversations to one where you’re working to understand each other better.

When you do this, you’ll get more creative, and new solutions might even present themselves. Plus you’ll achieve what ultimately leads to satisfying relationships: feeling closer and understanding each other better with every passing year.

Common ground can be hard to find sometimes. But it’s usually there in the place where our visions merge. And when we think like this, it becomes a virtuous cycle. As Kerry Patterson says,

“The pool of shared meaning is the birthplace of synergy.”


Open Communication: Revealing Your Inner World By Opening Up About Your Own Values, Hopes And Dreams


This kind of conversation needs to be a two-way street. So if you want your partner to understand and support you better, you’ll need to open up to them about your own values and aspirations.

This isn’t always easy, especially when we’ve got in the habit of avoiding being vulnerable with each other. Tell your partner when you’re about to trust them with your deeper hopes and dreams, and ask them to listen carefully and kindly.

When you trust each other enough to be open like this, you’ll deepen your emotional connection.


Cherishing Each Other This Festive Season And Beyond


As you celebrate Christmas, remember the significance of these moments for your relationship. It can be a time of high pressure for couples, so don’t forget to get out in nature and move your body as often as you can.

Expectations can be high around this time of year, and feeling disconnected from your partner can feel particularly painful. If you find yourself struggling, please know there is lots you can do to make improvements. Through relationship coaching and/or therapy, we can work together to strengthen your relationship. Click here to get in touch and find out more.

If you found this article helpful, you can also click here to get regular relationship advice straight to your inbox.