Christmas is coming! For those of us who celebrate, that probably means lots of family rituals, like choosing and decorating a tree, wrapping and exchanging presents, and enjoying lots of festive foods and drink.
Family rituals provide us with a sense of identity and belonging which helps to bond us together. They can stir up strong emotions in us, and most of us love to reminisce about them (especially the strange and random ones!).
We might not pay them much attention the rest of the year, but rituals are central to our lives together. And that sense of belonging that they give to us and our children means so much.
There are times that family rituals can feel stifling. But when we’re invested in creating and maintaining them, they can be a comfort: This is how we do things here.
We all need a sense of purpose and meaning, and family rituals are a great way to develop a shared meaning for our lives which keeps couples and families close.
Whether it’s for Christmas or beyond, a great place to start is to think about which rituals you would like to continue from your own childhood, and which you would like to leave behind. Asking your partner the same questions 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 have any other ideas for things you would like to start from now.
These habits will start to feel like part of your family story, and eventually its identity.
Creating A Sense Of Shared Meaning Through Family Rituals And More
One of the keys to happiness as a couple is to recognise your individual and shared dreams, and to 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.
Not all of our values will be shared, of course. But when we have this kind of family identity, it helps us to settle conflicts, pursue goals, and support one other’s dreams.
When you have a disagreement, it can help to broaden your discussions to cover the values and dreams that underlie each of your positions.
Even on relatively minor issues, if we’re bothered to argue about it, there’s usually a value, hope or dream feeling threatened. So get curious about that.
You could try asking your partner questions like,
“What does it mean to you for us to do what you’re proposing?”
“What bigger issue or dream does this represent for you?”
“Is there a value which you feel held back from living in line with if we go with my preference?”
“What are you hoping for long-term with this one?”
“Is there a standard or principle which you’re aiming for with what you want here?”
This kind of curiosity can really shift the tone of our conversations from one where we’re just trying to convince each other to really working to understand each other better. When we do this we tend to be more creative and collaborative, and often new solutions present themselves. Plus we achieve our ultimate goal in relationships, to be feeling closer and understanding each other better with every year that passes.
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.”
Opening Up About Your Own Values, Hopes And Dreams
This kind of conversation is 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 – in fact it can make us feel quite vulnerable. Tell your partner when you’re trusting them with your inner thoughts and dreams, and that you need them to listen carefully and kindly.
When you trust each other enough to be vulnerable like this, you’ll deepen your emotional connection.
I hope you have a lovely time if you’re celebrating. 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.
Get In Touch
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