As far back as 20,000 BC, people began making soup. With limited resources and ingredients, it was not a hardy bowl of your modern day chicken, noodles, vegetables, and delicious spices. It was not until the 1700s when immigrants began contributing their own ingredients and spices that the originally simple broth we called soup burgeoned into a universal dish of endless varieties. Today, every country has a soup that represents some of its staple ingredients, culture, and history. Individuals similarly enter relationships with their own recipes of what life should look like on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. When one person’s ingredients for tradition and routine combines with another in a relationship, they have created their own soup or rituals unique to them.
Rituals are routines in relationships that carry a specific meaning. They can reoccur at different time periods. They can be as simple as dinner every night at a specific hour, to how and where birthdays are celebrated, to the way in which you take care of one another when one of you gets sick. We need rituals to deepen our relationships because they give us a sense of belonging, meaning, and security. Rituals also help couples learn about the values and beliefs that they hold close to their hearts.
I always tell my couples no matter how similar your cultural backgrounds, the household in which you grew up in is ultimately the culture unique to you. The experiences, both good and bad, the way your family handled conflict, the holidays you chose to celebrate, the pizza toppings you chose for Friday movie nights, these are all unique to your household culture. As they are repeated, they become the ingredients that create a sense of belonging, connection, and security. Inevitably you will carry these ingredients with you into your long-term romantic relationship, expecting your partner to love the “taste” until you’re reminded that the delicious soup you had been used to all your life demands an acquired taste.
Today, more and more couples are moving in together before getting married and when they are asked what changes they anticipate after saying “I do”, their response is almost always, “we’ve lived together for a while now so getting married isn’t going to change anything”. But this is a very common misconception…marriage changes a lot. Making a commitment isn’t just about moving from apartment 203 to apartment 415. When you move in with one another, you are sharing your ingredients, you are showing your significant other what a typical Monday looks like for you, how you prepare your meals the way mom did, what you expect the morning of your birthday because that’s what your family did for you every year. It is easier to understand you have different rituals to offer when you first move in together but eventually the couple reaches a point in their relationship when they must combine their ingredients into one pot and let it stew. At this point, your rituals and my rituals become our rituals. Part of the challenge is that change is not always a comfortable feeling, especially when it goes against behaviors and traditions we value. Because rituals give us a sense of security, modifying our rituals might feel like we are giving up a part of who we are. But what if we viewed it as making room for other delicious ingredients we’ve never tried before? What if we viewed it as a recipe for the love we share with our significant other? What if we viewed it as an opportunity to create something we can call our very own?
Rituals are an opportunity for growth. They are an opportunity to take your favorite traditions and your significant other’s favorite traditions and create something new. Making your bowl of comfort food requires patience, understanding, flexibility, and love. Allow time for the flavors to come together, accept that there might be certain ingredients that you may not be fond of but remember that openness to new ingredients will make a richer and more nutritious soup.
Tips on Making Relationship Soup Without Making a Mess in the Kitchen:
• Sit down with your significant other and independently make a list of your own family rituals
• Share your list with your significant other: Answer questions such as what you liked and disliked about that ritual and whether you would change anything. If it is a ritual you would like to hold onto, why? What meaning does it carry for you? Help your partner understand while encouraging curiosity.
• Compare your rituals: What do you have in common? What is different? Did you hear your partner mention anything that you would want to incorporate in your future together? Why do you think it would benefit your relationship?
• Create your own recipe: In detail, discuss the rituals in which you would like to create together. Include the specifics such as where, when, who, and how.
Sometimes it takes a few tries before getting the recipe just right. As a couple, continue playing with your ingredients until you feel you’ve created the right soup for you.
Written by Y.K., MA, LMFT, CST-Candidate
Disclaimer: this is not meant to act as or replace therapy in any way.
To schedule a therapy session, please call Houston Relationship Therapy at 1-800-913-9613.