The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 29, 2000 Issue
Summoned to Serve

Suitable partners nurture relationship

Couples who make their marriage thrive find rituals to keep them alive

By Tom Rinkoski

Summoned to Serve

Before there were mortgage payments and Visa cards, God planted a garden in Eden and placed there a man whom he had created. It was delightful to look at and full of delicious food. He did not have to go grocery shopping. But even with that, God said, "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him." And God created woman. And the man was really happy and asked the woman out for dinner. (Paraphrased from the first reading, from the book of Genesis, for this coming Sunday.)

God created for us partners and friends for our journeys and tasks. But while marriages may be made in heaven, so is lightening and thunder. How do married couples practice the art of being healthy, holy and successfully married couples? Here is a collection of rituals that real married couples use:

Couple #1: About 10 years into our marriage Jim and I were moving to a new city and a new job with three young children. We figured these transitions might put extra stress on our relationship so we committed to have a weekly date. Considering our busy schedules and modest income we developed the following process: (A) We scheduled the dates on the calendar for the whole year - usually a Friday or Saturday. This way we wouldn't accept another commitment unless we could switch our date to another night that week. (B) We alternated who would plan the date and it was often a surprise. This evened out the "burden" of planning and allowed each of us to do new things that the other spouse might not have thought of or chosen. The surprise added mystery, zest and romance. (C) It needn't cost money and needn't mean going out of the house, but it did require having time away from the children. (Some of our best dates were sitting by the river at night gazing at the lights. "Home dates" often meant taking naps in the evening while the other watched the kids so we could stay up past their bed time and have fun by ourselves.)

Couple #2. My husband and I have two small rituals that connect us without words. The first we use when we are with a group of strangers. The second helps us find each other when we are lost in a strange place. Somehow these actions are very reassuring and comfortingly familiar. The first is a slow blink. When we are stuck in conversations at a party and one of us would really like to leave (the party or conversation). One of us will catch the other's eye and blink slowly; this is the signal that we want help in gracefully wrapping things up and exiting. This way we can help each other and keep the event fun for everyone. The second is a low whistle. We have a snatch of a tune that we whistle softly when we are looking for each other. One of us whistles, the other responds, and we walk toward the music, whistling softly back and forth until we find each other.

Couple #3. My wife and I met in college when six of us went out for pizza. That was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 1958. Since marriage, we have tried to go out for pizza every Tuesday before Thanksgiving. When our children were young it was often pizza at home or out to eat with them, but since it has usually been just the two of us. We talk about the "early" days and our hopes for the future, just like the first time.

Couple #4. My husband and I have very different sleep schedules. I got to bed around 11 p.m. and am up at 6 a.m. He usually goes to bed between 1:30 and 2 a.m. and gets up around 8 a.m. I like to keep a glass of water by my bed. Early in our marriage he got into the habit of bringing me my water and kissing me goodnight. We have continued this "ritual" throughout our marriage(14 years). This is an important ritual for us because it provides us with an opportunity to connect each night. I don't just wander off to bed. There's something comforting about the fact that he knows when I go to bed and that we have said good night to each other.

Couple #5. My husband of 23 years came up with this idea. Every morning, he gets up at 5:30, gets ready for work and goes downstairs to make his coffee and breakfast; 6:15 is my cue to meet him at the kitchen table. There he sits between two lit candles. So for 20 minutes every morning, it's just the two of us enjoying a breakfast by candle light. It's especially "romantic" during the winter when everything is dark and we talk by candle light only. What a great way to start the day!

A marital ritual is a shared activity that you do on a repeated basis that has meaning for you as a couple. It can be small or big, splashy or simple, as long as it is a part of your life that helps you stay connected as a couple. You can read about more marriage rituals on the web at Or read the book, The Intentional Family by Bill Doherty. Share your marriage rituals by writing me at the Family Life Dept., P.O. Box 23825, Green Bay 54305; e-mail [email protected]. I look forward to hearing your stories.

(Rinkoski is the Green Bay Diocese's Family Life director.)

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