The Little Things – How Rituals in Relationships Can Keep Happiness in Love
I feel like those old grannies who have nothing else to do all day except staring out the window. Or to feed their five cats. I don’t have five cats. Not even one. But a coffee with oat milk. And I’m not staring out the window either. I sit on my window sill, about six inches wide, and look out on the street. I probably have more to do too – but it is Corona and Corona, among other things, has ruined my sleeping pattern, so it is 6 in the morning, the sun is shining and the street is empty.
A short story
Except for the man with the green cap, who is driving in a circle for the fifth time and looking up. Yesterday he teased a long string that let a brown-haired woman hang from the balcony. The day before yesterday he got into the car with the brown-haired woman. She pulled up in a small red car, but instead of waiting for the door to open, she got out. Then the two hugged each other. Her brown hair disappeared under his green cap. Then, only then did they drive off.
Today the brown-haired woman stands on the balcony, crosses her arms on the railing and whistles down, while the man with the green cap is driving in a circle and beaming upwards. Why do I share a story where I look like a mix of crazy cat lady and thoroughbred stalker?
0.01% better every day
The potential for great things lies in the small rituals. “All big things come from small beginnings,” writes James Clear in his bestselling Atomic Habits. We only have to be 0.01% better every day. As if our habits were also interest-bearing. It is not the great one-off actions that are used to carve success and fulfillment and happiness and love. In his book, he talks about medalists and personal success. I’m thinking of a 0.01% rate of return while I’m sitting on the windowsill.
At least I would put her brown hair and green hat in a wedding speech – but maybe they are already married anyway? Then just the speech on the 40th anniversary.
If small rituals for love are what investing in our wealth is, it makes sense why at some point we are emotionally impoverished and starved. Even if or especially when we fight a lot for a relationship. Big gestures are often expensive.
With the knowledge of these little things, it is no longer surprising when couples come to me and have not looked each other in the eyes for more than three seconds in years. Or when they notice in the meeting that the last coffee, where they talked about their goals and values and not just about the daily schedule, was two summers ago. If the kiss of welcome is missing – and any form of obvious closeness anyway – how should intimacy and eroticism arise? We water a succulent plant ourselves once a week and not just once a year. What lives needs to be watered – and at regular intervals.
Where did it go, the beautiful?
When the couples remember this togetherness, I see a little longing. And amazement. Where did it go It was really nice.
Often these little things have simply been forgotten. Sometimes the priorities have shifted. Sometimes they buried the rituals with resentment and reproaches. Sometimes the pain is so great that we don’t believe that something small can make a difference. I would like to imagine that we don’t know better, so I am writing this article. Loving is easy. Or at least it could be.
Of course, rituals are not a promise of a happy, fulfilling relationship – but forgetting and ignoring these beautiful, short moments certainly doesn’t make it easier.
Especially – if we didn’t enjoy these little rituals, then we probably wouldn’t have done them in the good times? Rituals don’t have to be big either. Actually there is even a very delicate intimacy in their everyday life, as if people could immerse themselves in their own happy, in love universe for a second.
You just need attention and joy – and sometimes letting go of your own right. Perhaps we remember the glass of wine that we used to share each time we met again. The breakfast together. A real kiss of greeting instead of just a glance. A message before bed. A Morse code with hands. An embarrassing nickname. A look at a window before you face the world. A sip of coffee before I crawl under the covers again.