The candy dish is familiar — it’s always on the receptionist’s desk and full of root beer barrels. Marie is the receptionist; her dad is dying, and he has been dying for a long time. He loves root beer barrels. Knowing this, his nurse brings him a bag every week, enough to share with his daughter. Her eyes sparkle and water as she explains.
Tradition comforts us and makes us feel grounded — regardless of what’s caving in around us.
Whether it’s pizza on Friday nights or an annual celebration, it reminds us that somebody stands with us. We feel known and appreciated. Celebrating a tradition with somebody says “I love you” or “you’re important to me” … with actions, rather than words.
My husband Sam and I kiss before dinner every night. It reminds us to take a deep breath and really be with each other. We’ve all seen couples eating at the same table, but not with each other.
Traditions remind us to show up! Granted, YOU can get lost in an elaborate tradition. If you keep it simple, you’re more apt to stay present and satisfy its purpose.
Let’s say it’s his birthday: If you eat dinner at your favorite neighborhood restaurant and surprise him with a gift on his pillow, honoring him is the main event. On the other hand, if you make reservations at THE place across town, buy a new dress, that ends up cutting your waistline when you sit down, and more gifts than you have time to wrap, you have less attention to give him.
When you talk to happy couples, inevitably they make a point of positive interaction. It takes five positives to offset a negative. So, nurture the positive, reinforce it, re-say it, re-do it … and let go of the negative. Don’t ignore it; just re-frame it and keep it in perspective. And use tradition as a tool.
Start a tradition, maintain one, rekindle one — or re-work one. It’s an opportunity to pay tribute to her and your relationship. It can provide a foundation to build on. It can make what you’re building feel as real as it is. It can help you believe in it. Pick an idea and tailor it:
Nap Sunday afternoon
Jog before breakfast to burn stored fat
Indulge in a hot bath on Saturday morning
Walk after dinner to metabolize it faster
Repeat your wedding vows with each full moon
Exchange massages for five or 60 minutes
Visit a gravesite and share memories
Make love outside
Try a restaurant—or eat at a favorite—each week
Make Wednesday movie night
Wash each other’s backs
You’ll find you have something to look forward to, making you less apt to get bogged down in the busyness and the work — what you have to do and what didn’t get done. Make a point of sharing something pleasant with each other regularly. Fun is more likely to happen spontaneously if you give it enough priority to plan for it!
Tradition doesn’t just make you feel grounded and safe. It gives you permission to be childlike and silly. It provides continuity from one happy moment to another. And it’s a lot of bang for the buck, because you don’t have to immerse yourself in the hot bath waiting for you to feel warmed by it. You only have to think about the foot massage to feel less overwhelmed by a hectic day.
Underscore what’s important to you with tradition, and you won’t worry as much about what’s not.
💞 Jan Denise
Coming Home to Love