As I have shared before, my husband and I are special needs parents – we have a teenager with pervasive developmental delays, intellectual disability, and autism. We also have a “2e” elementary aged child who is both academically advanced and has extremely high functioning autism/quirks/who knows.
We are often short – short on time, short on money, short on patience. When a sitter costs $25-$30 an hour, you don’t go out much. When messing up your kids routines means misery for weeks on end, you don’t take a weekend away together. When the day is so stressful, it’s hard to be flirty or romantic.
But, we also realize that staying connected and nurturing our relationship is essential, not just to our functioning as parents, but in our health and happiness in each other. Over the years we have developed distinct rituals around our household calendar, often involving food and drink, that helps keep us grounded. For me, these rituals do have the importance of a Feast that might trump another kind of Eating Liturigcally day (fast or fierce) – God brought us together, and our marriage is a sacrament in our church. Honoring and nurturing that bond, between us and the Holy Spirit, is vital.
- Every Friday, we have “Happy Hour”. I feed the kids something easy (like frozen pizza or chicken nuggets), and I do it a little early. I then send them downstairs to their computers. When my husband texts me that he is heading home, I tidy the dining room table, put on some music, and prepare some appetizers – cheese and crackers, or olives, or a party tray I got on sale at Aldi that week. When he arrives, we make cocktails, and sit down and TALK for a few hours until it’s time to put the kids to bed.
It is so wonderful to reconnect at the end of the week, and to start the weekend off with this slower paced time. It reminds me of the shabbat dinners I’ve been to – everyone coming together to breathe and acknowledge the week is past, to prepare for time together. Even though Friday is a Fast Day, I have no qualms about breaking my fast with our Happy Hour date.
- Every Monday, we have “Family Dinner”. My husband’s work hours vary, but once a week he can be sure to be home in time for dinner. My Monday work schedule is lighter, so I have time to put together a more traditional dinner, and am less stressed about doing so. I set out new linens on the dining room table, and light candles. We all sit together, open with a prayer, and then have a more formal meal. It’s not the only time we may eat together that week, but it’s the day that we always do, and that makes it special.
Since part of eating together is eating the same food together, I will forgo some of my Fierce eating rules for this dinner to make sure it’s a meal all picky eaters will enjoy.
- On the 7th of each month, we have a “Sevens” date, a nod to our wedding anniversary of June 7th. Depending on where it falls in the week, it can vary from taking morning off from work together and doing something, to ordering sushi after the kids are in bed that night, to going out to a movie on a weekend.
Sevens is important. We always do something (if one of us is traveling during it, it is rescheduled as soon as possible after), and we do go ahead and spend money to make it happen. When you are prioritizing your time and money for something, it becomes meaningful to you – and thus, I enjoy the food and drink our Sevens dates provide, regardless of the calendar.
- Lastly, we are big Marvel Cinematic Universe movie fans, and we see each one *in the theater* during opening week. These Marvel Dates are rare, and provide so much richness to our conversations and creativity together, as we talk over and mull the story line within the movie and how it connects to the overarching story all these movies are telling. It’s like our book club.
When we’re in the theater, the popcorn, candy, and drinks I eat, as well as the cocktail we share at home after when we talk it all over, are fair game to me.
I have found the keys to creating, and more importantly, to keeping up with these kinds of rituals are making them easy to remember (“Sevens”, or “Friday Happy Hour”), not much work to put together (like cheese and crackers picked up on the way home from work), and fun and delicious enough to eagerly anticipate. Our relationship rituals have been such a help in keeping our marriage connected in our stressful life; I encourage you to give them a try!