How are the happiest couples different from other couples? What do they do first thing in the morning that other couples don't do? In my recent post where I interviewed Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, you learned about the importance of rituals and routines, especially in the morning. As busy parents, this is the time of day most under our control, and it's a great time to devote to enriching our relationships.
Creating a morning ritual doesn't take a lot of time and effort, either.
How do successful couples spend their mornings? I tracked down some of the most successful relationship experts and authors around, all people who happen to have fantastic marriages, too. I asked them about their morning routines. This is what they told me:
1. Apologize. Hug. Cook.
Harriet Lerner, PhD., is the bestselling author of The Dance of Anger and Marriage Rules. She also tends to wake up grumpy. If her typically wonderful husband, Steve, has acted bad the night before, he hugs her and says, "I apologize for being an idiot last night. How would you like your eggs?" The eggs, specifically omelettes, are the constant in their daily morning ritual. "He always gets cooking and, along with the coffee, this warms my heart," says Lerner. You know what? I think I'm going to award him "Husband of the Year".
2. Do Something Just for Your Spouse
Jason Kurtz and his wife get up at different times. "I don't drink coffee in the morning, but she does," says Kurtz, a therapist and author of Follow the Joy. "It helps her wake up, and she enjoys the ritual. I think it makes her feel especially cared for when she is able to wake up to find that I have a hot pot of coffee waiting for her. It's a small gesture, but it's always nice if you can start the day with a smile."
3. Create a Ritual
When Gretchen Rubin, the bestselling author of The Happiness Project, was researching her next book Happier at Home, she learned that experts recommend routines and rituals for children to provide them with a feeling of predictability, order and connection. "I thought: adults crave these things too, so I resolved to make a ritual to kiss in the morning, and kiss at night," she says. "Every morning I wake at 6 a.m., well before my husband does, and I kiss him before I've even gotten out of bed." She then gives him a more substantial smooch when he wakes, and again before he leaves for work. "Sometimes the kiss is just a quick exchange, but sometimes it turns into a real, lingering embrace," she says.
4. Schedule a Coffee Hour
When Fawn Weaver traveled the world interviewing happily married couples for her research for The Happy Wives Club, one thing kept coming up again and again: the importance of rituals. "When I returned home from my travels, I told my husband, 'We don't have a ritual! This is one of the secrets to a happy marriage. We need to create one!" So the couple created "The Weaver Coffee Hour". "Every morning, we block an hour off to just sit and connect. Sometimes we're talking about work and what we have on our plates that day. Sometimes we spend the time dreaming together and setting future goals. But we do this daily, even if we have to wake up at 5 a.m. to make it happen. It is now, by far, my favorite time of each day."
5. Eat Breakfast Together
As I mentioned in "What the Happiest Couples Do Before Breakfast, Part 1", Laura Vanderkam's successful books were what inspired this post. As a result, I had to know: What does she do in the morning for her marriage? "Many couples have a family breakfast, and that's what we do," she says. "It's good to have that interactive time when you can see your partner caring for the family. Everyone discusses their days, and it's a lot more relaxed than a family dinner, especially when the kids are as young as ours are."
6. Wake Up with a Kiss
"Since Paul gets up hours before me, he always comes to my side of the bed and kisses me good-bye before he leaves for work. It's the best alarm clock, and it makes me have sweet thoughts of him throughout the day," says Gina Parris, a performance coach and relationship specialist.
7. Have Coffee in Bed
"I'm not a morning person," says Rivka Slatkin, of the Marriage Restoration Project. "So I'm especially appreciative when my husband Shlomo gets up early with the four children and then comes back up to our room and wakes me with a hot cup of coffee. It's a gentle and loving transition that encourages me to get out of bed and start the day."
8. Wish Your Spouse Happiness
And now it's my turn. What's my morning ritual? Every morning, I get up around 6 a.m. so I have time to meditate before the rest of my family wakes. As part of my meditation, I think of all the reasons it's so important for everyone in my family to be happy, including my husband. Then I meditate on the wish, "May they all be happy." By the time they wake, I'm filled with love, and I can help ease them into the day no matter how grumpy they may be.
-Photo Credit: Laura Vanderkam
-By: Alisa Bowman