Creating Moments of Meaning

Pay attention to little rituals you and your partner do together—those tidbits of shared meaning could be the key to keeping the relationship, and romance, alive.

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault.

Three days a week, I trot up the cement stairs that separate my home from my office. I switch on the kettle and check that the Kleenex box is full. Next, with the ocean reflecting blues and grays on the window, I sit with my palm on my heart and reflect on love and happiness. And then I welcome the first couple of the day.

“He never opens the car door for me anymore,” Desiree gripes. “Yah?” Scott huffs. “Well she says I can’t get a motorbike, and then yells because I don’t feel like some big anniversary party.” She shoots back, “I don’t even know who you are anymore.” And so it begins.

I have the privilege of meeting couple after couple with very different stories. Some are dealing with boredom and emotional disconnect, some with the aftermath of an affair. Some stay together and some break up. But they all have one thing in common—the deep longing to be happy in love.

So what predicts long-term relationship happiness in couples? Take a guess. Do you believe it’s due to personality style, or having a good sex life, or never arguing? If so, you’re wrong. But…