Make sure your greeting (and “goodbye”) rituals are significant.  Don’t miss the opportunity to communicate your single-mindedness about this marriage to both your mate and your children (who are watching your every move). 

2. Create and maintain connection rituals that give you focused time together.  Some couples strive for “couch time,” the practice of enjoying a cup of coffee together during the evening while sending the children to other rooms to do homework, play games, or chores.  Not allowing interruption makes a strong statement and lets you have a few quiet minutes together so you can “check-in” about the day.  Other couples have a regular date night away from the children (even part-time children who are only there for the weekend).

Ron’s rules of dating: Don’t discuss issues, problems, children, or money.  “Well what else is there?” couples often retort.  “That’s the point,” I reply.  “None of those things brought you together when you were dating.  Don’t let them spoil your connection time now!”

3. Lovemaking is an intimacy ritual that has great significance.  Nothing speaks louder of your love and passion for each other than sharing God’s most special gift for married couples.  The magic is not in how often you have sex or how many orgasms you have.  The magic is in the mystery of two becoming one.  Find ways of keeping your lovemaking interesting and alive; but, most of all, bring yourself to the equation and you’ll find it binds you together (Let me recommend my series on Passionate Sexuality to enhance your understanding of sexuality and God’s gift of sex).

Like Static Cling

Anyone who has attended a Building A Smart Stepfamily conference has heard me say that couples in stepfamilies must be more intentional about sticking together than couples in first marriages simply because there’s more at work trying to pull you apart.  You’ve got to have a “static cling” mentality to brave the stepfamily forest.  Being intentional with your rituals helps you stay the course and weather the storms of life.  I’m told there’s a sign on an Alaskan highway referring to the snow-packed roads that reads, “Choose your ruts well.  You’ll be in them for the next 200 miles.”  Marital rituals are ruts that help you stay connected and on-course, even when it’s chilly outside.  Choose to be intentional and work at maintaining your rituals, and you’ll find that you are adding significance to your marriage. 

Dr. Doherty ended his presentation at the 2000 Smart Marriages conference with these words: “And so, when we cling to each other through our marital rituals, we are set free.  Free to risk the uncertainties and pain of conflict, free to explore the astonishing emotional intimacy that only marriage can offer us, knowing that when we cling always, we are free to fly together.”

Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of blended family ministries for FamilyLife®, a popular conference speaker on marriage and family matters, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s and books for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Remarriage Checkup (with David H. Olson), The Smart Stepmom (with Laura Petherbridge), The Smart Stepdad, and his latest Dating and the Single Parent. Learn more at www.smartstepfamilies.com.

Publication date: August 3, 2012