Science

Dating: couples base their decision to marry on ‘rituals’ not spontaneous romantic acts, study finds

Wedded to a routine: Couples base their decision to marry on ‘rituals’ like Sunday dinner with the parents or Friday date nights — not spontaneous romantic acts, study finds

Little rituals like weekly date nights or having Sunday dinner with the parents are what dating couples use to decide whether to marry — not grand romantic gestures.

Researchers from the US interviewed dating couples and found that regular, shared experiences are key in allowing partners to get to know each other better.

In contrast, romantic getaways and expensive presents may be exciting — but they offer couples less chance to tell whether they want to spend their life with someone.

In contrast, recurring events like movie nights present twosomes with opportunities to witness each other’s everyday habits and behaviours.

Little rituals like weekly date nights or having Sunday dinner with the parents are what dating couples use to decide whether to marry — not grand romantic gestures

In a study of 58 couples with an average age of 23 and who had been dating for an average of two and a half years, those who took part in such rituals and routines saw their commitment to marriage rise or fall as a result.

The US study was carried out by researchers from the University of Illinois’ Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Rituals could be once a year events – such as Christmas, Easter or other national holidays – or weekly, such as Sunday lunch with a partner’s parents, making Friday nights movie nights, they said.

‘Rituals have the power to bond individuals and give us a preview into family life and couple life,’ Mr Maniotes explained.

‘We found they help magnify normative relationship experiences,’ he added

‘Rituals provide a unique time to review one’s partner and relationship; you get to see a host of behaviours and interactions that might normally be obscured.’

‘Some of the ways rituals affected commitment to wed with these couples was by altering their view of their partner, giving them a new perspective.’

In some cases, this meant that couples found common bonds that strengthened their relationship — or, alternatively, revealed areas of conflict that indicated that they were not suited to a life-long commitment to each other. 

Romantic getaways and expensive presents may be exciting — but they offer daters less of a chance to tell whether they want to spend their life with someone. In contrast, recurring events like movie nights (pictured) present couples with opportunities to witness each other's everyday habits and behaviours

Romantic getaways and expensive presents may be exciting — but they offer daters less of a chance to tell whether they want to spend their life with someone. In contrast, recurring events like movie nights (pictured) present couples with opportunities to witness each other’s everyday habits and behaviours

Spending time with the other person’s family is a good way to see how they handle potential conflict and alternative views, for instance.

Maniotes added: ‘Rituals seem to really play a role in pausing and slowing down individuals, helping them take a better look at their relationship. They help them see, ‘this is who we are as a couple; this is who we are as a family.’

‘Just recognizing the importance of rituals in our lives, and the magnitude of the role they play, can help us integrate them in an intentional way.’ 

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

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