Grumbles and Gratitudes

Do you know the little details of your partner’s life? 

Sure, you probably know the cast of characters in your mate’s past, the color of your partner’s eyes, the names of past pets, the family tree, most of the heartbreaks and ecstasies, what bones were broken and how, and much of the other general life story stuff.  While you’re dating, finding out about these things helps you to know each other better and build intimacy.  As you develop a history together, you create shared tales of experiences – the people in your lives, the places, the major events, and the feelings that go with all of them.  The process of weaving your lives together is something like children dancing around a Maypole.  The ribbons start far apart and loosely connected, but through a playful, interweaving dance that results in the ribbons becoming shorter and the action more gleeful, your lives become ever more entwined.

When the ribbons become tightly wrapped around the pole, the children let go and the ribbons loosen their grip a little bit.  They are still intricately woven together, but the bond between the ribbons and their connection to the pole relaxes.  This is often the way of things in close relationships as well – especially when the “honeymoon” period has subsided.  The tight ribbons are like the intense bonds and closeness that characterize the early part of most relationships.  As time passes, the bonds (ribbons) loosen a little bit.  That can be a good thing if you’ve become too wrapped up in each other and you need to find your center again.  Where couples sometimes go wrong is in letting the ribbons unwind too much.  Your story needs to remain intimately entwined with new chapters being written all the time.  The journaling rituals can help you focus on the story you are writing together and how you want it to unfold in the near future.  

If the ribbons are the more major events that make up your story together, the tension that binds them to each other and the core (pole) of your relationship is the connection that happens on a day-to-day basis.  Those “little” details of everyday life – the things that aren’t usually remembered a week or two later – are very important to both of you at the time, whether you realize it or not.  To put it another way, when inner-tubing down a river together, the rapids are the more memorable events in your lives together, but holding hands and paying attention to one another in the calm parts between the rapids is equally, if not more, important.  Since most couples don’t spend the majority of most days together, it is very important to both take the time to share and to bond.

Happy couples with thriving relationships ask each other how their day went.  When you ask with the intent of really hearing the story you’re asking for, both the teller and listener will enjoy the time.  As you may remember, a couple ritual is enjoyed by both, but it is also planned and repeated.  Try making the sharing time a daily ritual you can count on.  Create a time and space when there are unlikely to be other distractions, so that you may give each other your ear and heart.  Use the “Grumbles and Gratitudes” example, or create your own version with similar intent. 


“Grumbles and Gratitudes”

As you lie in bed at the end of the evening, take a few minutes to ask each other about the high and low for the day.  To be more playful than “the high and low,” try calling it “Grumbles and Gratitudes Time.”  Often, what is mentioned will surprise you as much as what isn’t.  You thought the dog peeing inside was going to be the grumble, when really it was a letter from a friend that didn’t arrive today.  If you’re up for it and it fits you as a couple, choose the top three grumbles and gratitudes, or allow as many as each wants to share.

In addition to hearing about the grumble(s) and gratitude(s), the point is to keep the connection between you nourished by knowing your mate better than anyone . . . and being known.  There is something indescribable about the comfort and joy of being known so deeply.  That special knowledge and feeling will help keep your relationship healthy, happy, and thriving.

To that end, you’ll keep updated about  the current cast of characters in your mate’s life and what is going on with them.  You’ll be abreast of what your mate’s passions, dreams, trials, and tribulations are.  You’ll have a handle on the annoying and pleasant aspects of your partner’s life, and you’ll become much more interested in the life being lived right next to you. 

Be careful to keep the ritual enjoyable.  If the discussion turns very serious too frequently, the ritual will cease to be something you both look forward to.  As noted in the “Rules to Play By” section, serious discussions are often best placed outside the couple ritual framework.  Having serious discussion can be made into a couple ritual, but that’s another ball of wax entirely.

Tonight, dear reader, try this one on and see how it fits.  If it works out right, you’ll have a cherished way to end every day.



  • If you hit the bed virtually asleep or have other personal or couple rituals reserved for that time, try using Grumbles and Gratitudes at the latest point in the day where it makes sense for both of you.  Sometimes, the convenient time turns out to be over the phone, which can still work, but it is less desirable because the lack of physical connection.
  • Feel free to get playful with it!  One couple described how they would throw funny things in every now and then.  For example, the man included in his gratitude list that he was grateful his mate would bring him a croissant in bed tomorrow, which was a hint, or that she was about to sing a children’s song to him, which meant that he wanted to hear one now.  Go with what fits.  Let the playful rapport you’ve developed show itself in your rituals every now and then.
  • Once in a while, go beyond the day if it seems to fit the mood.  Include things in the future and things that are always present like people in your lives, the two of you, the community on any scale, or the spiritual. 
  • Putting on some candles, and simply chatting to one another about life, the universe, and everything (except problems/conflict in the relationship or strife in general).
  • Before entering the bedroom, sit down together and clear your minds of tasks and such for tomorrow by writing out lists.  Sometimes couples will scribe for one another, so they can participate in the ritual together, and share the mental lode of knowing.  Leave the lists outside of the bedroom.
  • Another frame is “Rose, Thorn, Bud.”  Rose = joy of the day.  Thorn = what was not enjoyed about the day.  Bud = what looking forward to tomorrow.


Principal Purposes Served

  • Stable touchstone
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Nurturing contact
  • Fosters trust
  • Builds the relationship culture and history
  • Opportunity to play together