Love Rituals

Ideas and Inspiration for Intimacy


By Leslie Koren

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Love Rituals offers readers a collection of meaningful ways to enhance their relationships. The book is divided into three chapters: Daily Gestures, Date Nights, and Intimate Encounters. In Daily Gestures, author Leslie Koren encourages readers to prioritize and appreciate their partners—not just on Valentine’s Day or their anniversaries, but each and every day. Maybe you’ll deliver a cup of coffee to your wife in bed each morning, or have cocktail hour with your boyfriend every night after work to catch up with each other and talk about your days. In Date Nights, she suggests “Yes Day” (where one partner plans the whole agenda, from the breakfast menu to a late-night movie), and going on a trip down memory lane by taking turns telling each other the story of your courtship. In Intimate Encounters, readers will be encouraged to connect both physically and emotionally, with rituals like eye gazing and giving one another massages. There are also rituals for vacation, anniversaries, and even periods when you’re long-distance. Just flip open the book and voilà—romance is in the air!


Daily Gestures

“O splendors of the common life and the usual this and that.” —French poet Valery Larbaud

Taking that first sip of caffeine, walking through the doorway after a long day at work, climbing under the covers and turning in for the night; the right ritual brings intimacy and connection to these seemingly insignificant moments, and to the hundreds of others in between that are oft forgotten or glossed over. Reclaim them! Make them yours, and you and your partner will be rewarded with a closeness that sustains you day in and day out.

Brewing Love

My uncle calls coffee “the devil's brew.” He has detested the drink since a bout with pneumonia many decades ago turned him off to the taste. But nearly every morning of his almost sixty-year marriage, he pours a mug of dark roast and delivers it to my aunt, who considers coffee heaven-sent and can barely utter a word before her first sip. When she was working as a middle school principal, it was only one cup. In retirement, he gets her a refill. Be still, my heart!

Grand gestures can be fun and fabulous, but the road to deeper intimacy is often found in regular small deeds—and that's where rituals can serve you well. If you're looking to incorporate more acts of kindness into your relationship, delivering your loved one a cup of coffee (or tea) is a wonderful starting point. It offers rewards for both the brewer and the drinker: The former gets a meditative moment to think of their partner and luxuriate in the joy of doing something for someone they love. The latter gets a morning pick-me-up in the form of both a caffeine hit and a heartening, cared-for feeling. That goodness carries into other parts of the relationship, too, building resilience and infusing your bond with a spirit of generosity.

If you're the early riser in your duo, have at it! Make it a surprise the first few days, then you can set up a little cue—my aunt used to call down “Morning!” to signal she was up. Now she pads out to their patio and he brings the steaming mug to her there. If you're not the early riser, might I suggest you leave this page open by your partner's bedside table, with a little “Sounds nice” sticky note (and if you are reading this because your partner has done just that, I think you know what to do tomorrow morning!).

Popping the Question

I know of a man who, more than a decade into his marriage, proposes anew to his wife every morning, literally asking “Will you marry me?” He often does it immediately after they wake up, or right before he runs out the door for work. He'll ask after a night of pure bliss, and if they're in the middle of a huge fight. Spoiler alert: She always says yes. It's their daily way of recommitting to their relationship—a reminder that they chose to be with each other and are still actively choosing.

What I adore about this romantic ritual is how it counteracts the effect of those less romantic realities—jobs, household chores, bills, kids—that, if not balanced out, can take a toll and get in the way of articulating how much you love and care about each other. Think of it as a vow renewal, but on a more intimate scale.

You needn't be married to do this, by the way. “Will you be my person?” or “Will you live with me?” conveys the same sentiment, fulfilling the spirit of the ritual. The specific language is less important than the act of asking. The query can be as simple or dramatic as you like: Make it a quick request at the breakfast table or go down on one knee. It's your “proposal”! The most important aspect of this ritual is following through, day after day, in good times and bad.

Parting Sweetly

Feeding people is one of my “love languages,” which is probably why I regularly pack a lunch for my husband to take to work. Because I'm already preparing my own, making his requires only a little additional effort. But that extra step brightens my day—and his, too! While I'm at my desk, I'll imagine his delight upon opening the container, and around midday I always get a sweet thank-you text or call.

As with all the rituals in this book, I'm driven here by the belief that nourishing love is a choice, and it's one I try to make each day. Sure, I can choose to call goodbye from downstairs, and to be honest, sometimes that's all I can manage. But putting in a little effort with this parting ritual is yet another way to reinforce our connection. It's my way of saying “Have a great day at work” and “I care.”

Even if lunch packing isn't your thing, you can easily make this a sweet transition. Some days I walk my husband to his office before hopping on the train to my own. If your mornings are time crunched, or you two have different schedules, you can set a similar tone by asking what the coming day holds and following up later to see if that conference call/project/lunch meeting went well. Experiment until you find your own way to pause, appreciate your partner, and send them into the world knowing you have their back.

Exchanging Haikus

In the nineteenth century, archaeologists went to Mesopotamia in search of physical proof of the biblical narratives from the Old Testament. Instead, they found a tablet upon which was inscribed the oldest written love poem, “The Love Song for Shu-Sin,” which dates back to 2000 BCE. It begins:

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.

The moral of this story is that love poems have been around for a very long time. Since the beginning, poetry has been uniquely suited to conveying sentiments and revealing emotions. That still holds true today, even if lovers needn't carve their feelings in stone in order to woo each other. There remains much to be gained by calling on the charms of this ancient art form.

Don't worry—I'm not expecting you to sit down and compose Shakespearean-style sonnets about your beloved (unless you're feeling inspired!). Instead, I suggest you follow the example of two married friends of mine (doctors, not writers) who have been trading haikus back and forth since they first got together twenty-five years ago. One might tuck a poem into a work bag, while the other leaves it on the top of the dresser; when they're apart or pressed for time, they'll simply send it via text.

Traditional Japanese haiku focuses on nature, not romance, but that doesn't matter. It works well for this love ritual because the form's structure and constraints can, paradoxically, make writing easier and get the creative juices flowing. And because these poems have just three lines, they are easier to incorporate into your day-to-day and are less intimidating if you haven't written a poem since grade school. A quick tutorial:

  • The lines aren't meant to rhyme.
  • The first line generally has five syllables.
  • The second line generally has seven syllables.
  • The third and final line generally has five syllables (or as many as the first).

To be clear, this isn't about writing brilliant poetry to each other—it's a way to introduce playful communication into your relationship. You can write about a moment you shared, a quality of theirs you admire, something sexy you did (or want to do) together, or anything else, really, that expresses your affection.

Six-Word Love Notes

If haiku is just not for you, there are endless variations to this ritual: Swap riddles, write notes without using the letter e, or even exchange little doodles. Or, for a simple (and pretty addictive) take on word play, use Larry Smith's “six-word memoir” as your template. The idea came from a legend about Ernest Hemingway, who was apparently challenged to write a story in only six words. His response: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Inspired by this tale, Smith asked readers of his eponymous magazine to describe their life in six words. Now he teaches six-word workshops in schools, hosts contests about a variety of six-word topics, and writes bestselling books, including Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: By Writers Famous and Obscure. Here's one by the writer Amy Ephron to give you a taste: “I think it was the cassoulet.” Just as with the haikus, write yours about the day, your feelings, your fantasies—it's all fair game so long as it's told in half a dozen words.

Coming Back Together


On Sale
Dec 21, 2021
Page Count
120 pages

Leslie Koren

About the Author

Leslie Koren is the author of Love Rituals, Morning Rituals, and Restorative Rituals. A longtime newspaper crime reporter, Koren took her career in a new direction when she started writing about more joyful things: cooking, design, family, and happiness. The former editor of Crain’s 5boros, she has written for various national and local publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two daughters.

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