Rituals in Unmarried Couple Relationships: An Exploratory Study


  • Authors’ Note: Kelly Campbell, PhD, is an Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, California State University. Luciana C. Silva, PhD, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, The Pastoral Center for Healing. David W. Wright, PhD, is an Associate Professor, Department of Child and Family Development, The University of Georgia. Please address correspondence to Kelly Campbell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, California State University, San Bernardino. 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino, CA 92407; e-mail: kelly@csusb.edu.


This study provides an understanding of rituals enacted in unmarried couple relationships. One hundred and twenty-nine individuals involved in unmarried relationships reported on their rituals in an online, open-ended questionnaire. A typology of 16 ritual types was developed. Twelve of the rituals have been shown to be common in marital relationships. Four new ritual categories, unique to unmarried relationships, emerged from the data. The new categories were gift-giving, helping each other/being supportive, future planning/daydreaming about the future, and family involvement. Implications for future research on couple rituals are suggested.