You may have heard the Danish word “hygge” come up several years ago, when it was a finalist for the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year in 2016. Or in Disney’s Frozen – the musical version has an entire song about hygge! But the concept is much older, a staple of Scandinavian culture. And it works both for self-care and couples care within a relationship.
What Is “Hygge”? And How Does It Apply to Relationships?
Oxford Dictionaries defines hygge as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Imagine if your relationship became a place to experience that on a regular basis, a sort of safe harbor from the world.
It might sound idealistic, but there are tangible ways to bring that ideal into reality.
Independence & Interdependence
At the core of this concept is community. We often think of community as time spent with other people. However, to build healthy relationships (in romance and friendship), we need a hearty mixture of solitude and togetherness.
The nuts and bolts of this, of course, come down to the most mundane “S-word”: scheduling. If you struggle to maintain your identity separate from a relationship – or if you struggle with the opposite, making time for your partner – make a calendar event for it. Seriously. “Two hours of alone time – 4-6 PM on Tuesday.”
Why? Because you’re far more likely to actually do it that way. And each time you do, you’re adding a link to the chain.
Share Small Joys
Also central to hygge is the enjoyment of creature comforts. How often do you and your partner partake in small joys together?
And, yes, let’s acknowledge that that does take some measure of financial stability. But small luxuries don’t cost as much as you think! Can you make a cup of tea and take half an hour to share your ups and downs of the week?
Experiencing small joys is really about an attitude of appreciation. And that doesn’t cost a thing.
Reciprocity & Equality
Equality and reciprocity help keep the balance of respect in a relationship. However, they are not the same thing. And reciprocity may be much easier to achieve because different partners have different strengths.
This could look like sharing chores in a way that feels balanced – even if your tasks aren’t identical. Maybe one of you hates doing dishes, but they’re perfectly content with taking out the trash.
This can translate into emotional labor, as well.
Getting Outside & Slowing Down
In keeping with this concept of balance, the warm cup of tea part of hygge would ideally follow a brisk hike in the cold snow. While we don’t all have access to snow so readily, most of us can find some sort of outdoor space to enjoy. And sharing this space with your partner can be a really lovely way to bond.
But What Do I Do?
Not sure where to start? Here are a few “Couples Hygge” inspiration to-dos:
Walk around the park, then retreat into a bookstore
Activities where you can “purposefully do nothing,” like sitting by a fire, fishing, or hookah, to name just a few
Work on crafts or fun projects together at home
Bake something – if one of you is a better baker, the non-baker can keep that partner company in the kitchen (and help them appreciate the finished product!)
Indoor quality time: a game night, movie night, or reading time
Don’t be blocked by shame if you realize some of these are obvious. Sometimes we forget that the simplest measures done with consistency can substantially improve our relationships!