Hanukkah approaches. In this busy season, it’s easy to neglect your relationship as you get swept up in cooking, making the holiday special, and shuttling kids back and forth. If your relationship could use a fresh look and some intentional care, give this playful take on the game of dreidel a spin. If you have a dreidel in the house, dust it off and get ready for eight days and nights of dreidel reimagined as you explore your relationship from four thoughtful angles.
Daily Dreidel Instructions
On each day of Hanukkah, you and your partner will each spin the dreidel. Take a couple of minutes in the morning – this part won’t take long. Do a quick spin at the breakfast table or on your way out the door. Note what the dreidel lands on when you spun, give your love a kiss, and move on with your day. Then, use the below instructions to interpret your spin. Importantly, don’t tell your partner your plan! You will let them wonder and guess which of your comments and behaviors on that day are part of your “daily dreidel” and which are just regular.
Gimel – Ask For What You Really Want
If you spin gimel, take a cue to ask for something you want from your partner. Too often, we expect our partners to read our minds. We hope that they will magically intuit what we want for anniversaries or anticipate that we need a hand on a hard day.
If you roll gimel, use this opportunity to reflect on something you can ask of your partner. Be concrete and reasonable (now is not the time to request a third baby or a vacation home).
- “I really want you to cook dinner tomorrow. Could you make that happen?”
- “Can you tell me why you love me? I could use a boost today.”
- “I want to cuddle tonight, can we sit next to each other on the couch?”
Nun – Let It Go
In a regular game of dreidel, nun means do nothing – leave empty-handed. For this game, interpret nun as an opportunity for acceptance. Let something go that you’ve been holding onto. Ask yourself, what can I accept in my partner today? How can I react less to mild irritations or embrace them more fully?
- Notice that your partner left a pile of dirty laundry on the floor. Say nothing. Do nothing. Allow the irritation to wash over you and gradually fade.
- Think of a quality of your partner’s that you find challenging (their stubbornness, distractibility, morning grumpiness). Then think of whether that trait has a flip side or silver lining. Because they’re stubborn, are they also fiercely determined when fighting for your kids’ needs? Because they are often distracted, do they have many interests and things they care about? Then tell your partner what you like about this sometimes-challenging quality.
Hey – Compromise
Identify a decision or topic where you and your partner have been stuck lately. Don’t pick something huge that you might regret compromising on, but instead choose a small to medium place to ease up a little. Think of ways you could meet them halfway. Then, suggest a compromise that you suspect you can both probably live with. See how your partner feels about the compromise you proposed and negotiate as needed.
- I know you’ve been wanting to watch Dune, and I don’t really want to watch it. But how about we watch it this Saturday and then watch Schitt’s Creek reruns on Sunday?
- I want to go on vacation this winter, and I know you would rather save money this year. What do you think about planning a short weekend getaway as a compromise?
Shin – Give Generously
If you spin shin, do something small for your partner today to make them happy or lessen their stress. Choose something you know they will appreciate but that they haven’t asked you for. Your regular household and parenting duties don’t count – find something extra to offer today. Don’t expect anything in return, and don’t make a big deal out of how much you contributed or fish for praise.
- Text your partner and let them know you’ll pick up their favorite takeout for dinner.
- Do a chore of your partner’s they dread.
- Get the kids’ lunches ready for tomorrow even though that’s something your partner normally does.
Do this game every day of Hanukkah or as many days as you want. Remember, part of the game is that you don’t tell your partner how you interpreted your dreidel spin of the day. Why the secrecy? First, the element of mystery adds a playful dynamic to your day. You’ll find yourself guessing whether their text message or long hug is their dreidel action or just them reaching out. Second, by keeping your interpretations private, you prevent the possibility of either of you criticizing or analyzing each other’s choices.
At the end of Hanukkah, debrief the activity. What did you enjoy about the ritual? Are there any elements of this game you want to continue as the holiday ends? With any luck, this practice will add some whimsy, reflection, and generosity to your Hanukkah season.
Dr. Marina Rosenthal is a licensed clinical psychologist, couples therapist, professor, mammaleh, and wife. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and son. Her Jewish identity journey continues as she navigates an interfaith marriage of her own. She provides practical, science-based relationship advice on her Instagram and is available for marriage counseling for couples in Minnesota.