Who is your sister and what is your ritual?

March 11

Mothers, best friends, a group of friends, and sisters are a few people women create and sustain relationships with. A book titled “What Happy Women Do: Nail Night and the Unicorn Dance A Salute to Sisterhood and the Rituals That Sustain Us” written by communication scholars Carol J. Bruess, P.h.D. and Anna D.H. Kudak, M.A., say that sisters are the women we lean on, call on, and who show up when we need them most. Throughout their book, they refer to relationships between women as “signature sisterhood relationships” and to all women, blood-relatives or not, as sisters.

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In their charming gift book, Bruess and Kudak, faculty in the communication department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., interviewed sisters who have created and sustained rituals with one another. Within the book, the authors have supported mini-stories with both primary and secondary research.

The book was inspired by the relationships with Bruess and Kudaks own sisters and also came about when they were writing their first book in a series, “What Happy Couples Do,” a book about how rituals help couples maintain their relationships over time.

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Bruess said when they interviewed married couples she was struck by how many of the women were talking about the significant bonds and deep connections they also have with their female friends, their sisters.

“We set out to explore more intentionally the rituals of connection between women and found a rich, inspiring set of stories from women of all ages and at all stages about the powerful way happy women lift up and sustain the souls of other women,” said Bruess, professor of communication and journalism, and director of family studies.

Part of their book’s title: Nail Night and the Unicorn Danc are a couple of examples of some of the rituals. Kudak, adjunct professor of communication, said that some women get together and have nail night once a month and others hold onto a ritual they made up when they were a little girl. Their book describes the unicorn dance as a ritual two best friends execute every time they are together, even now in their adulthood.

Research shows, according to Breuss and Kudak, that play in adulthood is just as important for both our mental and physical health.

“Rituals between women remind them they know one another in a way that no one else does,” said Kudak. “Rituals also indicate a shared history that has stood the test of time.”

“Rituals say I care about you,” said Bruess.

“What Happy Women Do” is a third book in a series, What Happy Couples Do and What Happy Parents Do, which are written by Bruess and Kudak. For more information about the authors, their books, and research, check out their website at

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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Rituals

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