Creating Couples’ Routines: Key Strategies That Foster Connection

Every evening, at least when my wife isn’t working late, after dinner and a little streaming TV, my wife and I fall into a routine. I feed our cats, she cleans the litter boxes, then we brush our teeth, get into bed, and read aloud — mostly long, reported non-fiction. While we have our separate reading projects, taking turns reading from a shared book helps us unwind and reconnect in the midst of our hectic schedules. It’s a small thing, but some days we are apart from 7:15 AM until nearly 10 PM. So on slower days — we read.

Some people think that routines make relationships boring, that you don’t need to be present when engaged in routine because it’s all automatic — but routines and other ongoing practices have the potential to be at the heart of relationships. From date night to special goodbye rituals, repetition even tiny actions with meaning and it’s important to explore how these activities fit into your daily life together.

Creating Routines — Think Small

The word routine, on its own, tends to signal schedules. We create routines for children to get them out the door for school in the morning or try to develop a rigorous workout routine to get into better shape. In your relationship, though, routines can be much smaller things, though they’re much more meaningful. It may help you to think in terms of what Dr. John Gottman refers to as “rituals of connection.”

Simple rituals of connection might include:

  • Sharing a hug or saying ‘I love you’ every day
  • Exercising together
  • Spending half an hour in focused conversation
  • Planning regular trips and outings together
  • Going to your favorite coffee together once a week

In addition to recognizing that relationship routines or rituals don’t have to be big things, an action or activity can be a routine even if it’s not something you do daily or weekly. One Emi user, for example, leaves notes in his wife’s luggage when she travels. Taking a vacation at the same time every year, or going through the same vacation planning process and creating meaningful memories, can also be rituals or routines.

Be Deliberate

Another defining factor that makes something a routine is that the behavior is deliberate. This might mean putting date night on the calendar to ensure that you’re getting that time together or simply being clear about your intentions as you plan your routine and committing to it. Eating a meal without technology, for example, can be a routine because we tend to use our devices automatically and setting our phones down can help us focus on our partners.

Similarly, many couples counselors recommend sharing a daily six second kiss. Why six seconds? Six seconds is the precise length needed to release certain endorphins that boost mood and foster connection. And while six seconds isn’t very long, it’s a much deeper kiss than they peck on the cheek many couples share on the way out the door. Six seconds won’t make you late, so consider making that time sacred.

Building Routines With Emi

At Emi, we recognize the importance of routines and rituals in fostering closeness and strengthening our relationships, and we’re excited to help you build routines that will benefit your partnership. Get started with our relationship reminder program and discover what works in your relationship. And drop us a comment and let us know — what routines and rituals make your relationship special?