Rituals, Routines, and Relationships, Oh My!

Routines Rituals Relationships Blog


When you hear the word “routine” regarding relationships, many people think of mundane or boring. Some might even think of a slump, or something to fear and run away from because being stuck in a routine in a relationship? Gasp, the horror! There is something to be said for extreme predictability and complete comfort without noticing a potential negative impact on a relationship, BUT…there is a very positive side to having routines in relationships too! Fear not, routine haters. Stay where you are, spontaneous significant others. Let’s have a conversation and explore both sides.


The word ‘ritual’ is defined by Google as a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. Allow me to clarify: that is NOT what I mean when we talk about ritual in relationships! I mean it more in the way of a tradition, a special “thing” a couple participates in together. It could be always making sundaes together on Sunday nights, sitting in a coffee shop reading on Saturday mornings, or taking a walk around the neighborhood once or twice a week. Those kinds of rituals can have a profound impact on our relationships and on our happiness. Traditions or rituals, however you choose to label them, shared with your significant other are things that are YOURS. They create ownership in the relationship between two people. Your rituals become something you look forward to and take comfort in. They are a shared experience, between the two of you, and shared experiences create special bonds. Let’s use the example of going to a coffee shop and reading on a Saturday morning. You and your partner wake up, do your morning things, and head over to the coffee shop together. You’ve got your kindle in hand, they proudly sport a new paperback. Then you grab seats while your partner orders the lifeblood we know as coffee. Your partner returns, you nuzzle that warmth in your hands, and the two of you spend the next hour in silence reading and sipping. You eventually put your books down, throw your cups away, and get back in the car to continue your Saturday activities. That may not sound like much, considering the example shows an hour of time not even speaking to each other. But the ritual of the drive, the drink order, the place, the smells, the sounds, the silence, the drive home – that is something two people choose to do, a way they choose to spend their time, and that creates a special bond and a love for that particular ritual. Rituals like that are usually held in high regard by the partners and they go out of their way to make sure it happens on a regular basis. No matter what the ritual is, it’s difficult to deny the bonding that takes place and the closeness it creates between partners! Take it outside of relationships. Think about other shared experiences that bond people. It could be things like being in a sorority or fraternity, being in the military, having a miscarriage, or losing a parent. Though people may not have gone through them together, they are very specific experiences that only those that have been through them can understand. There is a bond shared between people who experienced similar events. Think about your relationship. What rituals do you have? Is your relationship in need of a new or different one to create a bonding experience? What happiness do your current rituals bring you, and/or your partner? I hope you smile after thinking about that – because I know I do when I think of the rituals in my relationship.


Routines can get a bad rap in relationships. If you do a google search with the words ‘routine’ and ‘relationships’ you’ll mostly find articles and blogs about how to break routines in relationships! There is certainly room for that, but routines are scientifically proven to have positive impacts on us. Routine is defined by Google as a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. We associate routines with morning routines, nightly routines, etc. In relationships, we have them as well. Maybe your partner uses the bathroom while you make coffee – that’s your morning routine. Or you do a last text exchange exactly at 10pm before you go to sleep. Routines aren’t necessarily bad in relationships. Routines offer a way to provide stability through structure. And that is great! Until, at a certain point, it’s not. The downside to routines in relationships is that they can become so predictable there is no ‘excitement’ in the relationship. I use the term ‘excitement’ in quotes because I do not mean world-traveling, every-day-is-different-and-vacation-like type of excitement. The same routines can eventually become worn out and one or both partners in a relationship could get very unsettled once that happens. When routines are tired, individuals can become tired. And when one partner is ‘tired’ in a relationship, other important aspects of a relationship can go without the attention it needs. Changing up routines in relationships doesn’t have to be difficult or require grand gestures. It takes little effort but can make a big difference!


Sometimes the word spontaneous is associated with last minute trips to Paris, deciding to go sky-diving, things of that big nature. Being spontaneous does mean acting out of impulse, but that could be on a much smaller scale. It could mean deciding to go to happy hour with your partner when you usually stay in during the week. Maybe instead of your partner doing the cooking, you take the reins for the night. Instead of sitting on the couch watching TV after dinner, you suggest going for a walk. Being spontaneous, even in the slightest ways, can be enough of a switch as routines get old to evoke more energy into a relationship.


Speaking of being spontaneous in the slightest ways, all it takes to change a routine is to do something SLIGHTLY different for it to have an impact. Instead of your usually chosen restaurant, go somewhere new (unless it is a ritual you both love and is not worn out). If you usually sit at a table, maybe switch it up and sit at the bar. Switch the side of the bed you sleep on. Switch positions the next time you have sex. You can come up with far more slight changes than I can! Some will be awkward and feel goofy but that’s part of it. Allow that to generate a conversation! It’s fine to go back to the old stuff if you do, but give something else a try. This quote by Mark Batterson sums it up best: “Change of pace + change of place = change of perspective.” Change up your pace or your place and see what good comes from that changed perspective in your relationship!


In your relationship, make sure you have some R&R: rituals, routines, and breaking them when you need to!