Is your relationship stuck in the ho-hum of life? Are you looking for ways to bust out of that rut?
In chapter six of Jay Shetty’s book, Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day, Jay Shetty takes you through the process to develop routines that enable you to train and direct your brain to achieve your goals with greater meaning and satisfaction.
It is a common misconception that routine can remove spontaneity from a relationship, leading to monotony. But as Kobe Bryant explained to Jay Shetty on a previous podcast, structure creates spontaneity. Jay Shetty agrees and believes a thoughtfully designed structure and routine can set you up for success in your relationships.
It’s important not to confuse habits with routine. Habits are things that you do unconsciously in a repeated fashion. Routine is an intentional series of things that you make an effort to do. Routines require motivation, but habits do not.
Horace Mann, an American educator, once said, “Habit is a cable. We weave a thread each day, and at last, we cannot break it.”
If the habits you develop are unintentional and negative, that cable would seem harsh and restrictive, explains Jay Shetty. If you create thoughtful and positive habits, however, they help to weave a cable of deep connection and trust between you and your partner.
You can apply Jay Shetty’s three relationship routines to your romantic relationships, your friendships, and even yourself.
When you build routines, Jay Shetty encourages you to want to focus on the outcome you are trying to create. Figure out what your end goal is and the why behind your intention to create a routine.
Founders of the Gottman Institute, John and Julie Gottman, are experts in the field of relationships. One of the things John Gottman has uncovered in his decades-long research of couples is that there's a critical ratio that has a massive impact on determining whether romantic relationships succeed or fail. That ratio is five to one.
What do those numbers mean? For every negative interaction you have with your partner, you want to have at least five positive ones. If your average is lower than that, or you have more negative interactions than positive ones, your relationship is not likely to succeed.
When you are creating routines, do it to intentionally make more positive interactions in your relationships.
“You want your ratio of five to one positive to negative interactions,” Jay Shetty explains. “More positive if you can manage it. You want to feel the long-term meaning and connection in your relationships. You don't just want to be in your relationships. You want to enjoy them and feel seen, heard, and supported.”
So how do you achieve that?
Just like work or a personal goal or project, you are going to break your relationship routines down into the things you need daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally to reach your five to one goal. Keep things simple and attainable. The routines you create are designed to pay you back. Even though they do not require much time, money, or resources, they will make deposits into the bank account of your relationship.
“You will feel more connected with one another,” Jay Shetty shares. “By doing these routines, you will feel more resourced and energized.”
People say it is the little things that matter in a relationship. That is a perfect reason to start small with your daily routines. To help avoid feeling overwhelmed and being tempted to quit, you do not want to take on a ton of new routines all at once.
Jay Shetty shares a story of how a small routine turned into something bigger.
One day a young man was walking near a transport underpass when he saw an elderly woman shuffling along, carrying a shopping bag full of groceries in each hand. As she approached the stairway, he hurried towards her.
“Ma'am, can I help you?” he asked.
“Thank you,” she said. She let him take the bags and hold her elbow while he walked her up the ladder.
When they reached the top, she said, “Young man, can I trouble you with another favor?” She turned and pointed down the street. “Would you mind walking me to the far corner of that intersection? It's just that I'm in a hurry. Every time I go out, my husband likes to meet me at the corner near our house. He'll be there soon, and I don't like to keep him waiting.”
The young man nodded. “Sure,” he said and walked down the block and through the intersection to the opposite corner. As they approached the corner, sure enough from the other end of the block, an older man shuffled towards them.
As he approached, the young man could see that the older man was nearly blind. The older woman told her husband about the young man's kindness. The older man turned to him, shook his hand, and thanked him.
As the young man walked home, all he could think about was his girlfriend and how he never met her at the corner or anywhere. He never helped her with the groceries. He sometimes didn't even look up from the television when she came home.
“The old man meeting his wife at the corner was no longer a little thing,” Jay Shetty explains, “Because of their physical challenges, it had become a big thing. But it was a routine that started as a little thing many years before.”
Jay Shetty says to start by making time for one little thing in your daily routine. It only has to take a minute of your time. Stop what you're doing, put down your phones, and have no other distractions. Give your undivided attention to the other person and say something kind to them. Express your gratitude, affection, or appreciation. Be specific in your gesture.
In an analysis of 91 different studies on gratitude, researchers found that when someone expresses gratitude about something specific instead of something more general, the person they express their gratitude to is more likely to pay it forward and contribute to the world.
“If you're specific, your words are more impactful and memorable,” Jay Shetty explains. “It also helps you learn what words and actions your partner values most.”
When you can link a new routine to something you already do, studies show it is easier to maintain. Try your new routine in combination with your morning coffee or before you go to bed at night. Whenever you decide to try it, give it your undivided attention.
“If you struggle as a couple or carry a lot of individual stress, it can be tough to just put everything aside and try to have a deep, meaningful conversation all of a sudden,” Jay Shetty says.
Vivek Murthy, a physician and former US Surgeon General, says relational context is the foundation of dialogue. He says it's hard, if not impossible, to sit down and have a genuinely open-minded and meaningful talk with someone unless you already have a connection.
Establishing a simple daily routine creates brief moments of meaningful ongoing connection so that when it's time to have a more in-depth discussion, it is more comfortable.
You may have heard the advice to have a weekly date night. But are date nights all they are cracked up to be?
A group of researchers analyzed data from nearly 10,000 married couples to find out how often they do date nights and how long each stayed together. They found that 11% had a weekly date night, 30% had a monthly date night, 23% had somewhat of a routine date night but less frequent than once a month, and 36% said they hardly ever had a date night. Which couples do you think last the longest?
Over the next ten years, the couples who stayed together were those who had a date night once a month. Those who had a weekly date night had the same odds of staying together as those who hardly ever had a date night.
The research has noted that some couples said planning a weekly date night was just too much pressure. They had to come up with what to do. They had to spend money. Many couples had to find a babysitter. For others, they genuinely had too many other demands on them to make a weekly date possible.
“A routine is like a frame, and a frame by itself is empty,” Jay Shetty explains. “It's what you fill it with that matters. Routines are great because they create a structure in which something else can happen, but the quality of that something else is up to you. A structure creates priority, but its content creates passion. It's not just about having a date night. It’s about the quality of the time you spend together.”
Sometimes date nights are performative. They serve as something you just check off on your list or post a pic of on Instagram, and they lack meaningful effect in your relationship. Some people absolutely love their weekly date night.
If a weekly date night is unrealistic for you or creates unneeded pressure, try a bi-weekly or monthly date.
Date night does not need to be extravagant. Play board games together, cook a meal at home and rent a movie online, play a sport together that you both enjoy, Zoom in on a happy hour with friends. Date night does not need to have pressure or expectations tied to it. Find something that works for you as a couple and do it.
Just like nature, relationships have a rhythm, and there is a season for everything. Seasonal routines are less frequent. They do not happen weekly or monthly. They are something you do together that is specific to the season you are in.
An example might be a road trip to look at fall foliage or an annual holiday shopping trip. Maybe you enjoy visiting a particular park in the summer. Find something you can look forward to each season and do it together.
“Having things you do together seasonally helps you connect in a way to the larger rhythms of life and the passage of time,” Jay Shetty explains. “Over the years, you can reflect on these repeated experiences and discuss some of the things that have changed in your relationship since the last time.”
If you’re single, you can tend to your relationship with yourself in these same ways.
“When you cultivate a powerful, loving, and supportive relationship with yourself, it allows you to come from an empowered, balanced place when you enter a relationship with another person,” Jay Shetty explains.
So daily, take that minute to look at yourself in the mirror and say something supportive or kind to yourself. Acknowledge something you appreciate about yourself. Weekly or monthly, have a playdate with yourself. Do something engaging and fun, and have a special routine of something you do every season that you enjoy.
When you can employ these routines in your life, you are more likely to have a healthy relationship that lasts because you aren't looking for this one person to meet all of your needs. You're already happy.
Take some time to establish these simple relationship routines designed to increase your relationship quality – something every day, something every week, and something every season. You will find that having routines will lend itself to success in your relationship.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “3 Relationship Routines That Successful Partnerships Use” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.