Burned out, busy, overwhelmed, overworked these days when we've got more priorities and tasks to handle than ever before, according to the BBC. Well, we don't necessarily have less free time than our counterparts in the 1950s.
It sure can feel like it. That's in part because of technology creep, because of all our notebooks, phones and apps were more available than ever. So we have less uninterrupted time when it feels like time and energy are just slipping away like sand. How can we prioritize tending to our relationships? Today, I'm going to give you three relationship routines that will give you the time and space to build a love that lasts. There are also tons of routines we can develop around our work.
I often ask my guests about their daily and life routines because to me, when they're created thoughtfully, routines are structures that set us up for success. Today, we're continuing with the theme of looking at one chapter each week from my book, Think Like a Monk and Going In Deeper. This week we're on Chapter six, which is all about how we can develop routines that will enable us to train our brains and direct our lives to achieve our goals and to feel greater meaning and satisfaction.
Here's a short passage from that chapter. That's my inspiration for today's podcast in the ashram. We started each morning in the spirit of the day we plan to have and we trained ourselves to sustain that deliberateness and focus all day long. Sure, that's all fine and good if your daily schedule involves prayer, meditation, study service and chores. But the outside world is more complex. One of the biggest differences between life at the ashram and life in the outside world, and it's a huge one, is that at the ashram, monks are celibate now as a former monk are married.
And so my entire life is bound to this other very wonderful person who I absolutely adore and love. And reflecting on that made me start to wonder. We talk so much about individual routines and creating and setting those with intention, but what about relationship routines? And a lot of people don't want to have relationship routines because they think it takes out the spontaneity, it leads to monotony and it leads to feeling the same and getting bored. But actually, routines make space for spontaneity structure.
As Kobe Bryant told me on the podcast when he came on as a guest, not a love to him and Jon and the family, he said that structure creates spontaneity.
So today we're going to look at how you can use the signs of routines to support your relationships. Now, I know that for some of us, especially those of you who've been together longer, might be thinking J. The problem is that too much of our relationship is routine. We need to mix it up. If that's the case, you probably don't have so much routine in your relationship as bad or boring habits, things you're doing unconsciously, Horace Mann, who is an American educator, once said habit is a cable.
We weave a thread each day and at last we cannot break it. Now, if those habits you've developed are unintentional and negative ones, that cable would seem harsh and restrictive. Right? But what if you could create thoughtful and positive habits that help to weave a cable of deep connection and trust between you and your partner? Today, we're going to talk about the routines you can consciously create that will strengthen your bond and enliven your relationship. Now, just a note before we dive in.
I'm going to focus on romantic relationships. But for those singles out there, don't worry. I'm also going to include some specific advice and insights for you. And of course, this can be applied to friendships, too. So for starters, when we're building routines, we want to focus on the outcome we're trying to create. Now, on this show, I've had the honor and pleasure of talking to relationship researchers and experts, John and Julie Guttmann, founders of the Gottman Institute.
And if you missed that episode, go and check it out, because it's filled with incredible insights and advice. One of the things John Gottman has uncovered in his decades of research on couples is that there's a critical ratio that has a massive impact on determining whether our romantic relationships succeed or fail. That ratio is five to one. And what those numbers mean is that for every one negative interaction you have with your partner, you want to have at least five positive ones.
If your average is lower than that, if you say three positive interactions per negative one, or if you have more negative interactions than a positive one, according to the data, your relationship is not likely to succeed. So knowing this, I'm going to say let's create that as our intention in building these relationships routines to support positive interactions in our relationships and get that number up, OK? That's our goal. Here's an idea. Take a sticky note and put it on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror.
Or if you have something like a whiteboard or a chalkboard or a bulletin board in your home, take up a note that just reads five to one. That will remind you both of your wife are training these new routines into habits.
Now, have you ever done that thing where at the end of the year you look forward to the next year and you kind of set some goals and you plan some things out? Or maybe you're starting a new project and you have to map out a way to get there. So what do you do? If you want to be successful, you break it down into smaller chunks, right? You look at what's my end goal, then you look at what are the incremental pieces or steps I need to take to get that for us today.
We just established our end goal. We want our ratio of five to one positive to negative interactions, even more positive if we can manage it, because we want to feel long term meaning and connection in our relationships. We don't just want to be in our relationships. We want to enjoy them, to feel seen and heard and supported. So how are we going to get there? Just like with a work or personal goal or project? We're going to break your new relationship routines down into the things that you need to do daily, weekly or monthly and seasonally to reach that five to one goal or better.
Now, you might say, gee, that sounds like a lot and I'm already busy. I'm already feeling overwhelmed with work or the kids or just good life. How am I going to institute all of these new relationship routines and stick with them? I get it, so many of us are feeling overwhelmed, but there are two things. First, we're going to make these routine simple. These will be things that you can actually do that won't take too much time or money or other resources.
And here's the second thing. These routines are designed to pay you back. The time you invest in them will actually make deposits in your bank account, into your relationship account and into your personal account. You'll actually feel more connected with one another. And so by doing these routines, you'll feel more resourced and energized. So let's start with one relationship routine you can practice every day. Now, remember, you can always add more daily routines, but I encourage you to start small because if you take on a ton of new routines all at once, you can feel overwhelming and you won't keep them up.
Before I get to the daily routine, I'm going to tell you a story. This was something I came across on a website the other day on a page of anonymous people telling stories of moments that impacted them. And I really love this one. 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, and 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 her down the block and through the intersection to the opposite corner, just as they were approaching the corner. Sure enough, from the other end of the block, an old man shuffled towards them. As he approached, the young man could see that the older man was nearly blind, and the old woman told her husband about the young man's kindness.
The old man turned to him, shook his hand and thanked him. As a 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 instead, just muttering, Hey. What do people so often say about relationships and what's truly meaningful, it's the little things, right? The old man meeting his wife at the corner was no longer a little thing because of their physical challenges.
It had become a big thing, but it was a routine that it started as a little thing many years before. So that's going to be your daily relationship routine. Make time for one little thing. That's a really big thing. And this routine will take you literally. Only one minute you're going to stop what you're doing, put down your phones and have no other distractions. And this is all you're going to do. You're going to look into one another's eyes and say something kind to the other person, like an expression of gratitude, appreciation or affection.
You can even hold hands if you want. That's it. First one goes, then the other. I've been practicing this in my life unconsciously for years. I've noticed that whether it was my mother cooking for me or my father or whether it was my sister or my wife or a friend, I would always, always appreciate my gratitude for the work that went into it. I've never been a cook and I find it very difficult. So I really realize how much effort goes into cooking, just thanking someone for the effort and time they've put in, even if it's interacting the way they interact with your children, the way that person comes home from work in a positive mood, whatever it may be, just notice that and be specific.
I often talk about the importance of being specific when it comes to gratitude, and science backs that up. In an analysis of 91 different studies on gratitude, researchers found that when someone expressed gratitude about something specific instead of something more general, the person they expressed their gratitude to was more likely to pay it forward to go out and make a contribution to the world at large. It's great to tell someone I love you or I appreciate you, but if you're really specific, your words are more impactful and memorable.
They also help you learn what words and actions your partner values most. So when you do your little thing, when you have your focus minute together, say something like, I really appreciate how you read books to the kids late at night. So I could go to bed a little earlier. Thank you. Or I'm grateful that you took the car in for an oil change so I could take that Zemko. That was really helpful. And I like that you're such a great teammate in that way.
Or I just want to tell you that the sweater you're wearing really shows off your eyes. And then one of my favorite features of yours. Hey, I get it, creating a new routine, even a simple one, can be hard. Science shows that when we link a new routine to something we already do, it's easier to maintain. So try linking your focus minute to something you already do and they already do. Maybe you do it when you're drinking your coffee or tea in the morning first thing after you wake up or while you're eating breakfast, or if it works better before you go to bed, just be sure to give it 100 percent undivided attention each time for that minute.
So those of you with kids, you might have to sneak into the bathroom or a closet together to get a minute alone. But it's worth it. It really doesn't take much.
And again, it has a huge impact. A lot of the time when we talk about advice for couples, we talk about the importance of dialogue and open communication. And that's true. But what is also true is that you've been struggling as a couple or if you've each been carrying a lot of individual stress, it can be really hard to just put everything aside and try to have a deep, meaningful conversation all of a sudden. Vivek Murthy, who is a physician and a former surgeon general of the U.S., says relational context is the foundation of dialogue.
He says it's hard, if not impossible to sit down and have a truly open minded and meaningful talk with someone unless you already have a connection. This simple daily routine creates brief moments of meaningful, ongoing connection so that when it's time to have a deeper discussion, it's easier.
Now, that's your daily routine. So until weekly relationship routine, I bet you know what I'm going to say, because this is the advice that's all over the place.
Have a weekly date night. Right. But I date nights all they're cracked up to be. A group of researchers analyzed data from nearly 10000 married couples to find out how often their date nights and how long each stayed together. They found that 11 percent had a weekly date night, 30 percent had a monthly date night. 23 percent said they had somewhat of a routine date night, but it was less frequent than once a month, and 36 percent said they hardly ever had a date night switch.
Couples, do you think, lasted the longest over the next 10 years. The couples who stayed together with those who had a date night once a month and get this, those who had a weekly date night had the same odds of staying together as those who hardly ever had a date night. Now, that might sound counterintuitive, but to some of you it probably makes sense. After all, the researchers 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. And for others, they genuinely had too many other demands on them to make a weekly date possible. So let's break down this idea of a date night and see what routine we can create that is truly positive for your relationship.
Here's the thing.
A routine is like a frame and a frame by itself is, well, empty. It's what you fill it with that matters. Are you going to fill your frame with someone beautiful and thoughtful or with a print of dogs? Playing poker 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 date night, it's about the quality of the time you spend together.
Sometimes date nights are performative, right? They serve as something you just check off on your list or post to pick on Instagram and they lack meaningful effect in your relationship. Some people absolutely love their weekly date night, and if that's you, that's great. Keep it as your routine. But for the rest of you, if you've never tried date night or a weekly date night is just not realistic or creates too much pressure. Instead, try a weekly or monthly play date.
One of the things that's really hard on relationships is falling into ruts. Plus, everyone's so busy and burned out these days. One thing we could all use a lot more of is fun and play. So whether it's playing a board game together, doing an escape room, going to a party together, even zoom happy hour where you socialize as a couple, playing tennis or another sport, as long as you don't get too competitive or even taking some of your kids building blocks and building something together or coloring, finding something fun and low stakes that doesn't have pressure, I have high expectations tied to it, although Lego can get pretty serious.
And the thing I also love about a lot of these ideas is that so many of them are totally free. You can also make them time limited if you need to spend 30 minutes doing a puzzle together, if that's what you have and be creative, something will work for you.
One couple I know at two very young kids and had recently moved across the country, so they had no one they knew and trusted to babysit. Some days they said it was like there were so many demands and interruptions, it was impossible to just connect with one another about something other than the kids of the house. Now, though, they went to sleep at different times, they both are avid readers. So the solution they came up with was to create their own two person book group.
It actually happened by accident when one bought a book on Kindle and mentioned she was going to read it and a partner said, I'd actually like to read that too. So they read it at the same time. They found that in spare minutes here and there, like over breakfast, they'd start talking about it like what you are. And what did you think when this happened? It became a little bonding thing they were doing and they both really enjoyed.
And two years later, they're still doing it. They've now read fifteen books together. The other thing you might have noticed is that all of the suggestions I've made are offline, that's because these days we spend so much time with our technology. It's like our phones and computers steal our attention from one another. When we unplug, we bring our full attention to the other person and the activity were participating in. And single tasking is not only good for your relationships, it's good for your brain.
It helps you focus and be more mindful and present overall. Now, lastly, onto those less frequent routines, a common suggestion is to take an annual trip together, and that's a great idea, but for one, it's just not accessible or realistic for everyone. I have a little bit of a different take on it, and that's to have a routine for something you do together every season. So that's four things a year that are specific to that season.
Now, those things will differ for you based on culture and what the weather's like in your part of the world at different times. But for example, I have friends who every fall drive down a particular road called Skyline Drive to see the leaves changing colour. They put off on music and just enjoy the spectacular scenery together. I have other friends who have a special cookie making day every Christmas. It's not just a routine, but a ritual they look forward to every year.
One of the things I love about this is that like nature, relationships have a rhythm, everything. There is a season. As the song says, having things you do together seasonally helps you connect in a way to larger rhythms of life and the passage of time. And over the years, you can reflect on these repeated experiences and also discuss some of the things that have changed in your relationship, for better or for worse, since the last time. You can take the opportunity to look at what you'd like to keep and give gratitude for and what you'd like to release from your relationship now singles.
I promised I'd have something for you and I haven't forgotten. Here's the Copa and something I really encourage you to do. You can end your relationship with yourself in these exact same ways. Being single is an incredible opportunity to do something that so many of us really do, which is to spend the kind of time and attention on ourselves we sometimes wish another person would spend on us. But here's the beautiful thing. When you actually cultivate a powerful, loving and supportive relationship with yourself, when you do get into a relationship with another person, you then coming into it from a more empowered and balanced place.
So you're more likely to have a relationship that's healthy and that lasts because you aren't looking to this one person to meet all of your needs. You're already happy. So daily, take that minute to look at yourself in the mirror and say something supportive or kind to yourself or 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.
And that can also serve as an invitation to reflect on what in your life you want to keep and what it might be time to let go. So those are three relationship routines designed to increase the quality of your relationship, something every day, something every week and something every season makes you tag me on Instagram with your best insights from this podcast. I can't wait to see what you've learned. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you for being a member of the on purpose community.
Make sure you subscribe to the podcast and please leave a review and makes a huge difference. I love our audience. I love our community. I can't wait to be able to tour and meet you all and do this in person with you.
Thank you so much for listening to On Purpose. Thank you all so much, love.
Hey, guys, this is Jay again.
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This podcast was produced by Dust Light Productions, our executive producer from Duss lt is Moesha Usif. Our senior producer is Julianna Bradley. Our associate producer is Jacqueline Castillo. Valentino Rivera is our engineer. Our music is from Blue Dot Sessions and special thanks to Rachel Garcia, the dust like development and operations coordinator.