The Breaking Bad Habits in Relationships Series — (Part 3)

Routines are practical. They can help us to be more efficient and streamline activities, because implicit in routines is the ability to function without much thought and effort.

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

There are different types of routines, including:

  1. Morning routines — when you get up and what you do to get ready for your day.
  2. Work-related routines — your regular activities at work.
  3. Evening routines — what you do when you get home from work.
  4. Meal-related routines — what you do for meals, i.e. what you eat, where you eat and who you eat with.
  5. Bedtime routines — what you do to get ready for bed and when you get into bed.
  6. Weekend routines — what you do on the weekends.
  7. Relationship routines — how you spend your time together, what you do together, what you talk about, parenting and relationship roles.​

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on relationship routines (surprise, surprise).

Yes, routines can be practical, BUT they can also be detrimental if they come at the expense of the relationship.

Here’s a personal example that I am currently working on:

There are so many good TV series online that are binge-worthy. It’s easy for me to get sucked into the routine of finishing work and binge-watching episodes until I go to bed.

  • When I do this, I tend to snack more, which means that I gain weight.
  • It also means that I am interacting less with Deb and the kids.
  • Another drawback of this routine is that Deb and I go to bed at different times.

When I am forced out of my routine to travel, for example, it becomes a lot easier for me to hit the reset button.

Moderation is an important factor here. It’s not my strength. I’m an all or nothing kind of guy, but instead of binge-watching every night until I finish a series, I can try to just watch one episode.

Finally, awareness is key. Routines often go hand in hand with a lack of awareness.

Routines make it easy to switch off and act without intention.

What is intention and why is it important?

Intention is the act of creating the reality you desire. For example, I want to be more present in the evenings, so I am going to take a break from Netflix.

Intention involves goal-setting and envisioning a future situation.

Intention means breaking free from the status quo.

Becoming an active participant in your reality is empowering.


  1. Write down three relationship-related routines that you are currently experiencing.
  2. Choose one to focus on.
  3. Write down the behaviors, thoughts and feelings that you associate with the routine.
  4. Write down what you like about the routine. What is the appeal?
  5. Write down what you think are the drawbacks of the routine, especially with respect to your relationship.
  6. Write down what you can do differently to change this routine.
  7. Try it out.

Here are a few extra tips:

  • Accountability can be helpful when it comes to working on changing a routine. Consider sharing your goals with your partner.
  • Be prepared for resistance, especially at first. There will likely be a gravitational pull to the status quo.
  • Keep the awareness up. Write your intentions down and read them every day. When you fall, get back up and do it again. ​


David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice, and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 12-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

Originally published at on June 22, 2017.

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