A huge component of maintaining healthy relationships, whether they are with romantic partners or with friends and extended family, is spending meaningful time together. With September bringing the return of school and after-school activities, it can be tough to schedule that meaningful time into our lives. However, without meaningful time together, couples lose the sense of “we-ness”, and friendships can fade. This is where the importance of routine becomes clear. Although routines require an initial investment of energy, once you have overcome the initial investment, the routine occurs without thinking.
I have had many clients talk to me about the difficulty of maintaining friendships in adulthood, when there is not a classroom or some other institutionally-based reason for regularly meeting. But therein we see the power of routine. Half of the reason that it is easy to make friends in a schooling environment is because you routinely see other people. You do not have to worry about when you will see someone next. So, how can you use the power of routine to maintain and even grow your relationships?
- See if you can increase the number of daily habits of connection, such as:
- Kiss each other hello and goodbye
- Enjoy coffee together before going to work
- Talk about your day
- Eat meals together
- Date night: Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly?
- You will deal with “inertia” from not having this type of appointment in your calendar, but after the first couple of instances, you may find it easier to stick to a specific date and time (e.g., Friday nights, Sunday afternoons, etc.)
For adult friendships / local extended family:
- Common interests are key
- What are your hobbies? If you can’t answer this question, it’s time to let your inner child dabble in new activities until you find something you are excited about
- Identify a weekly / biweekly / monthly time to gather and engage in your interests
- Examples: weekly game night, Saturday morning family hike, monthly book club
Don’t forget celebrations.
Are there enough birthdays, holidays, or other celebrations that you can make them into at least a monthly routine for your family and friends to gather? For example, a monthly gathering based on celebrations might look like: September birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, December holidays, January birthdays, etc. Make the celebration aspect easy – it may be as easy as gathering at someone’s house or a favorite restaurant. Setting aside the time is the important part. Overall, the more that you set aside intentional time for your relationships, the more joyous your life will feel.