by Michael Russer, Reprinted with permission from the Good Men Project
At some point most relationships end up in the rut of routine, here is a sure-fire way to get out of it and stay out for good.
Ever drive to work only to arrive and remember little if anything about the details of how you got there? That is one of the ways routine shows up in our lives. We put things on autopilot and let our subconscious do the “driving” as it were. This is also closely related to the destination of most routine activities –our comfort zone.
This is one of our ways of not having to be particularly conscious or present to every single thing we do. It can make some things more efficient, but almost by definition, it also means we are not fully present or available to new possibilities. And that therein lies the problem of allowing relationships to fall into routine. It has been my personal experience that relationship routine left unchecked can lead to the slow death of even the greatest of relationships.
Fortunately I believe there is a way out of this relationship rut and ways to keep out of it. What I’m about to share is simply my opinion based upon personal experience and observation of others. Feel free to take whatever value you may see here and ignore the rest.
Routine = Not Present
Let’s start with the premise that any time you do or participate in something routine it also means you are not fully (i.e. consciously) present. If we accept that idea then it is fairly easy to see how couples allow aspects of their relationship to become routine (which quite often includes the bedroom). And that outcome right there is the primary reason routine can kill relationships. It is my belief, supported by experience, that for any relationship to thrive it requires both parties being fully present for each other at least part of the time. And most importantly, during physical intimacy. Sex without presence is not true intimacy / connection. It may be great for getting off, but does nothing to deepen and strengthen the relationship.
Three Steps to Breaking the Routine
You know how your car has warning lights indicating something is wrong or about to go wrong? Well, relationships have them too, they are just more subtle. If you don’t remember the last time you both did something really different and fun, that my friend is a relationship warning light indicating you have started to slip into the rut of routine.
If you find you and your significant other have fallen into routines that are beginning to dull the spark you once had, here are three steps you can take to immediately break free from it:
- Acknowledge It – this means both parties being willing to authentically and vulnerably communicate what each sees as disconnecting / boring routines that have taken over the relationship. This particularly includes aspects of your physical intimacy. It is crucial to first get out in the open what each sees as routines that are stultifying the relationship.
- Be Willing to Get out of Your Comfort Zone – as mentioned earlier, the primary reason we fall into routine is that it feels comfortable and non-threatening. This means that if you truly want to break free of your routines each of you must be willing to go outside your comfort zone to allow possibilities to present themselves that neither of you even expected to exist. For example, my partner and I spent this past Halloween not only in San Francisco, the mecca for colorful display of people in costume, but in the very “anything goes” Castro district. Do you see what I’m mean about doing something “different”? We had a blast.
- Be Adventurous – consider things neither of you have done before but might be interesting to both. It is in the spirit of adventure and seeing what shows up that my partner and I keep routine at bay. And frankly, it is usually an incredible amount of fun and often insightful. We love discovering new things about people, the world and of course, each other. And the only sure way to do that is be open to that possibility. Here’s another example. Instead of driving the car to downtown San Francisco we took public transportation. What an amazing array of costumes we saw. The fun started right there and then, that set the tone for the rest of our evening.
And here’s the cool part of all this. When you each authentically acknowledge routines that are preventing the relationship from getting richer, get out of your comfort zone and do it with a spirit of adventure and discovery, you both are being very, very present for each other. Now all this almost begs the question as to how you are able to stay in this kind of space where there is little room for routine…
Discipline Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Ironically, it takes quite a bit of discipline from both parties to keep yourselves out of a relationship rut. That’s because our minds are very tricky about turning anything new into yet another routine. There is a thin line separating cherished “traditions” from boring routines.
Here are some of the things my partner and I do to keep things fresh, exciting and giving that sneaky rut wide berth:
- Take Short Trips – we do our best to travel, even relatively short distances, to places neither of us have been before or infrequently.
- Try New Restaurants – at least once a month we try some new restaurant just because.
- Check Out New and Different Activities around Town – my Sweetie is particularly good at this. She is constantly scanning the local paper for new and interesting things, events etc.
- Play New Games – I recently taught my partner how to play Monopoly (she’s from Brazil and never heard of it before) and now she loves it!
- Attend Interesting Lectures – we both have minds that are insatiably curious so we are always on the lookout for new and interesting things to learn.
- Be Erotically Adventurous – it seems we are always exploring the boundaries of what is possible with respect to our emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy and have yet to find any limits.
Every week we look to do and explore something different. We may not always succeed, but the very act of being disciplined about it keeps things fresh for us.
While all of this may seem to be quite a bit of work (it sometimes is), we both find it to be far superior to the alternative: a dull, lifeless relationship that never gets better.