Rituals & Routines for Healthy Relationships

Sean Trapp
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What are the Differences Between Rituals and Routines?

In a broad sense, rituals are structured events that people participate in where there is some sense of symbolic meaning to them. Most people picture large-scale events such as religious ceremonies or national holidays when thinking about rituals. These events would be considered rituals. However, rituals do not need to be grand, extravagant activities. Rituals can range from something as significant as your annual family reunion to something as small as watching a particular television program. The essential features of a ritual are that they are structured and easy to replicate, repeated over time, and carry some symbolic meaning.

On the other hand, routines are defined as repetitive actions carried out regularly. These would be the small things you frequently do out of habit, such as walking your dog or making a coffee in the morning. In terms of relationships, rituals would be any repeated behavior shared between partners in which there is a special significance of the event for both partners. Routines in a relationship would be the activities that partners are used to doing together to manage their daily lives.

When it comes to relationships, the word routine typically has a negative connotation when it is put in terms of attempting to break the mundane routine. However, routines do not always have to be bad, and can benefit a relationship. The critical difference between a ritual and a routine is the symbolic meaning that a ritual holds. Cleaning the bedroom and making the bed would be considered a routine, but cleaning and decorating the bedroom with flowers and candles to enjoy a night off with your partner would be a ritual.

Why are Rituals and Routines Important in a Relationship?

Routines are important within a relationship because they create a sense of familiarity and help us develop the skills and connections we need to maintain a healthy relationship. Practicing routines with your partner allows you to integrate them as a part of your life, where you can learn specific aspects of how they like and don’t like to do things. Having routines together provides a feeling of continuity within a relationship; you and your partner perform the regular functions of life not just as individuals but as partners.

Of course, some negative conceptions of routines are warranted: routines can cause relationships to fall into a repetitive loop. This is why it is valuable to mix up the aspects of the routines sometimes.  It does not have to be anything drastic, something as simple as changing the order of how you do things or switching roles with your partner can keep the benefits of enacting routines alive.

Rituals are important within a relationship because they add special meaning to the regular parts of our lives. Having rituals within a relationship makes your relationship special to you and your partner. They are what distinguish your specific relationship from any relationship in general.

Like routines, forming rituals in the early stages of a relationship creates the feeling of shared identity; it is not just one person seeing another person, but two individuals who share their lives. These rituals signify the time being spent together is being put towards spending meaningful time with your partner, not worrying about other tasks and responsibilities for a brief time. The presence of rituals within a relationship has been shown to increase relationship satisfaction, and couples that practice rituals are more likely to have long-term successful relationships.  

What Kinds of Rituals can I Form With my Partner?

Enjoyable Activities

  • Date Nights
  • Watching Special Television Shows
  • Walking/Outdoor Activities
  • Preparing Special Meals
  • Reading Books Together
  • Favorite Restaurant
  • Planning Vacations
  • Playing Games

Intimacy Expressions

  • Special Verbal Expressions of Love
  • Massages
  • Sexual Activity
  • Foreplay
  • Physical Affection (Cuddling before bed, Kissing before leaving for the day, etc.)


  • Phone calls/Texting
  • Leaving Written Notes (Post-it notes)
  • Emails
  • Direct Messaging Memes

Play Rituals

  • Nicknames
  • Inside Jokes
  • Silly Nonsense Games
  • Roleplay

If you want to develop healthy relationship practices or start a new special ritual with your partner, download the Official app.

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