The Daily Routine
Relationship muscles, like all muscles, require training. The “Relationship Training Program” offers exercises that will build strength and endurance for the true relationship athlete. As with all training programs, a habit of daily exercises promote continued growth and health. One well-known relationship trainer, Dr. John Gottman, recommends a daily 32-minute routine that research has shown to strengthen relationships. Let me review his 32-minute regimen before adding one additional exercise that will increase it to 35 minutes a day.
- Before leaving your family for a day of work, school, or play, learn at least one thing that each person has planned for their day. Are they going anywhere? Who will they see? What activities do they have planned? Are they excited, apprehensive, or neutral about these plans? Are any plans special? This exercise will take about 2-3 minutes, depending on how much information you seek.
- Have a 20-minute conversation upon reuniting at the end of the workday. Sit down and discuss what happened during the day. Talk like friends, share what happened during your time apart. If there are disagreements, save them for another time. If there are demands or requests, put them on the back burner until after this 20-minute exercise.
- Find some way to communicate affection and appreciate to each family member every day. Look for something that you can admire or appreciate about each person. When you recognize it, tell them. Compliment their cooking, clothes, hair, or overall appearance. Tell them about some character trait that you appreciate in them. Spend 5 minutes throughout the day expressing admiration, affection, and appreciation for family members.
- Share physical touch with family members. Give a hug and kiss good-bye when you part, a hug and kiss hello when you reunite. Even if you are angry, give a hug and kiss good-night before bed. Gottman says to “think of that kiss as a way to let go of any minor irritations that have built up over the day. In other words, lace your kiss with forgiveness and tenderness for your partner.” Hold hands as you sit or walk together. Put your arm around your children’s shoulder as you stand in line. Spend 5 minutes sharing touch –playful, affectionate, or tender–throughout the day.
- So far we have 32 minutes invested in daily exercises to strengthen our relationships. Let me add one more 3 minute exercise to round our total up to 35 minutes a day. Each day write down 2-3 things that each member of your family has done to contribute to your personal life or your family stability. In addition, write down 2 things that each member of your family said or did that represents their best strengths and qualities.
That’s it, a daily 35-minute routine to strengthen your family relationships. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? In fact, the hard part is developing the habit of keeping the routine. To help you maintain the daily routine, I suggest a weekly reward. After successfully completing this daily routine for one week, have a small celebration, a weekly date of sorts. You might rent a movie and make popcorn. Or, you can play a game like “Apples to Apples,” “Charades,” or some other family favorite. You might prefer to go out for dessert. Whatever you choose, enjoy your time together, make small talk, plan vacations, dream about the future. You can even share some of the things you enjoyed about the exercise routine. Whatever you do, have fun. If you take about two hours, you will find the total time for this exercise routine is 5 hours and 21 minutes a week. Research suggests that this 5 hours can bring greater intimacy and joy into your relationships.