I've been thinking about this one for a while because I wasn't sure if I wanted to post about something so private, but these things are also very important to me and bring a lot of happiness to my life - so, the verdict is: I'm talking about it and I hope you’ll share to – or at the very least, ponder a list of things that bring joy to your life, as well. James and I, like all of you, are creatures of habit. Lately, I've realized more and more just how important it is to get into good habits before bad ones fall into place by default. We have so many little things we do together that are important parts of my days/weeks/months that I didn't even notice how many there were until I actually started keeping a list (you know, as one does).
“Routine” kind of has a bad rap.
It really doesn’t have to be boring, though. In fact, the point of this entire post is about how much I look forward to our routines – and I challenge you to find routines in your lives that actually add a little spice and keep you looking ahead! So many little pieces of my day wouldn't be the same if we didn't create these moments we now both look forward to. I've been doing some reading on friends' blogs and looking into articles on how to ensure you have a healthy relationship, etc. because I'm always curious what other people are doing to nurture their love. (Or their friendships, their own lives, etc.)
Besides all the normal stuff like "trust, honesty, transparency, loyalty" yadi-yadi-yada, there were some pretty common themes I started to pick up on. Now, don't get me wrong, James and I are in a very loving and committed relationship, but we are far from perfect. We have our moments, just like the next couple. But, one thing we got good at from day one has been to try to recognize early-on when we're having emotions or feelings about something and we don't exactly know where they're coming from. I guess the easier way to articulate this would have been to describe it as 'open-communication', but eh, that sounds boring.
I think the thing that was most important to me when learning how to love another person (and to be loved by another person) was making sure we both felt connected, even if we weren't physically together. This is important to me for so many reasons, but the main one being that I live with my best friend and if the connection doesn't feel right, or strong, or the energy is off for some reason, it kind of throws everything else in our house out of balance.
Anyway, without rambling on for too long, here are some of the things we do together that help us maintain a strong connection and a sense of balance, even on the days that feel like the world is against us.
I've always loved taking baths and having a bathtub was a big part of my search for a home each time I've moved. When James and I first started living together, we didn't have a bath (only a stand-in shower) so there were no baths to be had for almost 6 months. I remember telling him how much I wanted a bathtub in our house and he would always say we'd probably use it twice and then get over it. Well, we use it twice a week, at least. We've developed a little bedtime routine that consists of eating some edibles after dinner, watching one of our favorite shows while cuddling Minnie, and then we move to the bath to soak and relax.
I used to buy Lush bath bombs, but when you're taking 5 baths a week, that can get kinda pricey. We found a great alternative to Lush bombs, which are actually just on Amazon and come in a box of 12 for less than $30. (You can find them here) We have an echo dot in our bathroom that was intended for music, but it quickly morphed into our game-time bath routine. We usually play Jeopardy, then "song-quiz", and sometimes Heads-Up, depending on what kind of mood we're in (or how funny the edibles were). I know, we’re old.
There's something so special to me about the time we spend doing this. It's something I look forward to, especially when the day didn't treat me so well. I know I can count on soaking in a tub of hot water with my head on his chest and we'll find something to laugh about to distract me/us from whatever day we just had. All the while, re-connecting us in a very (non-sexual) intimate way. The vulnerability that comes along with sitting naked in a tub with a person while talking about all of life's defeats has been a key part of how I've come to recognize our relationship. It promotes trust and further opens the lines of communication.
I'm not entirely sure how this routine started, but I think we woke up one Sunday morning and were both starving so I whipped up some breakfast burritos with whatever we had in the fridge. They must have turned out amazing because after about 6 months, we've just about perfected the breakfast-burrito-making-process. (I'll post our recipe soon!) Every weekend, we wake up on Saturday (after sleeping-in, of course) and I get everything going while James is on his laptop. Once everything is cooked on the stove, I summon him, my heroic burrito-roller, to assist me with wrapping the burritos. (Honestly, I mostly just tell him he's using too much foil and I can't ever get the burrito-filling into the tortillas fast enough to keep up with him, but I like having him in the kitchen with me - for fun). We wrap about 10 burritos in foil each time we make them, and then they become snacks or breakfast for the upcoming week. Then, we eat said burritos on the couch while Minnie watches us closely, hoping we drop something or eventually throw the end of a burrito her way.
We like to find off-road trails we can take the Land Rover on. We usually only do day-trips because it's kind of hard with Minnie, but we've got some other, longer trips in the works. We usually grab a sandwich before we head out in the morning and we make sure the car is packed full of stuff to photograph (well, I do that - James is just a good sport and lets me fill his car up).
We usually find a cool, scenic place to stop and eat our lunch - typically out in the desert someone where there isn't another soul around. Solitude + lunch. We've gotten into a routine of taking the vintage clothes I find at thrift stores out on our adventures with us because it's super fun to photograph. James likes taking pictures and we both enjoy the art and creative process that goes into editing them after we get home (which leads me to our next routine)… Editing! After we take pictures, we obviously want to edit them so I can use them on our social channels. We usually both start editing the same picture and then compare the two to see whose is better – a little friendly competition never hurt nobody!
The Dog Park
On weekends (or some weekday-nights) we usually take Minnie to the dog park near our house. It's not the most exciting thing in the world, but it's something we enjoy doing together that includes Minnie and lets her get some much-needed exercise. Plus, let's be real, we really like to pet all the other dogs. (Except labradoodles. Keep those spazzes away.)
This usually happens after the dog park, but honestly could happen at any moment. Read: we looovveee In-N-Out. Kind of an old-person thing to have a fast-food restaurant we look forward to eating at, where we order the same exact thing every time, but I don't know what to tell you - double-doubles never get old. There isn't much to this routine, other than the fact that when we don't get In-N-Out on a weekend, we both notice and have that "aw man" feeling - like someone just betrayed us, or something.
Netflix & Chill-ing
We try to get outside as much as possible, especially on weekends, but some days (and nights) were just made for the couch and TV.
Our favorite binge-worthy shows are:
I’m Sorry (pretty sure Andrea Savage is my twin flame)
Escape at Dannemora
And when all else fails: repeats of Parks and Rec Thinking About Where We're Headed Next – Always Looking Ahead!
Travel has been an integral part of our relationship. We went to Hawaii together (on the fly) within a month of dating and we really haven’t stopped traveling since. It felt like, for a while, we were gone every single weekend.
Some places we’ve been lately:
National Parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, Joshua Tree)
Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia
Athens and Olympia, Greece
Central Coast, California
Disneyland / Disneyworld
We’re heading to Palm Springs next weekend for a little getaway and to visit some of James’ family and we’re trying to figure out where February and March will take us (although, it might be nice to stay home for a little!)
In April, we are heading to Cancun (for my best friend’s wedding!) and Tulum, Mexico.
Currently on our bucket-list:
Copenhagen (during Christmas!)
What are some places on your bucket-list??
Promising To Be Better
This one might sound odd, but we try to make commitments to be better – often.
I know I can be a huge pain in the ass, plus I’m a control freak and have OCD when it comes to things around the house, so I (and we) try to do as much self-reflecting as possible to ensure we’re catching things we might not particularly like.
Obviously we all have bad days – personally and mutually – and I think the hardest part of coming out on the other side of days that aren’t ideal is admitting where you played your role and recognizing when/where you may have been at fault or contributed to the negativity/disagreement. Basically, our egos.
By reflecting (and removing our egos), we can really dig deep into the reasons why we had a disagreement or why we were upset at the other person in the first place. We can look at what we did to perpetuate the situation, rather than to de-escalate it like we should have.
I, personally, am one of the most stubborn people out there, so removing my ego is sometimes really tough. But, upon removal and self-reflection, I usually come down from my power trip realizing there wasn’t really ever a problem to begin with. Or, if there was, there was definitely a better way for me/us to handle it, which would have resulted in less time being upset and a quicker recovery process so we could move forward with our day. So, each time we have a disagreement – whatever it might be about (where to eat dinner, inviting someone over to our house, not using the blinker when turning, (that’s my favorite one) etc etc etc) – we try to problem solve after we’ve both cooled down and can see the situation more clearly.
This not only fixes the current situation, but helps us to resolve future issues faster - or, to avoid them altogether.
This is, by far, the best routine we have.
So, while everyone is in this “new year, new me” mindset, I challenge you all to make commitments like this. Make a list of the things you do that make you happy – whether it’s alone, with friends, co-workers, or your partner. Make a list of things you look forward to doing each day/week/month. Make a list of some places you’d love to visit – then make a checklist of steps you could take to help you get there – then go!
No seriously, I hope you’ll make an actual list of some of your routines and habits. Maybe they’re not all good, but sometimes you aren’t even aware of these things until you go to write them down.
Then, make it a routine to do a happiness-check every so often to make sure you’re not just “going through the motions”.
See what things you’ve been slacking on or what things you’ve been excelling at. What things have been working for you and what things have not. I promise you, just by actively tracking these things, you will open up a line of communication that may not have been there before. Even if the line of communication is only with yourself – self-awareness is #key.
What are some fun routines you and your* partner have?? Check out my story on Instagram to share your thoughts – I’d love to hear them!