We’ve all heard the old adage: it takes 21 days to make a habit. 

So, 21 days, right? 21 days and I should be all set? 

Not exactly. In fact, not only has research discredited that rule, but overall, there’s a lot of information floating around out there which doesn’t reflect the reality of changing your habits – and that includes individually and as a couple. 

This series of posts will be focusing on breaking old, ineffective habits and creating new habits. The same set of ideas applies to both individuals and couples, but we’ll be focusing specifically on some new habits a couple can work on together to create a healthier and happier relationship. 

Step One: Find Your Why

Part of being intentional about creating new habits is to understand the bigger “why” behind them. Do you want to be healthier for yourself and loved ones? Do you want to improve at one of your passions? Do you want a better relationship? Establishing your “why” is important – not only for the motivation to get started, but also for the dedication to persist. Having that “big picture” in mind will help keep you going. 

Step Two: Understand Habits vs. Routines 

Most of us use these terms interchangeably. However, there is an important distinction between them: a habit is a behavior done with little or no thought, while a routine involves a series of behaviors which are incorporated deliberately and intentionally performed repeatedly. 

In other words, a behavior has to be a regularly performed routine before it can become a habit at all.


For example, your habit may be to brush your teeth before bed. You don’t even think about it; you just do it. But let’s say you want to add flossing into the mix. You must be intentional and deliberate about flossing every night into order to incorporate it into your already-present teeth-brushing habit. 

Forgive the Stumbles 

Unlike habits, routines are difficult to get into! They may feel hard, or you may come up with some excuses for why you don’t need to practice them on a daily basis. Routines take persistence and practice. There will be stumbles along the way. Having the proper perspective will help. Instead of saying, “I’m a failure,” say, “Wow. I just got reminded why I want this.” 

Whether you’re looking to cultivate an individual habit or as a couple, you and your partner are looking to create and improve habits together, the above tips will work. In our next posting, we’ll be focusing specifically on habits couples can cultivate together. 

Your Turn 
  1. Pick something you want to improve in your relationship. Maybe it is listening better, more intimacy, or less fighting.
  2. Write down why it important to you. For example, listening is meaningful to be able to work through issues so that the same problems can be resolved, or,  “I want have more intimacy because I think that being physical is an important aspect of a relationship to keep things exciting.”
  3. Create a plan to do something every day to work on this goal. For example, if I want to listen better, I can practice asking one question or repeating back something every day at dinner time. If I am working on being more intimate, I could start to give my partner a shoulder squeeze when they are sitting in a specific chair. Maybe you could do this after breakfast. 

If you are looking for personalized relationship counseling or seek a licensed counselor for intensive couples therapy, schedule your initial session appointment and inquire about our couples intensives available in Harrisburg, PA.

Visit Emergent Relationship Center and schedule today to book your free consultation call.