Life is busy with tons of priorities… work, kids, friends and, of course, your relationship. Sometimes we’re so scheduled with demands that we fail to include time for self-care. It’s often undervalued but self-care benefits the mind, body and soul. Interestingly enough, the same concept of self-care can be applied to your relationship resulting in both individual and collective gains that’ll help maintain a healthy connection.
There are so many facets of relationship building. You’re familiar with common self-care practices for personal gain, so simply shift those ideas to a twosome approach.
Here are 30 self-care rituals for couples:
For Your Minds
1. Get Back to Nature.
Countless studies have concluded that nature is good for overall health. There are plenty of couple activities to enjoy outdoors. Think about energetic options, like hiking, and also calming options, like picnicking. To explore a mindful self-care ritual together, try earthing (also known as grounding — a word that perfectively describes this literal practice of using the ground to figuratively stay grounded). On your next romantic picnic, kick off your shoes and let your bare feet stabilize on the energy-rich earth. Feel the breeze on your bodies and gaze up to peacefully cloud-watch. Scientists believe that earthing reduces chronic pain, inflammation and blood pressure, while increasing energy levels and sleep quality.
2. Try Tandem Meditation.
Meditation tops self-care lists for many. It’s an excellent exercise centered on relaxing the mind and finding clarity. Perhaps you perceive meditation to be a solo thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Sit in a traditional lotus position in alignment with your partner by facing each other with your knees touching, sitting side-by-side or sitting back-to-back. Maybe hold hands or place your hands over each other’s heart to feel the beat and breath. There’s actually a guided practice called Love-Kind Meditation, by The University of California Berkeley, which works really well for couples. It includes suggested phrases to recite to one another, such as “May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.”
3. Unplug to Plug In.
Reboot yourself and your relationship by powering down! We’re all guilty of allowing mobile devices to distract our attention. A Time magazine article titled “How Your Smartphone is Ruining Your Relationship” addressed how devices can be a romance killer. It stated, in part, that people who were more dependent on their smartphones reported being less certain about their partnerships; and people who felt that their partners were overly dependent on their devices said they were less satisfied in their relationship. Woozer! Make an effort to be present with your partner and not focused on a screen. Whether at the dinner table, on the couch or on date night, switch your phone to airplane mode or turn it off altogether to avoid disruptive notifications.
4. Stretch Beyond Your Comforts.
Routine can be good, but too much consistency can put one in a rut. To keep your relationship fresh, be open-minded to trying new things. For instance, stray from the typical dinner-and-a-movie date night combo. By holding off on this stall go-to, you’ll get a taste of new experiences and eat up fresh connective opportunities. Here an idea: Make a date night jar inclusive of ideas that stretch beyond your comfort zone.
5. Minimize Your (Online) Social Circle.
It’s wonderful to have a large circle of friends. However, thanks to social media, we stay connected to people who, unfortunately, bring negativity into our life. Think about it: How many times have you read a post – political, religious, etc. – that rubbed you the wrong way and, thus, shifted your mood or mindset. Ugh, why waste time on negativity? Encourage one another to limit that negative energy by ‘unfollowing’ certain people on Facebook. You’ll remain ‘friends’ but won’t see their posts. Additionally, plenty of articles (see Psychology Today and Bustle) outline how social media can hurt a relationship.
6. Read a Book.
Personally, the perfect self-care afternoon is curling up on the couch with a good book, a fuzzy blanket and a hot cup of coffee. I can easily integrate my partner into this. We could read a book aloud, perhaps relationship-focused, romantic poetry or some random fiction just for fun. Or, listen to an audio book or podcast.
7. Set Goals.
Self-care isn’t just about manicures and bubble baths. Challenging yourself and challenging your partner is a form of self-care! Studies show that we’re more likely to achieve goals when aided with the help of another. That doesn’t just apply to gym buddies… that supportive approach can apply to any goal, whether personal or collaborative. And isn’t your partner your best support person? When one partner sets a goal, be mindful to encourage his/her efforts. That can mean participating or just offering reassuring words. Also, consider establishing couple-specific goals. You’ll be able to work as a team and experience a shared self of accomplishment. Talk about relationship building!
8. Take Your Time.
Grant yourselves permission to slow down, enjoy the simple things and, in turn, enjoy each other’s company. With the hustle and bustle of life, we tend to look for shortcuts but sometimes the long and slow road is better. On your next couple’s road trip, take a beautiful scenic route rather than the congested highway which can put you in a bad mood. Backroads have a way of bringing couples back to meaningful conversations too.
9. Conquer the To-Do List.
Set yourselves up for success through organization and honesty. There are personal to-do lists and shared to-do lists. For personal efforts, I’ve learned that I respond better to old-school written checklists. When I just set a Google calendar appointment for myself with time blocked for a to-do item (like calling the doctor to book a check-up), I tend to easily hit snooze or push back the date. Once I physically write out a list and leave it on the counter, the in-your-face visual reminder is effective and I get it done. It feels good to literally cross something off my list with a pen. I have started making written lists with reminders for my husband too and, funny enough, he also gets more done. So simple, yet effective! Regarding implementing this further in our relationship, there have been times when I’ve felt that I’ve asked my husband to do something (insert any chore) a million times and he puts it off. That creates negative energy between us because I get annoyed. He starts to feel that I am nagging and I start to feel resentful that I have to nag him. To avoid this, I strive to be direct and sometimes share with him why I think something is a priority and help him set a timeline. Once I’ve expressed myself clearly, he has a better understanding of the reasoning behind my ask and understands that I’m not just nagging. We’ve better communicated, appreciated each other’s perspective and conquered the to-do list.
10. Clean House.
Freshen things up as it can do much more than tidy up your physical space. Decluttering can help you improve organization and, thus, improve functionality within your home. Plus, a clean space makes you happier. Seriously! Sure, nobody is thrilled to tackle chores but nobody likes a huge pile of clothes wasting space in the closet or a stockpile of expired cans in the pantry either. And cleaning, of course, helps to eliminate germs. Wouldn’t you rather use your bed together for something hot rather than be in bed with a germy cold? You can make cleaning fun if you do it together, I swear. Crank the tunes and have mini-dance parties in between sweeps.
For Your Bodies
11. Pamper Together.
Perhaps your daily regimen is just washing your face, but self-care of one’s body can and should go way beyond that. Ladies, if you think your guy won’t be up for pampering, you may be wrong. Think of the laughs you’ll have as you paint goopy facial masks on each other. And pedicures are lovely for everyone’s tootsies. Run a warm bath for a rejuvenating soak. Incorporate salt scrubs, oils and lotions. Your bodies will get silky smooth which is an invitation for touchy-feely time.
12. Support Personal Self-Care Pampering Too.
Sometimes the best way to treat your partner is to allow him/her to indulge in whatever self-care ritual brings him/her joy. We’re talking basics here. For example, I love to stand in a hot shower for a long time. I mean practically scorching and so long that the water heater runs out. My husband knows that those ten minutes are my feel-good escape (especially since we have children). He splurges on hair care. I think he overpays for haircuts and styling product but, alas, it’s his favorite self-care thing so I just offer compliments of his well-groomed locks.
13. Be Workout Buddies.
Since you’ve committed to a life together, collaborate on exercise-focused self-care to achieve optimal health. Your partner makes your heart skip a beat and, so, incorporate cardiovascular exercises to work that heart! These things can make for great dates too, such as dancing, biking, hiking, rock climbing or however you like to get a sweat on. And since healthy relationships are all about balance, don’t forget to explore yoga, stretching, etc.
14. Add Color to Your Life (and Plate).
How we choose to fuel our bodies is another self-care consideration. Isn’t it beautiful to see a rainbow alongside your love? Well, strive to “eat the rainbow” with your partner too. That means a bright meal featuring diverse hues, rather than a bland brown and white dish (yup, meat and potatoes won’t cut it). Different nutrients are found in different colored vegetables and fruits. For example, orange/red (i.e. sweet potatoes, carrots) provides beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A; and green (i.e. broccoli, spinach) delivers fiber and vitamin C. In an effort to stay hydrated, use the same approach with water by infusing H2O with berries, cucumber and citrus fruits.
15. Inhale a Soothing Scent.
Scents impact mood. Vanilla is believed to be arousing, lavender is soothing and peppermint stimulates. Use candles or an essential oil diffuser to let aromatherapy naturally put you in great moods.
16. Be Intimate.
Sex is good, right? And, as it turns out, it’s good for you too. During orgasm, oxytocin is released which promotes more restful sleep. Science aside, I can attest that my husband achieves snore status quicker post-rendezvous! And sex can boost positive emotions because, well, it feels good to be desired. Date Night Guide’s founder Kristen Manieri schedules sex to ensure that this self-care ritual happens twice a week.
17. Sleep Together.
OK, this time we’re talking about actually snoozing. Sleep… seems like such a simple thing but most Americans aren’t catching enough zzz’s. There are tons of benefits from being well-rested, such as increased productivity and a stronger immune system. Instead of staying up for another episode during a Netflix binge, crawl into bed together and dream away.
18. Have a Cup (or Two).
Coffee makes couples happy… literally. Forgo decaf because caffeine triggers the production of dopamine in the brain and, thus, triggers cheeriness — a lovely ingredient indeed. Plus, café dates are easy and delish.
19. Give (and Receive) Massages.
Finding time to unwind with your partner without worries flooding your mind is tricky. Schedule a couple’s spa day to indulge in professional massages, which usually comes with other amenities like access to a sauna, steam room and lounge. This type of TLC is amazing, right? In between spa splurges, give each other massages at home to work out kinks and relish in chill status.
20. Be Gentle.
Gentle touches are ways to offer love and show that you care. Intimate embraces don’t have to be reserved for the bedroom. I’m not talking major PDA, but rather subtle touches of affection. Hold hands, hug, give sweet kisses on the cheek or forehead, caress the arm, etc.
For Your Souls
21. Laugh Together.
Laughing stimulates hormones called catecholamines which release endorphins that aid happiness and relaxation. Laughter really could be the best medicine! And benefits include stress reduction, muscle relaxation, lowered blood pressure and strengthened immune system. Find ways to laugh when alone and when together. Comedic entertainment is an option but go further by talking about funny memories you’ve made together.
22. Write it Out.
The practice of releasing and recording feelings, memories and thoughts can be fulfilling and useful. For example, the trend of ‘gratitude journaling’ helps users realize and appreciate life’s gifts that might otherwise be taken for granted. Journaling is often a solo practice, yet couples journaling is a way for partners to document their love story and deepen their relationship.
23. Go Solo.
Being a part of a loving duo is wonderful, but it’s totally fine (and maybe even crucial) to snag solo time too. Schedule something that makes you feel happy and nourishes your soul. Read a book in the park, go for a jog, spend the day doing your hobby, stroll a museum, etc. Connecting with your partner is one priority, but so is reconnecting with yourself. When you reunite, you’ll be in a great mood which, of course, is contagious!
Researchers say cuddling is highly beneficial. Snuggling up will again release oxytocin and promote happiness. For personal care, wrap yourself in a cozy blanket and nap. And also assume the spooning position as cuddling with your love can improve your connection through non-verbal communication and intimacy.
25. Do Good to Feel Good.
Volunteerism or the act of doing something good makes us feel good and improves our mental state. Spend time with the person you love doing do-good and feel-good date activities.
26. Check In On Emotions.
You likely ask your partner simply questions, like “How was your day?” Take it further and allow each other to express emotions without judgment. Kristen Manieri shared how two questions make all the difference in her relationship: What would you like to be acknowledged for? What would you like me to know about your life? And for some couples, attending counseling sessions is a way to stay in a positive state before problems arise.
27. Ask for Help.
Some perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness but it’s really a sign of strength. It’s great to push aside the fear of judgment and involve others when you need a hand. Cut yourself some slack! No one is perfect and everyone has different strengths, so another person may be better suited for the issue at hand anyway. Plus, healthy relationships are all about give and take. Sometimes needs are met via 50-50 participation and other times one steps up more. Your partner is the person you trust most so feel comfortable asking for help. I’ve learned that if I want it done “right” (aka the way I would do it – ha!), I need to be direct and specific with my husband. He approaches things differently than me and he certainly can’t read my mind so asking for help and effectively communicating go hand-in-hand. People like feeling useful and your partner will likely not reject your request.
28. Be Adventurous and/or Travel.
Self-care is about finding ways to take care of yourself and that includes identifying what makes you happy. New adventures and exciting life experiences are just that. Odds are you aren’t going to achieve your bucket list if you’re living a couch potato existence. Allow your mind (or minds to include your partner) to grow through travel, for instance. The wonders of our world are sure to impact your mind, body and soul. On vacation, incorporate downtime into your agenda. I have a tendency to overschedule which increases my stress and, thus, defeats the goal of a relaxing trip.
Opening one’s heart to a higher power through prayer or spirituality can be powerful. Have you heard the statement “couples who pray together stay together?” A study conducted by the National Survey of Religion found that partners who attended faith services regularly were more satisfied with their relationship, according to HuffingtonPost.
30. Make Date Night a Routine!
Funny enough, date night works for self-care. Countless studies have proclaimed date night as beneficial, like the Date Night Opportunity published by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. It found that regular date nights add value to relationships by generating “higher levels of communication, sexual satisfaction and commitment” among couples.
Did we leave out a ritual that works for you and/or relationship? Tell us what’s on your list!
Nancy DeVault is a contributing editor for Date Night Guide and a contributor to publications such as Babble, AmeriDisability Services Magazine and Orlando Magazine. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and kiddos.