Rituals and Routines

by | Jul 27, 2021

What are rituals and routines? What is the difference?

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

 Routines, on the other hand, are defined as repetitive actions carried out on a regular basis. These would be the small things that you do frequently out of habit, such as walking your dog or making a cup of 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 as a way of managing their daily lives. 

The word routine when it comes to relationships 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 actually benefit a relationship. The key 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 considered a ritual. 

Why are they important?

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

Of course, some of the 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 is what makes your relationship special to you and your partner. They are what distinguish your specific relationship to any relationship in general. 

Similar to 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 together. Where the relationship is a defining characteristic of each individual’s personal identity. These rituals are used as a way to 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

I hope it is clear that the value of healthy rituals and routines reinforce relationships. If you want to develop healthy relationship practices, or maybe even start a new special ritual with your partner download the Official app.

For iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/official-relationship-app/id1538237856

For Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.official.rn_app 

Download Official on the app store today to find new ideas for dates, activities to enjoy as a couple, and communication techniques to help you enhance your relationship and establish new rituals and routines.


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Get to know:  Sean Trapp

Get to know: Sean Trapp

Psychology Intern

Sean is a psychology intern on team Official, originally from Lombard, Illinois. He is a current senior at Loyola University of Chicago studying psychology, and plans to pursue a PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology.


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