A doable framework for creating an intentional relationship that lasts.
The number one relationship killer isn’t weight gain, nightly farting, or a hot babysitter in tempting clothes. It’s routine.
Adventurous dates turn into Netflix marathons. Steamy and passionate sex becomes a mechanic in and out. Wake-up cuddles and breakfast in bed make space for grumpy morning coffees.
One day, you take a long, hard look at what was once a magic connection with an amazing person and wonder where it all went wrong.
But routine isn’t entirely bad – relationships need consistent effort.
A relationship journal is a great way to nurture the flame, strengthen your relationship, and keep you from drifting apart.
Step 1: Discover the Core of Any Happy Relationship
Why do you get along so well with your significant other?
You’ve fallen in love with their smile, laugh, voice, eyes, or strong and caring presence. The smell of their hair sends you to cloud nine and they cook a lasagna worthy of dining with the gods. You’ve even broken a few bed frames together.
But in the end, something else matters.
Disagreement and disconnection in relationships often stem from a value mismatch.
The problem isn’t that you want to exercise three times a week while your partner craves nachos and Netflix. It’s that one values health and growth while the other values relaxation and cinematic art. The same goes for partying versus keeping it low, traveling versus buying a house, and home-cooking versus eating out.
But when you both value health, there won’t be any discussions about greasy burgers or getting up early for the gym.
Living out the same values together leads to a deeper connection, more trust, and this feels right.
To do that, you need to examine your values, so start your journal by asking yourself:
- What is important to me in this relationship?
- What do I have to experience for me to be happy in it?
- What are my underlying values?
Don’t be shy with expressing your expectations and needs. You can always trim the fat later. Whether it’s loyalty, expressions of love, a sense of adventure, wild sex, honesty, safety, or integrity – your values are valuableso get them out.
→ Then, settle on five to seven common values you both want for your relationship.
These are the base pillars you both have to commit to. Write down what they mean and how you want each other to express them. A mismatch is okay as long as you both feel like your must-haves are met. People are different by nature.
Congratulations, you’ve laid the foundation for a happy and fulfilling relationship.
Now let’s make sure the flow of time doesn’t wash away your hard work.
Step 2: Turn Intention Into Commitment
The smallest actions can cause the biggest changes.
If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you know that slipping into a routine is as easy as snoozing your early-morning alarm. This isn’t the first time you’ve tried to “spice things up.” But most efforts don’t last long.
Keeping a relationship journal means you have to follow up once a month – there’s too much at stake to say “let’s do it tomorrow.”
As a habit coach, I know how fast enthusiasm can turn into resistance. Good intentions usually last until you’ve had a long day at work, not enough sleep, or your friends invite you for drinks. So what’s the solution?
→ Build an accountability mechanism.
- Set an electronic reminder.
- Make it part of your date night.
- Reward yourself with a fancy dinner.
- Maybe even find another couple to hold each other accountable.
But instead of viewing it as a chore, view it as a fun ritual you both get to do that deepens your connection. Make your favorite tea. Turn off your phones. Cuddle up under the sheets.
Whatever you do, don’t let it slip because you feel too comfortable – we’ve all done it and the results were never great.
Schedule your reviews. Hold yourself accountable. It’s a small step with huge consequences.
Step 3: Critical Reflection, Brutal Honesty, and Taking Action
Honesty hurts a little right now, not being honest hurts a lot in the future.
Doing a review doesn’t just bring out the good times, but also shows you ways to improve your relationship – it hurts, but it helps.
Over time, I’ve found the best approach consists of three simple steps.
Reflect on your values
Let’s start with the easy part.
Since you have crystal-clear values written down, review them one by one and see if you’ve been living up to them. Have you lived up to your desire for adventure, love, and appreciation? Or did long workdays and family drama get the better of you?
Your values are the base of your relationship – stick to them and everything else will be smooth(er) sailing.
Ask the hard questions
Once you’ve taken care of the meat and potatoes, you can grab dessert.
A lot can happen during a month. Things go unsaid. Insights don’t come to you until much later. A hectic schedule keeps you from appreciating the good times.
You can use these questions as guidelines:
- Were you happy with how things went this month?
- Is there something you’ve held back that you would like to express?
- Is there anything you wish for from your partner?
- Is there anything that makes you feel hurt?
- What are you grateful for this month with your partner?
- What actions/moments/insights made you feel connected?
- What actions/moments/insights made you feel disconnected?
- How can I love you better this month?
Some questions will make you a little uneasy – that’s the point. Growth happens beyond the comfort zone. Ask without fear, answer without judgment.
Make it happen
Aspirations don’t bring change – action does.
Connecting with your partner and honestly will inspire you. That’s good. But do you know what’s even better?
Following up on it.
The storms of everyday life can quickly blow away your good intentions, so if you want your relationship to improve, you’ll have to commit.
Block time for an adventurous weekend trip. Create a small morning or evening ritual to connect with your partner. Change up your schedule so you’ve got more time together.
Take action, no matter how small.
Wrap-Up To Keep Your Relationship Strong and You Both Happy
Being with a person you love can be the most amazing thing that ever happened to you – but it comes at a price:
You have to put in consistent effort.
A relationship journal isn’t a magic pill that will solve all your problems. It’s a mighty tool that helps you grow together. But you have to do the work.
- Find the common values of your relationship.
- Schedule a fun reviewing ritual once a month.
- Be honest, ask the tough questions, and take action together.
There’s a reason you fell in love with your partner – now it’s both your job to keep that love alive.