Creating Healthy Habits For A Successful Relationship

written by Lauren Caldwell
healthy relationship habits

Today we are talking relationship habits: the good, the bad and the ugly. I recently listened to the Rise Together Podcast with Rachel and Dave Hollis (major #couplegoals).  In this episode they dive into 3 healthy relationship habits and 1 bad that occur in their own relationship.  I found it so valuable that I wanted to summarize and share the main points for you guys.  You know, the cliff notes version!

Rachel and Dave start off by talking about how habits are how you show up in the world.  Your habits are controlling your life. They are the foundation of everything you do.  If you can identify your habits, you can improve any area of your life. Sounds great, right? Let’s break it down.

A habit has 3 parts:

1.  Cue

A habit is a cue or a trigger. Something happens in your life to cue you in some way. 

2.  Activity

When you are confronted with this cue it prompts an activity. You do an activity as a result of the cue.

3. Reward

The activity produces a reward.  If a reward isn’t produced, it doesn’t become a habit. 


They go on to describe how a habit is something you have done so many times before that it isn’t a conscious decision you make.  Think of brushing your teeth in the morning.  The cue is walking into the bathroom when you wake up. The activity is brushing your teeth. The reward is a clean and fresh mouth. You don’t necessarily make a conscious decision to brush your teeth every morning, it’s just a habit.  Because of this, we need to be aware of the cues or triggers that prompt a habit.

What situations, cues and triggers lead you to a positive or negative habit? Of course the ones that lead you to brushing your teeth, working out or making your bed are great.  But it is important to also notice the triggers that lead to the negative habits like drinking too much, screaming at your kids or stressing too hard. Things that you wouldn’t consciously chose to do if they weren’t negative habits that are controlling your actions.

Now that we know the ins and outs of habits, let’s apply them to relationships. Rachel and Dave gave 3 examples of healthy habits that they have adopted in their relationship.



1. Constructive confrontation

This is the idea of pushing yourself and your partner into a conversation that constructively deals with a situation before it becomes a problem.  Rachel and Dave say that when they sense something is off between them, they say “your energy feels weird … something is off.”  When one of them notices that something is off and the other person isn’t saying it – rather than ignore it, the second it doesn’t feel normal they immediately confront it. It is a form of confrontation but its not aggressive because they have previously agreed that they won’t let things stay buried or fester between them.  For this habit to work they recommend previously agreeing on it. If you make a promise to bring it to the others attention when something feels off, it doesn’t come as confrontational because it’s been agreed to be brought up in this sort of situation.  The habit of getting in front of problems with constructive confrontation can help with lessening initial defensiveness or insecurity.  Once it becomes part of the way you handle these types of situations, it will make your relationship more transparent and you’ll be able to resolve these feelings quicker.

2. front loading

You prepare your partner in advance so they know what to expect and can visualize in their mind how it will go.  When heading into a situation where one or both of you might be triggered (insert: work deadlines, in law time, travel, sickness, holidays), discuss it and plan ahead so you are able to show up as the best version of yourself.  Be in constant communication and plan ways to support each other during stressful times. Rachel and Dave said that if you wait until you are in the middle of the situation, you’re screwed!  That’s when we end up making decisions we wish we didn’t make or acting a way we wish we didn’t. Plan ahead so you can give yourself the opportunity to act the way you want to.  The more you can get ahead of how you guys are going to assume roles because of travel or whatever life throws your way, the easier it will be to handle these times.

3.  inside jokes

This is the fun one! Rachel talks about how she can hang out with Dave for like 100 days straight and not get sick of him.  The point being that they genuinely have a blast together and are best friends.  The habit of having fun is so important. This shows up in their relationship as “inside jokes.”  They play a game when they are at fancy events together.  In the car on the way to the event, they each pick a really random fancy word (that you would never use in normal conversation) and they have to say it in a conversation with other people at the event. It’s a silly game but the point is, they have so much fun, just the two of them playing it.  Whatever way “fun” shows up in your relationship, make time for it often. Maybe for you it’s movie quotes, video games or an other activity that is exclusive to you guys that makes you feel like you are in a little club of two.

one example of a bad habit they identified they were unconsciously doing:

One of you at any time, for lots of different reasons, is going to be showing up for life better than the other.  One is going to be the lead horse so to speak. One is going to be more committed to making good choices, thinking more about health and fitness or parenting or whatever it may be. The bad habit happens when the person that is in the stronger position or better mindset defaults to the lower common denominator of the person who is struggling. The person who is stronger at that moment needs to be the one driving the direction of your relationship.

Their example is, Rachel tends to be the one more focused on eating healthy and that’s great except for when she is sick or gets tired and starts to revert to bad eating habits. Dave is used to her being the leader in that department so when she is sick or tired, he’s okay with them eating bad and he is right there along with her. So then they are both eating bad.  In order to escape this bad habit, they made a decision that it’s the other persons job to bring their partners back up to their level. Whoever is stronger at that time, it is your job to help your partner get back up to the top of the mountain.  One person tends too be stronger depending on the season your relationship is in. Recognize who is the stronger of the two at the time and resist the temptation to meet the other person in their valley and instead throw a rope to them to help them out.

If you are interested in learning more about habits, Rachel and Dave suggested checking out the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

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