The single, best habit that strengthens my relationship every week begins on Saturday mornings. The responsibility of step one falls on the person who is most awake and done flipping through Instagram or Twitter. They prod the other into motion with two simple, words: Want coffee?
Fifteen minutes later, hand in hand, we walk two blocks in the rain, heat or snow, to a small breakfast nook called Beechwood Cafe. Menus open and close, huevos rancheros ordered nearly every time, along with two black coffees with extra half and half on the side.
Step two is finding a ritual space where you make a few decisions about anything, so you can decompress over everything frustrating about your week. And decompress we do; bite after bite. Sip after sip. He laments over his week and highlights the moments that made him smile. I relive a memory that bugged me and look ahead towards the week of things to come. We listen. We chew. We go slow and take care not to rush. This is the part where all the negative energy comes out — and notice, it’s not in our own home. We say the fears and anxieties of the week, out loud and in a safe space that is not our home.
Our home is not a place where many memories exist of us breaking down or apart. It’s a place filled with memories where we build ourselves up and fight for it. But this is step five.
Step three is to simply get everything out, all the frustrations and fears so the ideas and genius can come to the surface and make themselves present. As a couple, part of this exercise is not to solve the problem for each other. We let each other vent and vent until we come to conclusions ourselves. We’ll ask each other questions or share thoughts to help further the exploration. But this step is not about fixing each other; you simply hold space for the negative thoughts and the reflections to happen.
By the end of breakfast, we usually feel energized and released and ready to start our day. But observation of this ritual quickly showed us we needed to add step four and five to our process: the two steps that make this habit truly life-changing.
Venting is a release without a plan to succeed and it dawned on us that we don’t like venting about the same shit every week. Step four: Don’t leave the table without an actionable plan to change the things we don’t like and be prepared to review and tweak that work at the breakfast table next week.
So then coffees refill, the tables are cleared, and occasionally a tear will roll down the eye. The accountability of your partner becomes priceless, as you sit together and make a single goal for next week. You also take time to praise each other for what went right this week and comfort each other through a mistake you won’t repeat again. (You will have at least one each week.)
Lean in and be honest, realistic, and supportive. A relationship is not the melting of two lives into one. It is the success of two lives living their fullest purpose, from the support of a unified source of love. Don’t leave the table until you are fully released and have the semblance of a plan to tackle the incoming week.
Step five comes on Sunday and in the comfort of your very own home. We write the cliff notes of the breakfast convo the morning before. It can be on a notes app, or in a dedicated book like both of us have. Write out the wisdom you received from your partner, the positive memories that meant a lot to your week, and make a mini plan to fight back on a mistake you made.
It’s a simple habit; in fact, you’ve probably been doing the first three steps for years. But to move in the direction of your heart’s desire, you need a solid plan with accountability.
Now we move through our failures faster. We forgive ourselves more quickly. And if we see the other making self-comparisons to others, we nip that shit right in the bud. It’s true self-care out loud; a chance to go all the way in, out and through the sins that hold us back. No more should-haves, could-haves, or I don’t know how’s. We figure life out, one step at a time, and we do it together.
The breakfast table is our war room. The battlefield is out in the real world. And home is a sage wand that replenishes our soul.
Give it a try.