When You’re in a Rut

It can be so hard to believe when you’re dating or engaged or newly married that you might, one day, fall into a rut.  But, alas, it happens to the best of us.  It’s not that we MEAN to do it but, all of sudden, there we are… same ol’, same ol’.  A rut.


Let me tell you briefly about our latest rut:


Daddy would read stories to the girls.  I’d go in their room for singing and good nights.  I’d retire to the living room while he finished reading to our son.  I’d check email.  Facebook.  Twitter.  He’d come out and sit on the other couch.  He’d pick up the remote.  We’d maybe watch something together.  Eat some snacks.  Talk a little bit about our days or pressing issues.  I’d fall asleep on the love seat.  Eventually, we’d go to bed.  The end.


I think it’s important to realize that there’s a very good reason we wind up in ruts– by definition, a rut is a well-worn groove.  So, face it.  It’s an easily travelled path with a fairly guaranteed destination.  Ruts?  Are comfortable.  It’s really that simple.


Ruts can also be boring.  And you don’t learn much or discover many new things as you roll along in a rut.  Oh, but they’re comfy.  Did I mention that?  There’s something so appealing about predictability, particularly after a long, stressful day.  So what’s a girl (or guy) to do?


The key is to retain the appealing parts of the rut (consistency, contentment) while ditching the unappealing parts (boredom, lack of connection).  So how do you do that?  Well, for starters, you redefine “rut” into “routine.”


There are many benefits to having a good, solid routine.  This is why it is so often emphasized in terms of parenting!  In general, we human beings like having an idea what to expect.  We crave some semblance of order and feel more at peace if we’re not constantly flying by the seats of our pants.  Having a routine doesn’t need to preclude spontaneity… but it should give you a good general framework for the “average day.”


A couple of months ago, I decided I was sick of our “rut.”  We were fine.  We certainly got along.  We still loved each other, of course.  I was happy enough to see him come home.  He greeted me with a kiss and a “Hi, Hon.”  Ours was certainly not a marriage “in jeopardy.”  But somehow, I knew– it could be better.


In an effort to make my marriage sing, I tweaked a few things.


And so we ended up with the new, improved routine:


We still read to the kids and do good nights the same way.  I still check email, Facebook, and Twitter, but I am ALWAYS done with the computer before he comes back out.  If I’m not “technically” done?  I make myself be done.  There’s nothing on that screen as valuable as the man in front of me.


I sit on “his” couch with him.  Instead of sprawling on the love seat, I sit next to him.  We are, literally and physically, together and that makes a difference in how we interact with one another.  Conversation is easier and more natural.  We can hold hands, lean on one another, tangle up, or, quite frankly, I can fall asleep ON him.  Actual physical closeness truly does impact emotional connection– for both genders.


We cut cable.  Now, I’m going to be honest.  We did NOT do this in an attempt to fix the rut.  We did it in an attempt to fix the budget.  Just want to be clear there.  ALSO, we are not in any way opposed to watching TV together.  In fact, we still do.  Rather than stare at a directory screen or watch so-so shows (just because they fall in between two good ones), we now seek out shows we both truly love.  We dig into a series together and truly look forward to chatting and laughing about it.  Instead of munching chips and yawning my way through some sitcom, I’m sipping a glass of wine (or Sprite or water or whatever) and waiting eagerly for the next episode of an adventure.


As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I still fall asleep.  Oftentimes on his leg or shoulder.  Still, I certainly manage to stay awake far more frequently now than in the past!  Also, since we’ve stayed engaged and connected throughout the whole evening, we are far more likely to go to bed at the same time.  And to continue that connection.


Our evenings have changed immensely– and for the better.  We went from being in a rut that was fine to having a fabulous routine.  I truly look forward to every single evening with my husband.  I love that I know just what to expect– that part hasn’t changed– and that it will result in our feeling a renewed and better connection each and every night.


I encourage you to look at your marriage honestly and define your rut.  Consider what parts of it are beneficial and what parts are serving no purpose in enriching your lives as a couple.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or completely overhaul your lives.  Ask yourself these three simple questions:

  • Why are we stuck in this rut? (e.g. habit, comfort, fear of change)
  • What elements of it would I like to keep? (e.g. watching movies, sharing snacks, reading the paper, etc.)
  • How can we carve out a comfortable routine that encourages closeness while retaining the better parts of our “rut”?


Be confident that you can still enjoy the same hobbies and comforts of your current situation, while deepening your bond as a married couple.  Maybe you’re used to retiring to separate rooms.  Can you change that?  Maybe you keep vastly different schedules.  Is there a way you can still unwind for a bit together even if one of you is going to sleep well before the other?  Maybe you crave your own space and don’t WANT to share a couch.  Could you arrange the furniture so at least your heads are near each other?  Be creative!  My perfect routine might sound lousy to you– and that’s okay.  What’s important is realizing that the potential exists to take your own marriage from fine to fabulous.


What do you think?  Is there a difference between rut and routine?  Can you think of something you’d like to see change in your current situation?

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12 comments to When You’re in a Rut

  • Oh – I love this, spicing up the routine you already have! We also love our normal since it’s so comfortable but your tips seem so manageable and easy. I will try this!

  • My husband and I are trying doing different things on different nights – having more of a weekly routine than a daily one for the time after our kids are in bed. One night, I crochet while he plays his video game. One night we watch a video together, one night we play board games or video games together, and one night we read together. It’s been nice having variety and also each getting to do the things we most enjoy – doing most things together. I think it’s great to really examine what we’re doing and how it’s affecting our relationship. Thanks for the great tips and the series.

  • Love the thought of turning your rut into a routine – a planned event! The cuddle on the couch every night is nice too! :)

  • mlearley

    We tried a simple change last night and it made a world of difference. Normally the TV is on in the back-ground but last night it remained off until 8pm. We read/played with our daughters and everyone was just more pleasant. It’s amazing what turning off that noise can do!!

  • This was awesome! Def something to think about.

  • LOVE this post! And I am so looking forward to this series! I so agree that it is needed. so many marriage books/advice is geared towards struggling marriages. We are very happily married–but we can always be more intentional about making it “more glorious!”

  • Your rut sounds like ours! By the time we get the kids in bed, we collapse on the couch, watch whatever is one while also both grading papers, checking internet, reading a book or magazine, paying bills, etc. Yes we are together, but there is rarely any real communication. This is something easily changed I think. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • I do think it’s encouraging that we really only need to make small changes to have a big impact. If I had tried to totally overhaul our whole evening? We BOTH would have ended up frustrated, I think. Thanks for commenting!

  • [...] shared When You’re in a Rut with you to encourage you all after I dug myself out of my OWN rut: A couple of months ago, I [...]

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