Nighttime routines are important. Maybe, you have a habit of brewing a hot cup of tea before you turn the lights out. Or, you read for at least 10 minutes before shutting your eyes. It could even be as simple as turning on a white noise machine or snuggling up to your dog in the moments before you hit the sheets. But in addition to creating an evening routine for you as an individual, you'll also want to develop one for you and your partner. And when you create that routine, there's one thing you'll want to avoid, according to new research. Keep reading to learn about that relationship-ruining habit and hear expert tips for bedtime practices that will improve your partnership rather than drain it.
Your bedtime routine can bolster your bond.
Before we get into the bedtime habit that can damage your relationship, it's important to note that this time can also be used to improve it. "Staying connected in relationships requires taking the time to attune to each other and reconnect," says Angela Amias, LCSW, a couples therapist and co-founder of Alchemy of Love. "When it's quiet and there are no distractions, it can be valuable to take some time for intimate conversation."
That said, you'll want to be proactive about avoiding distractions. "Using your phone or watching a show as you fall asleep is a missed opportunity for nurturing your relationship," Amias says. She suggests putting your devices into sleep mode at least 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep to focus on reconnecting in a meaningful way.
Doing this in bed can ruin your relationship.
The bedtime habit that could negatively impact your relationship is eating in bed. According to a study shared in Talker and conducted by OnePoll for Serta Simmons Bedding, a third of respondents said it's a relationship dealbreaker if their partner were to eat in bed. On the flip side, 35 percent of respondents admitted to eating in bed themselves. The millennial generation was most likely to find the behavior particularly offensive. Oddly enough, they're also the generation that snacks in bed the most.
It seems to be the mess that eating in bed leaves that is most bothersome. Four out of five respondents "say crumbs in the bed give them the crumbiest night's sleep." The most common bedtime snacks include cookies, chips, and popcorn, all of which are definite crumb creators.
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You should also avoid arguing in bed.
Another thing you'll want to avoid in the minutes before bedtime is engaging in arguments. "I know the saying 'don't go to bed angry' is quite common, but sometimes staying awake to continue an argument only makes things worse," says Elyssa Helfer, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist at Elevated Healing Center. "If we are tired, we are likely not communicating in the most effective way, which can keep a fight dragging on without any resolution."
If you must have the discussion in the moment, Helfer suggests moving out of the bedroom to do so. "Our bedrooms are meant for rest, intimacy, and peace," she says. By taking your conflict elsewhere, you can help it remain that way.
Do make time for gratitude.
You may already have a personal gratitude practice. But how about adding a relationship-oriented one to your evening routine? "I encourage couples to list one to two things that they were grateful for that particular day regarding their relationship," Helfer advises. "This not only allows for increased connection and compassion but encourages individuals to begin paying closer attention to the ways in which their partner enhances their life on a day-to-day basis."
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And remember the little things.
Other aspects of your evening routine are important too—and Claudia Delgado, LCSW, an infidelity therapist, suggests making them a habit. A few things she recommends are spending 10 to 15 minutes daily asking and listening about each other's days, saying goodnight with a hug and a kiss, sharing a six-second kiss at least three times a week before bed, watching a show while physically touching, and doing a one-hour activity once a week, such as playing a board game or making a dessert.
"If the small things are ignored, the relationship can start to weaken," says Delgado. "This can create many problems that can lead to thoughts of separation." Conversely, building a routine that bolsters your bond can help the two of you feel confident, happy, and reassured in your partnership. It also can mean that a misstep or two (such as a cookie in the bed!) won't be as much of a dealbreaker.