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I’ve always been a person who has exercised. When I was younger, I ran marathons and completed triathlons. In the last decade, my routine has mostly consisted of group fitness classes at the gym I attend. There is a fitness center that is close to my office and it made it convenient to go.
But in the last year or so, I’ve had almost zero motivation to exercise. Maybe it’s because of COVID, maybe it’s because I became a dad, maybe it’s because those group classes became predictable, but whatever the case, the frequency and intensity of my workouts have been plummeting.
So, I decided it was time to mix things up. Yesterday, for the first time, I tried boxing. I didn’t box with someone in a ring, but I attended a boxing boot camp at Vibe Fitness, a new boxing gym in Iowa City.
Boxing is an odd choice for me. I don’t watch boxing. I’m not someone who has a desire to fight physically with anyone. I don’t have the best hand-eye coordination. And yet, yesterday I learned how much fun and how great of a workout boxing can be.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t great at it. Trying to figure out the combinations, the footwork, while being completely gassed was hard. Today, my arms are like jelly and my legs are sore. But doing something different — mixing up my routine — has sparked a renewed desire to exercise.
In my practice as a therapist, I’ve seen relationships that have routines. Parents have a schedule that kids follow, couples have a regular date night, or extended families have a regular zoom call where they check in. These predictable and regular time to connect are important. If we don’t have a schedule to spend time and connect with those important to us, these relationships can get strained.
Sometimes, however, these routines become problematic. It could be that a couple’s date night gets stuck in a rut, or that a regular Zoom call with extended family becomes too much, or the schedule you’ve created for your kids doesn’t work anymore. When this is the case, many often try to double down on the routine. But when you’re stuck, doing they same thing over results in doing things poorly or without much investment.
If you find yourself stuck in a relationship routine that isn’t working, it may be time to switch it up. I’m not saying you should take up boxing, but if you feel stuck, you may want to try something new.
In relationships, trying something new can mean spontaneity, but it also can mean taking a break. It can mean tweaking a routine or overhauling it all together. The purpose of trying something new isn’t about suggesting that the old way was bad, but that you value your relationship. We often engage in routines because it helped us connect. Overtime, that pattern of connection may no longer work.
If you feel stuck in a relationship, get creative. Think of something that you and your kids, partner, or extended family haven’t tried and go for it. You may not like it, but that’s not the point. Doing something different isn’t about really enjoying the new routine or idea. It’s about injecting energy into that relationship.
But you may find that you do like it, and that’s a bonus.
Jacob Priest is a licensed marriage and family therapist and University of Iowa professor. He co-hosts the Attached Podcast. Comments: email@example.com