Auto Pilot or Intentional–Which One Are You?

Let me tell you something about your life right now. There are many areas of your life that you have put on autopilot. They might include many areas of your work. It definitely includes driving or travelling to work. You know those automatic, repetitive processes that don’t require any thinking on your behalf, just robotic actions that your brain can do almost with your eyes closed. Then there’s that work function you don’t want to be at, but smile pleasantly and try to convince everyone you’re engaged in the shallow, boring conversations. Then we might add visiting the in-laws, doing the laundry and all those other domestic chores that we have to keep doing! Where is our life going? When do we get the time to do what we are passionate about? When do we get to feel that excitement again so we can get off that damned auto pilot, take the controls back and really exercise some influence and direction over our lives?

The problem is that auto pilot is catchy. It’s so catchy that before long, if you don’t look out, it creeps into other areas of your life that it was never meant to. It takes over without asking because we are too lazy to fight it. Areas like our intimate relationship. Areas like how we interact with our spouse and even our kids. We’ve allowed ourselves to believe the lie that it’s easier to let auto pilot take over relationships and then we don’t have to worry about them. But the opposite is true. Relationships that are on auto pilot are crashing every day. The crash is earth-shattering, but the autopilot that’s been steering them has been charting the destination for years.

Let me explain. When you operate on auto pilot your priority is to exist. It’s to just keep going in the same direction as when you started. But things change, people grow, difficulties arise that auto pilot never foresaw. Relationships run out of fuel, encounter storms and stressors that could never be programmed into your auto pilot. When strong winds blow you don’t want to be blown way off course because you couldn’t take control of your relationship. In relationships you must chart your own course, you must be intentional.

Being intentional means that you decide your relationship is so important that you are not going to leave it to chance. It means you put your relationship on your radar so that it can’t slide down onto auto pilot. It also means you are aware of those subtle cues and instead of ignoring them you become involved and engaged. You take the controls by steering the best possible course for your relationship.


It’s easy to be on auto pilot coming home from work and then remaining on auto pilot instead of engaging with your spouse and family. But being aware that you need to transition off auto pilot, and onto intentional steering is a skill. Imagine what difference it would make to your relationship now if you both intentionally crafted the transition from outside home to inside home. Imagine taking the time to greet each other affectionately, connect positively through touch and sit down together to know where each other’s thoughts and feelings were centred. Then after listening to each other without judgement or advice for even just 5 minutes each, you were able to leave the outside world behind and centre on each other. What difference would that make in your relationship?

What sort of partnership do you like? What are you doing intentionally to make that a reality? Auto pilot won’t get you there. Taking your relationship off auto pilot and intentionally charting a positive course will bring the passion and excitement back. It will also bring your relationship to the front of your mind. Practically, it means making time to connect with your spouse. It means sending them that text of endearment just because you can and it lets them know you are thinking of them. It means speaking to them always with respect no matter how frustrated you are with them or anyone else. It means reminding yourself of your commitment to them every day and how the life the two of you are making together is where you are meant to be. It means thinking about the one thing you can do today to make your relationship better and actually doing it.

5 Extra Things To Do To Make Your Relationship More Intentional

1 The Best Spouse

We all want our partner to be the best spouse. But if you want the best spouse, start being the best spouse yourself. Work on the things you have power over, that means you and not your spouse. Concentrating on being the best spouse you can be, brings real change to your relationship. It generates energy and love that draws your partner into wanting to be a part of it.

2 Romance

Bring romance into your life and relationship. Knowing what your partner loves, and going out of your way to make it happen makes your partner appreciate you and thankful for you. It reminds them of your love for them and it gets them thinking about what they can do for you. It’s like getting a gift from someone. You feel that internal pressure to give them a gift in return. Romance is a lot like that.

3 Do Something Different

By doing something completely different you break the habit of auto pilot. Commit the time to just doing something fun together. Think of some activity you both have never tried. You might just find something new to be passionate about again. It’s all about injecting premarital behaviour back into a relationship to mix it up a bit. Push yourself and experience something new together. Lean on each other, encourage each other and challenge yourself.

4 Start A Conversation About Togetherness

Where do you want your relationship to be five years from now? Where do you want to holiday in the next few years? What is the best thing you appreciated your partner doing in the last year? These conversation topics never happen on auto pilot. You have to be intentional about them. But they can enrich your relationship, encourage more of what you like in the relationship and make you both realise what is important in life. No one ever said on their death bed they wished they had spent more time at work. The great majority of people want to spend time with the people they love and looking back wished they had told them of their love more often.

5 Spend Extra Time Greeting And Parting

When you come home to your spouse you want to leave them in no doubt that you are excited to be with them. That’s why transitioning home is so important. Leave the frustrations and negative emotions intentionally outside. Why? Because it is the two of you against the world and come what may, you never want anything to come between you and your ally. When you part, you want to never rush your goodbye kiss. You always want them to know by lingering a little longer that you don’t want to leave them. Making this one change in your relationship can strengthen your closeness. You don’t have to be overwhelmed with complicated techniques to increase your intimacy. You just have to be prepared to start somewhere and follow through.

Be An Intentional Partner

Try practising one of these tips the first week. Then each new week add a new one. In just over a month you will have started to take back control of your relationship. Your partnership is longing for you to turn off auto pilot and become involved. You have the ability to intentionally chart your future together so that you live at a deeper level. You have the ability to materialise the potential of your relationship or you can let it cruise somewhere else. The power is in your hands. You just have to start being intentional.

Previously published on


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