Strong communication and connection are vital components of any successful relationship. But life pulls us in all sorts of directions. And whether due to crazy work hours, the general franticness of raising kids, or the rhythms of routine, there are times when you find yourself out of step with your partner. This happens to most couples from time to time. But if it’s not recognized and addressed, your partnership will suffer. Luckily, there’s an easy solution: scheduling a regular relationship check-in.
A relationship check-in is exactly what it sounds like, a regular meeting where you and your partner discuss what’s going on in your lives and talk about whatever issues you’re grappling with. Sounds simple, right? It is, but it also isn’t because to do it right requires consistency and work from both partners. But if you make it a normal part of your schedule — and use the time wisely and ask the right questions — your relationship will benefit.
“A relationship check-in is a prioritized time where it’s just the two of you being brave and open to hearing feedback,” says couples therapist Gloria Magaña. “Also, it’s a safe space reserved for honesty with the intent of making sure we are emotionally showing up in the relationship for each other.”
During a relationship check-in, you meet and bring up the good, the bad, and other topics that feel relevant. No, it doesn’t have to be a formal meeting. It could be a walk together, a set time on the couch, or a dinner conversation.
“Some couples that I have worked with have found that having a set time each day or each week to connect has been meaningful,” says Tiffany Lovell, a licensed clinical social worker and the CEO of Reclaiming Light. “That can look like a date night where you spend time talking about each other and the relationship, rather than just the details of the kids and the comings and goings of the activities in the home. Sometimes a check-in is texting each other and making plans to talk after work or later in the evening.”
However you devise it, experts agree that a successful relationship check-in is about making each other feel comfortable and relaxed. Done consistently, they also allow us to reframe the events in our lives in a more positive way. Very often, our brains tend to zero in on all of the bad things that happened in a given day and let the good fall by the wayside. This can spill over into a marriage until everything feels like it’s going wrong. During a relationship check-in, couples can talk about the highlights and lowlights of their respective days and focus on the good and the bad in equal measure.
“Having a daily check-in about a highlight actively retrains the brain and helps partners realize the moments of connection that happen every day,” says Christian Bumpous, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Therapie. “Voicing any lowlights can help to clean up anything that needs cleaning up. Maybe a partner needs to take responsibility and apologize. Maybe it’s a matter of game-planning on how to avoid the mishap in the future.”
The questions you can ask during a check-in range from the simple, “What was something good that happened today?” to “Did we have any misunderstandings this week that we need to address?” Whatever is addressed, the following areas should be emphasized.
- Love and Appreciation
Do you both feel like you have been shown love and appreciation? Does your partner feel like you’ve given it? Ask the question honestly of your partner, but also yourself. “The more specific the better,” says Magaña. “Remember, the way you view love and appreciation may be different than how your partner views this.”
- Active Listening
Are you being heard? Do you feel like what you say is actually being taken in by your partner or are they just nodding as you vent? Does your spouse feel the same? “Listening is critical,” says Lovell. “And within that listening must be the desire to not try and fix one another. Your partner doesn’t need to be fixed, he or she just wants to be heard and supported through whatever is coming up for them whether personally, or in the relationship.”
It’s important that both people in a marriage support each other, not just emotionally, but in day-to-day life. Asking your spouse, “What is happening for you this week, and what can I do to support you?” is a great way to let them know that you’ve got their back.
- Emotional Attention
Asking them simply, “How are you doing this week with everything going on?” can open up a dialogue and let your spouse know that you’re aware of their emotional needs. “Make sure to talk about how you have both been holding up emotionally this day or week or month,” says Magaña. “You or your partner may not have had a chance to reconnect with emotions because lots of things demand immediate attention.”
- Prioritizing Your Relationship
A marriage and family is like a corporation with deadlines, commitments, and a full-time staff to support. That corporation won’t run itself, so both partners throw themselves headlong into doing what needs to be done. As a result, the relationship itself gets pushed farther and farther down the list until couples find themselves simply co-existing in service of the larger company as opposed to being true partners. Taking the time to ask, “How can we make our marriage a priority in the middle of everything happening?” puts the marriage back on the list of important to-dos.
“When couples give a relationship check-in a shot, they often report that the hour spent talking about the relationship actually opened up resources,” says Bompous. “No longer did they have to go through the week alone, they had a game plan on who would tackle what and when. And, most importantly, they knew that they were not alone, but had the person that cared most about them, right by their side.”
Whatever the check-in looks like for you, taking that time to invest in your relationship will undoubtedly yield dividends.
“Couples that use check-ins that I have worked within my private practice are 95% more successful and able to maintain a relationship of connection and love than those who don’t,” says Lovell. “It’s work. And it takes practice. But it’s worth it.”