Meg Luce: Relationship check-ins and why they matter
When was the last time you checked in with your spouse or partner? Does it even matter? Relationship check-ins do matter, and for so many reasons. You want to feel connected, right? You want to be in sync with your partner for the week versus feeling at loose ends with each other. You may even have unresolved feelings that it’s best not to ignore, or they will likely fester. Maybe you just want to slow down and say “hi.” Perhaps you don’t want years and years to go by and then realize, “I’ve got a roommate instead of a spouse.”
The check-in is one of the hardest couples therapy homework assignments to get some couples to do. Seriously! Couple client: “We are feeling distant.” Therapist: “Hmmm, did you guys have an actual conversation this week?” Couple client: “No, is that required?”
OK, let’s back up and get a working definition of a relationship check-in. Which of the following do you think qualifies?
1. “Grab some snacks and join me for the game.”
2. Without looking up from your Candy Crush game, say, “How was your day?”
3. Pretend you are listening when your mind is on the job.
And the answer is…none of the above!
Unlike the above examples, relationship check-ins create an opportunity for some focused attention. What have you been thinking about lately? How are you feeling? Maybe big things are going on, say a nail-biter election (ahem, moving on), or perhaps you want to share the little things. For instance, you checked out a new yoga class, and it’s cool!
Sometimes the way your partner has been acting makes a whole lot more sense after talking. Whether it turns out they are worried about a sick friend, preoccupied with a work challenge, or concerned about PP and F—Pandemic, Politics and Fire— suddenly, some of the bizarre gestures and sounds they’ve been making fall into place. It is easier to have compassion for your partner when you understand some of their struggles.
So back to what makes a good check-in; here are some ideas:
Time and Privacy
First of all, plan for a time when you can slow down a bit. It’s also nice if you can go out on the porch or anywhere comfortable and private. Find a place where you can take your time talking.
Rested and Fed
Make sure you have had a snack, and you’re not going to drift off in the middle of your partner’s check-in. (Definitely not good for bonding.)
Listen and Talk
First, one person shares, and then the other. Not rocket science. When each of you talks, the other one listens. If you can do some active listening while your partner shares, this is actually quite sexy. This is true even though the words “actively listening” don’t sound sexy at all. But let me make my case. When someone feels like their partner is really listening on an important share, it can make people tear up, swoon and sometimes even fall in love all over again. As long as you are listening in earnest, it is great for bringing people closer.
Deal with Hurts
Relationship check-ins can help you talk about things that bother you, so you don’t have layers of hurt and resentments piling up over the years. Clearing away hurts during your relationship check-ins will refresh your relationship and make it free of resentments.
No Advice Giving
The check-in is not the time to give advice. Giving advice will kill the check-in! No gender is immune to this pitfall. People usually don’t want advice because they like to figure out their own solutions. What they want most of the time is to be heard.
If you haven’t already, I hope you will check out the check-in and see what it can do for your relationship.
Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at https://NevadaCountyTherapist.com.
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