In her book, Love More, Fight Less: A relationship workbook for couples, Certified relationship coach and author, Dr. Gina Senarighi recommends couples institute a weekly meeting:
"Couples meet once a week to discuss schedules, finances, and shared resources as well as responsibilities and tasks.
…Having regular check-ins helps keep any logistical conversations out of your date night. It also carves out time so you can both be fully present and removes any feeling that one person is nagging the other one.
…Discuss with your partner what would make it possible for you to schedule a regular meeting like this. In my work, the couples who commit to these meetings have a nearly 50 percent decrease in smaller conflicts throughout the week."
Here are my thoughts on tips for a successful weekly meeting:
- The meeting time is agreed upon at a future date so both partners can expect it. Aim for a time with as little interruption as possible. About 30 minutes may be enough dedicated time, though your first meeting may take a bit longer. Sunday can be a good meeting day to start the week on a good foundation.
- Make sure no one is hungry, thirsty, tired, or needs to use the restroom before.
- While you may need your phones when discussing schedules, phones should otherwise stay on silent and out of view if possible.
- Decide on a setting that is comfortable for the both of you.
Another helpful tip is to create a list of agenda items. This can be done right before the meeting, or a physical/electronic list can be available throughout the week so partners can add agenda items as they come to mind. Here are examples of agenda items:
Schedule for the Week
- This is the one time it’s ok to bring phones/tablets out to share what each has planned for the week.
- If you have children this is the time to discuss transportation and other necessary planning.
- If one partner has a particularly busy week planned, this is a great time to ask what the other can do to make the week go easier.
Food for the Week
- Who is doing the grocery shopping this week? What items are needed?
- Which days will you likely cook at home and which will you order or dine out? Every day doesn't have to be planned (though in some households this is preferred) but to at least have an idea can create structure or expectation for the week, relieving uncertainty.
Household Action Items
- Is it about time for the A/C vents to be changed out? Does the lawn need to be mowed? What items need tending to this week and how can these tasks be fairly distributed?
Financial Action Items
- Are there any bills/taxes/balances/subscriptions that need to be paid this week? Who will take care of paying each?
- What is each partner thinking in terms of an upcoming holiday…will there be travel, family visits, or special meals to be made?
- Have we purchased a belated gift yet from the registry for your cousin’s upcoming baby shower?
- Have we RSVP’d yet to my friend’s wedding in March? Should we go ahead and book the hotel?
How are we doing?
As Dr. Senarighi notes, “Check-ins also allow you to revisit whether specific roles or responsibilities still work for you.”
- Ask your partner what is working, what isn’t and be open to sharing what you need. “I” messages are particularly helpful here, sharing how “I” feel and what “I” need, versus messages like “you need to” or “you never” that can lead the other to become defensive.
- A good way to end the meeting is to ask how it went and what suggestions might improve next week’s meeting.
The goal of these meetings is to reduce uncertainty and stress during the week. Particularly if you or your partner has a tendency to feel anxious that a particular need/question will be unmet, the promise of the meeting can provide reassurance that it will be addressed and the person will be heard. The weekly meeting helps to model respect to each partner in the relationship, acknowledging you both play a role in the functioning of your shared lives and space together. You may find that you leave each meeting feeling an increased sense of committment and connection to your partner.
If you are interested in incorporating this into your week, raise the topic (or even share this post) with your partner and choose a day that you will try it out. After the first try, check-in to see what worked or what didn’t.
If these meetings happen to increase awareness of a significant difference in communication styles or an impasse, couples counseling can offer a neutral and trained third party to help create new patterns of communication and understanding.