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Relationship Check-In

You and your partner may talk easily about things.  You share the events of your day.  You talk about how the kids are doing in school.  Maybe you have political discussions or share about the books you're reading.  But when it comes to sharing about how much or little each of you is enjoying your relationship, you might find yourself avoiding.


You have likely had many experiences in which hearing someone's dissatisfaction is accompanied by blame, shame, criticism, and analyses of why you are failing.  It's not surprising then that you are not eager to check in with your partner about his or her level of satisfaction in the relationship.  Unfortunately, by not checking in you miss out on opportunities to adjust the way you relate little by little as you go.  As a result, change often has to come in the form of big emotional storms that have been building over time.  This is a painful way to grow and change in your relationship.


You can make checking in with your partner about the level of satisfaction in the relationship safer by adding more structure and making clear requests.  Here are some ideas for structure and specific requests that will make it easier and safer to check in about your relationship:


  1. Any expression of dissatisfaction is followed by an idea or request that would lead to more satisfaction.  Let's imagine that you say you're not satisfied with the amount of affection that is shared in your relationship.  Rather than long hours of processing about why there isn't more affectionate, simply make a request for affection in the moment.  For example, "I am missing affection with you, could we cuddle and watch a movie tonight?"  I can't emphasize enough how important this is.  When something is painful, your mind wants to analyze the past and figure out exactly what went wrong in hopes of preventing future pain.  This might be helpful later, but in the moment it is disconnecting and usually leads to criticizing, blaming, and defending, in other words, more pain.  When something is painful or missing, move directly toward what you want with collaboration and concrete action.


  1. Check-in's that are specific lead to specific and do-able action.  Questions like, "Are you happy with me?" are vague and will result in vague generalizations, which make it very difficult to figure out how to make things better.  Check in with specific questions that address particular needs in a specific way.  Here are a few examples:

    1. "Are you feeling as connected with me as you want to right now?  If not, what could we do right now to create more connection?"

    2. "As we talk about moving, do you have a sense that I am considering your needs?  If not, what's one thing I could to give you a greater sense of consideration?"

    3. "I remember you saying that play is one of your most important needs to have met in our relationship.  In this last month, are we playing as much as you want?  If not, could we brainstorm ideas to bring more play into our life together?"


  1. Check-in regularly and when things are going well.  Ritualize your check-in.  Set a specific time each week that you are relaxed and rested.  Create a supportive sacred space for being together.  Make use of ritual cues like a special tea to drink, lighting candles or incense, having special chairs or cushions, etc.  If you only do a relationship check-in when you sense there is a problem, you are heading toward the emotional storm I mentioned above.  

    Also, when things are going well, celebrate how connected, in love, happy, secure, and alive you feel in your partnership.  This not only creates emotional resiliency in your relationship, it also helps you to associate positive feelings with a relationship check-in.  


Lastly, relationship check-ins are just as much about how the two of you might stretch to meet each other, as it is about you taking care of yourself.  For example, if you are missing companionship in your life, you might invite your partner for a hike on Saturday and you also might get in touch with friends to set up get togethers.  A relationship check-in isn't meant to make sure that all your needs are being met in the relationship.  It's meant to help you discern which needs you would like to meet with each other and whether or not you are doing that to the extent you would like.  It also hopefully supports you in maintaining a sense of your individuality and freedom to meet needs outside the relationship in a way that doesn't cost the needs of your partner and family.


Practice

Start your relationship check-in right now by checking in with yourself.  Here are some reflection questions that might help:  

  • Am I neglecting any of my own needs because I am imagining they can't be met as long as I am in this relationship?  If yes, where can I get support to get creative about meeting these needs?

  • Have I shared with my partner which 2 or 3 needs I would most like met with him or her?

  • Do I know which needs are most important to my partner?  Do I know if s/he is satisfied with the extent to which these needs are met?

  • What am I celebrating about our relationship right now?

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The Many Faces of Shame
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Your “Demanding” Partner and Being with Upset


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