By: Cassie Finegan, MFTC
Whether you’re in a new blossoming relationship or 12 years into a stable marriage, it’s so easy to forget about relationship maintenance, the things we do to keep our close relationships close. Maybe you’ve experienced this before: you and your partner go on autopilot, you live day in and day out in your normal routine and all is fine and dandy until you start to notice the pesky old hang-ups or resentments that have been on your mind over the past year start to knock on your door, more loudly with each passing day. It’s okay, that doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed or on a downward spiral, it just means you’ve gone too long without taking care of business and checking in on your relationship, and this is a great way to close the gap of distance and spark reconnection.
I like to think of it like folding laundry after the dryer; nobody particularly loves this task, and we tend to procrastinate it, but the longer you go without folding the laundry, the messier it gets and suddenly you’ve got clothes and towels all over your floor and you can barely forge a path to your closet. Slowly, and one at a time, you pick up each blouse and pair of pants and fold them until your floor is clean; just like discussing the ins and outs of your relationship.
Where to Start
First, I recommend starting with a monthly check-in and see how it feels. If you need more than one check-in a month, you may increase to every other week or so, and go from there. However, it may be best to avoid weekly check-ins when you begin, as this can get overwhelming and anxiety-provoking at times. Sit down with your partner and look at your schedules, find a time that is free for both of you without any interruptions. When you do find that time that works for both of you, I recommend putting your phones away; they can lead to unneeded distracted and divided attention.
Questions to Ask Your Partner
Starting this check-in may be a bit daunting or intimidating, and you may not know where to begin. This can be any set of questions that gets you talking about the state of the relationship, how things are going, what is working, and what isn’t working. But again, that can be intimidating, so instead I’ve created a set of questions that you can use as a jumping-off point to discuss with your partner:
- What’s one of your favorite traits/characteristics of mine?
- What am I doing now that you like or that is supportive of you?
- How do you feel about the way we divide household chores and responsibilities (including the invisible mental load of household tasks)?
- How do you feel about the frequency and quality of our sexual/intimate connections? Anything new you want to try this month?
- Is there anything I do that you’d like me to change? Or anything I used to do that you like that I don’t do anymore?
- Is there anything in general that you’ve been wanting to bring up to me but haven’t had the opportunity or space?
- Is there anything you’ve done recently that I didn’t notice that you wanted me to?
- What’s one thing I did last month that made you feel loved?
- How is our friendship doing? Including our level of laughter, emotional, and intellectual connection?
- What is something I can do this week to make you feel loved and cared for?
Remember, while things may be going great now, small issues have a way of growing larger over time when they go unaddressed; catch them and bring dialogue to them early to prevent them from growing larger. This type of vulnerability with your partner can strengthen your bond and intimacy, and prevent small things from getting in the way of your relationship with the one(s) you love.
If you are looking for an even more in-depth relationship assessment and check-in, I recommend checking out the Gottman Institute’s Relationship check-up for couples.