Companionship inventory, marriage meeting, weekly marriage check in or check up- whatever you call it, if you want a healthy, long lasting relationship, you should be doing it!
One of the first posts of this site was How to Conduct a Weekly Companionship Inventory. That was almost two years ago! Its time to revisit this critical piece of marriage advice.
A Weekly Marriage Check In: Why You Need It
Marriage counselor Marcia Naomi Berger in her book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted gives some pretty convincing evidence that these weekly check ins yield some pretty amazing returns for the 45 minute investment they take. A few perks she lists:
- “Marriage Meetings prevent crises by addressing concerns regularly and proactively
- The meetings promote closure, so issues are not left hanging.
- The direct approach prevents holding grudges.
- Ground rules for the meetings foster respect and courtesy.
- Marriage Meetings level the playing field for the less verbal partner.
- They encourage collaboration, a sense of ‘we’re in this together.’
- They foster love, teamwork, and romance.
- Marriage Meetings bring about smoother resolution of conflicts.”
Who doesn’t want more love, collaboration and better conflict resolution in their marriage?
We call our weekly check-ins companionship inventory, and we’ve been doing it since the first month we were dating. We’re not perfect. Many weeks have gone by inventory-less. But I find during these periods where we don’t prioritize inventory, I feel more disconnected with Rich. My little issues tend to build up unaddressed and I miss how close I feel to him during our Sunday night conversations.
One of the best perks for us is just having a safe place to discuss hard things. We don’t bottle up little annoyances until they explode. If something bothers me, I file it away to discuss in inventory that week. Sitting on it for a few days tends to weed out the big issues from the little issues, so we prevent unnecessary fights mid-week over little stuff, while having a safe place to discuss the big stuff.
For the visual learners: Us without inventory:
Whiny. Snappy. It’s not pretty.
Us with inventory:
Connecting before the current drifts us apart. Awwww.
A Weekly Marriage Check In: How to Do It
1. Choose a time when you have about an hour free each week.
We do ours Sunday nights right after our kids go to bed (we’ve found we’re too tired if we wait any longer). Brittani and Ronnie from Grace in Grey do it Saturday mornings (read about their process here). Whenever you and your spouse have an hour free- schedule it in!
2. Start with a Prayer
We’re big on prayer over here, but if you’re not, no worries- you could either skip this step or give meditation a try! There are some couples meditations I would love to try, often involving holding eye contact for a minute or more with guided thought. Check out how to do it more specifically here in this post from Mindful Couples. What a way to start connecting, right!?
3. Compliment and Express Gratitude
One inventory we had a couple of months ago we were tired and it was late so we just decided to jump right into expressing our needs while skipping over the gratitude. Whoa boy never again! I was way more defensive and offended than I otherwise would have been. We NEED those compliments.
Gratitude is like magic for a relationship. It heals hurts and softens blows. It starts the conversation on the right foot. Marriage expert John Gottman found, the tone of a conversation is determined in the first 3 minutes!
“96% of the time, you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the interaction.” – John Gottman
Start it off right! Tell each other why you were grateful for them that week. Be specific.
4. Express needs
We all say it, we all know it, but we don’t generally act on the idea that YOUR SPOUSE IS NOT A MIND-READER! You have to say what you need. Specifically. And lovingly.
Even after eight years of inventorying I’m still learning this lesson. After one frustrating inventory (most inventories, we come out feeling much closer and more connected, but not always), Rich said, “What do you need Celeste? Tell me what you want.” And without any forethought I spouted out, “I need you to look me in the eye and tell me you appreciate what I do. I need you to say thank you for waking up with our son every morning. I need you to notice that I pick up the front room many times a day. I need to feel appreciated for making dinner. I need to feel noticed.”
It felt so good and cathartic for me to articulate that (instead of being unnecessarily bothered when he didn’t do these things without knowing he was supposed to). And with obvious relief he said, “Ok, thank you! I can do that.” (In case you’re new here- I married up. Obvs.)
End with a hug or kiss or both or some type of physical display of affection. Use your imagination.
A Weekly Marriage Check In: Tips for Success
A key ingredient to success of these weekly meetings is ACTIVE LISTENING.
The Couples Counseling Center in Chicago offers some great tips for active listening: let your partner speak without interruptions, put yourself in your partner’s shoes, don’t jump to conclusions, ask questions (not disguised as accusations), and paraphrase.
Also I love this infographic on our post “How to Better Listen to a Depressed Spouse” by about how to listen using the F.L.A.P method:
Use “I” Statements
Psychologist Nathan Cobb in his article Fair Fighting Rules for Couples says,
“It may seem easier to analyze your partner than to analyze yourself, but interpreting your partner’s thoughts, feelings and motives will distract you from identifying your own underlying issues, and will likely invite defensiveness from your spouse.
More importantly, telling your spouse what he or she thinks, believes or wants is controlling and presumptuous. It is saying that you know your spouse’s inner world better than your spouse does.”
As a perfect example to this, a member of our marriage panel, Kate, in this post on what to do when your spouse bothers you says, “I do not say, ‘you are playing too many video games, I say, ‘I am feeling unloved.'”
Ask not what your marriage can do for you, ask what you can do for your marriage
While inventory IS the safe place to discuss needs and requests, if that is the sole focal point of the meeting, no one is really going to look forward to it and you might quit after a few weeks because it will be hard and painful. Make it a time of mutual uplifting. Make your needs known, but we’ve found its helpful to stick to picking no more than two needs per partner each week. We’ve learned from experience on this one.
A Weekly Marriage Check In: Questions to Ask
We generally stick to the main two questions from the outline:
What did I appreciate about you this week?
What needs do I have?
But after perusing the internet for some fresh new ideas for weekly inventory, also called weekly check in, weekly marriage meetings, and marriage check ups, I gained some great new ideas for questions. Here are some of my favorite:
From Jordan Grey:
- “Is there anything I can do for you in this moment to help you feel more comfortable or loved?
- Is there anything I have done in the past week that may have unknowingly hurt you?
- When you come home from work, what can I do or say that will make you feel the most loved?
- Do you think you will need more closeness or more alone time over the next couple of days?
- How do you feel about our sex life lately?
- What are the main stressors currently in your life, and is there any way I can alleviate that stress for you, if only a small amount?” – Jordan Grey
- “What did you particularly enjoy that you’d like to do more of? (meals, activities, TV shows, trips out, etc.)
- How are you each handling your respective household duties?
- What is coming up that you need to be prepared for?
- What kind of help do you need from your partner?
- What issues in the house have been occupying your thoughts lately? (problems with kids, repairs needed, messiness)
- What’s going on at work, or coming up at work, that could affect your family life?” – Dustin Wax
Dustin also suggests going over your schedule for the week as well as any projects you need to work on together (plan a vacation? house remodeling? help with kid’s school activity?) This would definitely help things run more smoothly through the week.
For the religiously inclined, Barrett Johnson at Info For Families offers some great ones:
- “What is something I did to make you feel loved this week?
- How did I do at showing my appreciation for you?
- Did you see any answered prayers this past week?
- What’s the best thing I can do to let you know that you are my priority and my joy?
- How can I pray for you in the coming week?
- How do you see God at work in your life?” – Barrett Johnson
A Weekly Marriage Check In: Let’s do this thing!
So are you sold yet? If you’re still leery, I’ll give you one more quote to seal the deal again from Jordan Grey`:
“A lot of things tend to get swept under the rug in intimate relationships. The questions outlined above are simply a tool that you can use to lift up the rug, sweep out the accumulated muck, and get on your with awesome lives as a happily connected couple.”
So try it out this week. Experiment! And let us know how it goes!
Do you already do something like this? If so, I would LOVE to know what yours looks like and what questions you ask each other! Tell us in the comments.