Ok, are you guys ready for this? I’m about to hit you with the very best marital advice we have. The big guns. Just wanted to make sure you’re ready and aware- this is the best we’ve got to offer. All downhill from here….
Here goes. Have companionship inventory every week.
Allow me to explain:
Just prior to when Rich and I started dating I was serving a mission for the LDS church in Slovenia. You’re familiar with LDS missionaries I assume? You know- go by twos, wear the tags, SUPER excited to say hi to you?
Those guys. That was me. Well, actually, this was me:
In any case, on a mission you’re assigned to a “companion” for six weeks at a time. You’re required to be within sight and sound of each other at all times. You can imagine there are occasional conflicts, contention, general animosity and desires to sucker punch each other that arise. So the church came up with a thing called companionship inventory for companionships to do once a week as a peaceful way to evaluate and discuss how things are going.
It’s a great, great thing and it turns out it works awesome for marriages also. Here’s how Preach My Gospel (our missionary manual) describes it:
- Conduct companionship inventory: At the end of your weekly planning session, share with your companion appropriate goals, and ask for his or her help to accomplish them. Discuss the strength of your relationship with your companion. Discuss any challenges that may be keeping your companionship from working in unity or from being obedient. Resolve conflicts. Share with your companion what you think his or her strengths are. Ask for suggestions on how you can improve. If needed, set goals that will improve your relationship. Conclude with prayer.
Here’s how we do it:
- Start with a prayer. I think this is so effective to invite a spirit of peace right off the bat. Providing a safe place to discuss conflict is the best part about inventory and prayer is so effective in setting the stage for that. If you’re not pray-ers, maybe you could start with a little meditation or by reading something uplifting together. Just find a way to set a reverent tone.
- Compliment each other. We start out by expressing gratitude for little things we appreciated throughout the week. For example, this week, I said thanks for watching the kids so I could go running. Thanks for having that great chat with me Friday night. Thanks for staying up and cleaning the kitchen, etc, etc. This is a great exercise to remember all the little things your spouse does for you that you may forget about otherwise.
- Discuss problems. Even though inventory is a specific time to mention things that you think the other person needs to work on, it’s still important to phrase things in a kind and sensitive way. Use “I statements.” For example, saying, “I feel like I’m the only one cleaning up the house lately” is much less accusatory and confrontational than “You NEVER clean the house.” Remember, the aim of discussing problems is to communicate things you’re feeling that the other party may not be aware of and to come up with solutions that work for BOTH of you. The aim is not just to whine or rag on your spouse. Try to limit the problems you bring up to one or two. MAYBE three, but more than that is just too much for one week. (this was learned by experience)
- Make plans to do better. Compromise. Do the best you can to come up with plans that make you both at least kind of happy. If a compromise cannot be met, sit on it for another week and re-assess at next week’s inventory. Other than that, use this time to talk about goals for yourself and your marriage for the upcoming week.
So that’s it. I can’t tell you how useful it is to have a SAFE place for both of you to talk about hard things. We do ours every Sunday night.
Also, companionship inventory tends to prevent little, unnecessary fights because when something bothers me in the week, rather than blowing up and discussing it in the moment, I’ve learned to bite my tongue and save it for inventory. And I’ve noticed that usually, by the time inventory rolls around, whatever it was that made me upset totally isn’t a big deal anymore. Generally it was more a result of me being tired or hungry rather than a conflict that really needs resolving. And if it is still on my mind, inventory is the perfect time to discuss it.
The other great part about inventory is that it gives you a designated, consistent time and place to discuss important things. Everyone’s lives are so busy, often times things that are really important to assess regularly (ie parenting practices, intimacy, financial problems, your spouse’s happiness) go un-discussed for long periods of time. It’s best to hit up these topics regularly so one spouse isn’t suffering needlessly while the other one has no idea.
So, that’s my take on inventory- two thumbs up. Stay tuned for Rich’s take on it.