Improving Your Marriage With Weekly Companionship Inventory

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?

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Those guys.  That was me.  Well, actually, this was me:

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.

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This is not generally where we conduct companionship inventory. It just turns out we don’t have many pictures of Rich and I discussing things on our bed. Strange.

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.

15 thoughts on “Improving Your Marriage With Weekly Companionship Inventory

  1. GREAT idea Shelly! That would definitely improve the program. I actually saw that post a few weeks ago (I’m now a marriage blog aficionado) and loved it

  2. We do something similar to this every day. We have roughly 25 different topics that we talk about it. Examples: Job/work, service, communication, finances, chores, children, scripture study (personal and couple), etc. Every day, we draw a couple topics out of a jar and talk about them in a non-threatening way. It is great way to touch on different aspects of our lives in a regular fashion and communicate our appreciation, frustrations or feedback. It is also a great way to take stock on how we’re doing in these areas in a personal manner rather than just putting it all on our spouse to change.

    1. Wow! Angela- that’s awesome! What a great idea! Rich and I have been meaning to expand our repertoire of questions to ask each other when we get home. Trying to move beyond “How was your day?” “Good.” “How was yours?” “Good.” A jar is a great idea

  3. Celeste,
    What a beautiful blog you have here! I LOVE your header design! I so appreciate that you shared this at Spiritual Sundays, and I think companionship inventory is a fantastic tool for couples, no matter their faith. Leave it to the church to teach such awesome, universal principles!
    I feel blessed to have visited your blog and I look forward to getting to know you better!
    Brittany

  4. After I read this a few weeks ago, we decided to try it out. We have now had three weekly companionship inventories, and wow, it helps so much. In the past, I would want to bring something up, but the timing wouldn’t be right. I’d end up dismissing it over and over, thinking it wasn’t a big deal. But over time it would build until the tea kettle whistled. Now it was an out-of-the-blue explosion over something seemingly small, which then created instant defensiveness.
    Having this set time to talk has been like plucking the tiny weeds from the garden each week. The tiny concerns don’t have a chance to grow out of control. Thumbs up!

    1. Janessa- this comment made my day! I love that analogy of plucking the weeds before they get too big- I think that is what inventory is best for. I may use this analogy in the future….. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  5. I love this idea! It would create a safe time and place to discuss issues and work them out. I tend to let things build up before I address them, and then I’m all emotional. This would help to solve problems before they get too big.

  6. Thanks Jenna! That’s exactly what it does for us- and I need all the help I can get not becoming too emotional in general. Doing it weekly tends to keep my emotions at bay 🙂 PS Love your blog!

  7. So happy to see other couples doing this! My husband and I also served missions. This is one of the blessings my mission has blessed our marriage, although we need to be more consistent. Thanks for the reminder of how important companionship inventory is! Would love to know what other things from your mission you use regularly in your marriage or home..?

    1. Thanks Laura! Funny you should ask that- one of the best pieces of advice I have about marriage came from something my MTC teacher told me. It was to try a “happiness experiment” where you do everything you can to make the other person happy for one week and see what happens. I’m writing a post on it soon 🙂

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