Communication is a make-or-break factor in any relationship, in the truest possible sense of that phrase: a lack of communication can breed resentments and hurtful secrets that ultimately cause the relationship to end explosively, while good communication habits between partners can make you feel closer and more connected than ever.
However, just because communication is healthy doesn’t mean it’s easy. Human beings are fallible, and vulnerable, and many times we would rather dodge a problem than face it head-on. That’s why structuring a regular “check-in” into your relationship can be so transformative.
What is a check-in, exactly? As defined by writers and thinkers such as Taryn from the Ace in the Hole blog, a check-in is a conversation you have with your partner every week (or every other week, or every month, or whatever works best for you) that is structured around the same specific questions every time. As you go through each question together and discuss your answers, you’ll establish a sort of “state of the union” of your relationship, celebrating its strengths and drawing attention to the areas where it could use a tune-up.
Your check-in should definitely include some questions that allow you to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship, because this conversation should not feel like an accusation or an inquisition. Queries like “What have I done lately that made you feel loved and appreciated?” or “What’s your favorite thing we’ve done together lately?” can be lovely icebreakers toward the beginning of your check-in, and can help you remind one another that you’re on the same team.
However, a balanced check-in will also involve some questions that invite you to reflect on potential shortcomings of your relationship, such as “Have I done anything lately that made you feel sad, angry, annoyed, or unloved?” or “What can I do to love and support you better in the near future?” As you’re answering these questions, keep in mind that an adversarial attitude in relationships is usually unhelpful. As sex writer JoEllen Notte notes in her book The Monster Under the Bed, couples who tend to take a “you versus me” approach could be better served by looking at it more like “us versus the problem.”
It can be nice to end your check-in on a positive, optimistic note, such as by asking “What’s something you’re looking forward to doing together soon?” Serious conversations about your relationship can be just as emotionally rigorous as, say, a heavy sadomasochistic scene involving whips and chains – so it’s a good idea to build in time for “aftercare,” however you prefer to do that. Maybe you could cap off each check-in by cuddling on the couch and watching an episode of your favorite show together, or lying in bed listening to a funny podcast while spooning. Anything that enables you to unwind while feeling connected to your partner will likely be helpful.
Have you ever had any kind of scheduled check-in conversation with a partner? How did it go?