Relationship check ins are also known as a marriage meeting, a couples check-in, a relationship check up, a “state of the union” meeting, or as we sometimes call them, a relationship review.
To help your relationship be the best that it can be, and to make sure you both feel fulfilled and connected.
Before we started doing our relationship check in we found it difficult to bring up issues with each other:
We’d walk on eggshells trying to figure out when was the ‘right time’. But the longer we waited, the worse it got, until one of us would blurt out something hurtful and we’d end up in an argument.
But a relationship check in changed all that for us, and it’s since become a time of connection and quality conversation that we genuinely look forward to.
Which is why we believe you need to start your own check in ASAP.
There are some important steps to include (and some common mistakes to avoid) to help your relationship check in go smoothly.
So let’s start here:
How Often Should You Have a Relationship Check In?
Generally, the more often you have a relationship check in, the better. Once per week is a great place to start, but if you struggle to fit it into your schedule, bi-weekly or monthly can work too. The most important thing is to pick a regular time and set reminders so that it actually happens.
The advantages of a weekly check in is that you build a strong habit together – which means you’re less likely to forget. And especially when you first start out, you might have more topics you want to talk about.
When we first started our relationship check ins, we set aside time each Friday afternoon and simply put a weekly reminder in our calendar to keep us accountable.
Over time, we’ve found we don’t need to have our check ins as regularly, so the best way to find out what works for you is to get started, and then re-assess as you go.
How Do You Do a Relationship Check In?
Here are seven helpful, easy-to-follow steps to have your own successful relationship check in:
1. Pick A Regular Time
Ideally, you want to be relaxed, present, and in good spirits, so don’t schedule a check in after a long day at work, or right before you need to rush out the door. You want to bring your best to these meetings.
2. Set The Scene
Your relationship check in is an opportunity to slow down and connect with each other, so why not make it feel a little special?
Bring your favourite snacks and drinks, or have it in a place that feels good to you. And be sure you’re somewhere private so you feel comfortable getting real with each other.
3. Set A Time Limit
You don’t want this to become a huge time sink, or a chore, so aim for around 30 minutes maximum to begin with.
4. Celebrate & Appreciate Each Other
We always start with the good stuff. This helps us to remember all the awesome things about our marriage, even if we have some more challenging topics to discuss. Appreciation is the secret sauce of a great relationship.
5. Take Turns Answering Questions
This is where you get to choose-your-own-adventure. We have two general formats that we recommend – a short form and a long form. (Keep reading for the full breakdown).
If you’re going to have your check ins more regularly, then the shorter format is a good fit. If you prefer monthly or quarterly, then try the more in-depth extended version.
You can also mix-and-match based on how deep you want to go or how much time you have available.
6. Choose An Action Item
Words are great, but actions are better. To integrate the insights from your relationship check in, pick an action that you each want to commit to.
7. Finish On A High
To wrap up, it can be fun to celebrate again. High five each other, have a cuddle or a smooch, whatever works for you.
Even if things get a little tense or something feels unresolved, find a way to come back to each other and your belief in your relationship.
When we’re working through some tough stuff, we’ll always finish with, “We’ve got this. We’ll work it out.” Even if we don’t know how. Because we always find a way.
Why Are Relationship Check Ins Important?
Simply put, a regular relationship check in helps keep your relationship on track. It can help prevent conflicts and arguments by addressing issues as they come up, and keeps you focused on creating the kind of relationship you want.
This simple practice really is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. Here’s a few more important positive outcomes this habit will create in your relationship:
- More Trust
Having a set time to talk about your relationship creates safety and security. You both get to feel reassured that nothing will get swept under the rug, that your partner is listening, and that they care about meeting your wants and needs.
- Less Arguments
Once we started doing relationship check ins in our marriage, we noticed a dramatic reduction in conflict. There was less tension bubbling away under the surface, and we were more focused on the things that brought us together. Win.
- More Presence
Having a set time also means you don’t have to worry about the “right time” to bring up any relationship issues. So in everyday life, you get to be more fully present and enjoy each other.
- More Appreciation
Starting each check in with what’s working helps you to be focused on the healthy aspects of your relationship. This positive reinforcement helps you both feel more appreciated, valued, and invested in the relationship.
- More Quality Time
It’s far too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and to forget about making quality time together. Now, a relationship check in isn’t the only meaningful time you should be spending together, but it is time that will create more emotional intimacy and connection in your relationship.
- More Relationship Satisfaction
Too many people are sleepwalking through life without really thinking about how to meet their wants and needs – or the wants and needs of their partner. Having a regular check in keeps you focused on your bigger picture goals, and the “why” of your relationship. It’s how you intentionally create a conscious relationship.
(Need help working out the big picture goals and vision for your relationship? Check out our free conscious relationship guide.)
How Do You Ask For A Relationship Check In?
When asking for a relationship check in, frame it as an easy, low-pressure conversation to help put your partner at ease and be more receptive to the idea. Let them know you’d like to make time for a general relationship check-up to make sure you’re both feeling happy and fulfilled.
Once you’ve tried it out you can then talk about how regularly you might like to have your check ins, and when.
Whatever you do, avoid the dreaded, “We need to talk.”
Hearing those words usually makes someone think of the worst-case scenario, so try to keep it as light as possible.
If you’re worried that asking upfront might put your partner on the defensive, simply send them a link to this article and let them know you’d like to try it out. That way, they’ll understand the intention of the relationship check in and you’ll both be on the same page.
What exactly should you talk about in your relationship check-in?
Here are our two main approaches:
Relationship Check In Questions (Simple)
- What’s something that’s really working in our relationship?
- What’s something that we want to focus on to help our relationship thrive?
(#protip: Your answers are allowed to be different!)
These are our go-to questions for a regular relationship check in. We like to keep it short and sweet, and these two questions help us focus on what’s important.
With the first question, we each choose one thing that’s working – we call it our Celebration – and we celebrate and appreciate each other for it. Don’t hold back here. It’s an important opportunity to really acknowledge and champion each other and the relationship.
The second question then allows us to each bring up something that we want to address. We try to keep it future-focused and productive, but sometimes it involves talking about challenges or something that doesn’t feel resolved.
This approach helps us to tackle issues as they come up, instead of letting them fester into long-term resentments and contempt. (If you’re dealing with festering, toxic resentment in your relationship, here’s our practical guide to help fix it.)
The ‘focus’ question doesn’t have to be a ‘problem’ though. It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on your big picture goals and shared dreams, and to make sure you’re actively taking steps towards them.
Relationship Check In Questions (Extended)
- What’s really working in our relationship right now?
- What are we celebrating?
- Is there anything from the last week / month that feels unresolved?
- Do we feel close and connected to each other?
- Do we feel supported? Is there anything we can do to better support each other?
- Is there anything we’ve been avoiding?
- Is there anything we’d like to be acknowledged or appreciated for?
- Are we fulfilling our responsibilities and commitments in our relationship?
- How do we feel about our sexual connection?
- How do we feel personally? Do we feel like we’re living aligned as the people we want to be?
- Are we feeling good about ourselves as a parenting team?
- Are we on track with our big-picture goals and relationship vision?
- Is there anything else we want to share?
Not all of these questions will be relevant, and you don’t have to ask all of them every time. But they do cover some core areas of a healthy relationship, so it can be good to check over them from time to time.
Common Relationship Check In Mistakes To Avoid
Finally, let’s talk about the potential traps to watch out for. Otherwise, your relationship check in might start to feel like a chore at best, and just another opportunity for arguments at worst.
Don’t Bring Up All Of Your Problems At Once
Instead, pick one meaningful thing that you’d like to address, and trust that you’ll get to the other stuff next time.
Don’t Expect Miracles
By itself, a relationship check in isn’t going to fix all of your problems. If you’re facing some bigger issues, or you keep getting stuck on one topic, it might be time to call in outside support.
Don’t Forget To Celebrate
Our brain is hardwired to notice what’s not working – it’s called the negativity bias. And while it’s helpful for problem solving and innovation, if left unchecked it’ll damage your relationship.
Sometimes it takes effort to see the things that are already working, but it’s important to give yourselves credit. Always find things to appreciate and celebrate in your relationship.
Don’t Let It Drag On
If your check in turns into an hour+ deep dive every single week, you might start to resent them – or worse, each other. Less is often more, so keep it short.
This is not an opportunity to criticize your partner or point out all their flaws. If you have complaints you want to raise, get clear on what it is you want, and frame it as a request, rather than an attack.
(And if you need help having difficult conversations and handling conflict better, check out our Conflict to Connection communication course for couples).
Don’t Talk ‘Life Admin’
Keep the everyday life planning stuff out of your relationship review. If you need to, have a seperate meeting beforehand about who’s taking the kids to school or what home renovations need to be done. As the name suggests, keep your relationship check in focused on your relationship.
Don’t Overdo The Alcohol
As tempting as it is to crack open a whole bottle of wine, too much of a good thing can be counter productive.
Not trying to be the Fun Police here, we just know from experience that a few too many drinks can make the conversation messier, not better.
Don’t Forget The Fun
When we first started our relationship check ins, we paired them with tacos and card games. Did we look forward to our relationship check in each week? You bet!
As our life and weekly rhythms have changed, so too have our check ins. We’ve had them over coffee dates, during an afternoon stroll in the park, and cuddled up on the couch together.
There may be times that your check ins get a little serious, and that’s OK. But overall, you want this to be a time where you come together, connect, celebrate each other, and consciously work on making your relationship the best that it can be.
And that gets to be fun!
Reece Stockhausen & Jodie Milton have made improving people’s lives and relationships both their passion, and their career. With over 25 years experience in the Personal Development industry, and 8 years coaching singles and couples, their no-BS advice has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Bustle, and HuffPost.
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