Love Life: The Monthly Check-In
One Happy Trick for Healthy Relationships
Creating a Safe Place
A lot of really great things have come to light. This hour cannot take the place of doling out the praise throughout the days and nights of our relationship, nor is it ever enough to actually process serious upsets, but it’s a reminder of the power of positives, and a safe place to bring issues into our mutual awareness so we can start dealing with them. We don’t talk about the issues in order to automatically have them solved—that’s a grave mistake (even though that does sometimes happen for small issues).
That is not the goal because it’s doomed to fail. Just because I say it doesn’t mean it is true for the other person, or even true for me when I look at what’s really going on. But without making it overt, I can’t find out if it is true for me or them, or have a chance to work this out over time.
Knowing we don’t have to solve the issues then and there actually helps create the safe space for us to talk about them. I don’t dread what my partner is going to say because I know it is just her experience, and there isn’t any unspoken expectation for me to be different. She might ask me to make a change, but then it is clear that she is asking me, and I can clearly say “yes,” “no,” “maybe with some caveats,” or “let me think about it and get back to you.”
What Comes to Light
The point is not to save up the celebrations and frustrations until one point in time, the point is to open the space in a loving way for things that might not otherwise surface. For example, since I travel a lot, I had an unconscious habit of ignoring some tiny frustrations just before I’d go out of town, knowing that I would be over it by the time I got back. Yet those were often keys to deeper underlying unresolved emotions that were keeping me from fully expressing my love to my girlfriend while I was away. I spoke them one day just before leaving and that helped me identify my pattern. Now I try not to enact it.
Shining Light on the Unconscious Often Leads to Surprises!
Both in preparing for the check-in, and during the process, I’ve been surprised by some of the things that have come out of my mouth. For example, I told my girlfriend that she does an amazing job of paying me compliments for my personality and accomplishments, and supporting me in my goals—but—she didn’t ever explicitly tell me that I am a really good boyfriend. Until I said it, I had not even realized my own insecurities about playing that role of “boyfriend.”
Since I’m afraid of things like long term commitment (ie: marriage) that I associate (rightly or wrongly) with that role of being a serious partner, I wasn’t totally self-confident. Since I mentioned that to her, she’s been able to express gratitude for the things I actually am doing well, building legitimate self-esteem. The beauty is that it also gives her the freedom to highlight the places she wants me to improve, and I can accept or reject those requests from a place of confidence instead of defensiveness.
Logistics are Important
When we first discussed it, we thought we could do it while cuddling on the couch, or cooking dinner, or on the 2.5 hour drive to Houston. Not so—this is sacred space and must be treated as such. My partner and I do it over lunch, but the important thing is blocking out time where there are no distractions.
Frequency is also important. Like every practice, we allow variations by context. Every two months, or every six weeks, is probably fine (I haven’t tried it), but if it does not happen with regularity and at fairly short intervals, the safety will not be created to dig into the small upsets. The habit will not be reinforced to bring these kinds of things up in between check-ins, with the feeling of love. More often is fine as well—I have a friend who did a similar practice with a girlfriend every Sunday night—but that also depends on context (they were living together). Too often and the relationship becomes primarily about checking in. That might be the kind of relationship some people want, but just like running fifteen miles every day, most people will find that it is a bit too much.
Business: Note that I have done this with a small business as well, and the same rules apply. It is especially important that during this hour, only the check-in is priority. No one should be texting or surfing the net or even talking about to-dos or other obligations. And if it does not get written on the calendar in advance, it is unlikely to happen.
Doing it with Love
Remember that the point is to strengthen the relationship through mutual awareness—both celebration of the shining lights and exploration of the shadowy dark places. We always keep love as the foundation of this practice, to help us keep love as the foundation for our relationship with each other.
If you have a similar practice in one or more of your relationships—romantic or otherwise—let us know what works and what does not. If you just start trying it out, check-in and let us know how it goes!