Have you had a time in your relationship when all of a sudden you realize that even though you’ve been spending time together, you feel like strangers or distant roommates?
It’s so easy to lose connection in our busy world.
We’ve got work, social obligations, personal goals, trying to run a household, and on top of that, we somehow have to keep ourselves and our relationships healthy… it’s a difficult juggling act to say the least. No wonder sometimes it feels like all we talk about with our loved ones are who can go grocery shopping, take the car to the mechanic, or reschedule that double date.
That is a far cry from the flirty nonsense conversations we used to have while dating!
That’s why relationship expert, Dr.John Gottman of the Gottman Institute encourages couples to have what he calls “State of The Union Meetings”.
Just like in Congress, these meetings act as a time to brief each other about the emotional and technical aspects of each other’s lives. Instead of talking about responsibilities every single time you see your spouse, this is a set time to discuss scheduling, finances, and each other’s needs. Of course, you might need to talk about scheduling on a daily basis, but if you do most of the nitty gritty technicalities during your meeting, it allows for more fun and happy conversations the rest of the time.
So what does a State of the Union Meeting look like?
Take turns asking each other how the previous week went for them
With how busy most people are, it can be surprisingly easy to forget to connect with each other daily. Beau and I have had several busy seasons where we had to schedule a few minutes together or otherwise we wouldn’t see each other. Designating the first few minutes of your meeting to catching up can set the tone to a friendly catch-up, as opposed to a forced business meeting.
Thank each other for what the other did for the household the previous week.
This also sets the tone for a happy meeting. Also, it’s a super easy way to build up your 5:1 ratio of positivity in your relationship.
Ask each other if there is anything that could be improved.
Say you felt taken for granted this week by your spouse, this is a great time to go over any disagreements or hurt feelings. Hopefully by this time in the meeting, both partners feel heard and seen. That is a great starting point for bringing up a hurt.
Ask each other what their upcoming week looks like and what you can do to support one another.
Maybe one of you has an exceptionally busy week coming up. This is a good time for that spouse to ask for extra help around the house and for some extra emotional support. For example, when I have a crazy week, Beau knows to put a pause on making social plans that involve me. He also helps make dinner when he can and makes sure to remind me that crafting and an episode of Parenthood always makes me feel better!
Create or go over a household budget.
Because who wants to go over bills and statements every day?
Gottman suggests holding a State of the Union once a week, but to increase the frequency during stressful seasons. Just like a company holds more meetings at the height of a big project, during hard seasons in life, such as a loved one being sick, or even a wedding, that extra meeting could save you from fights and resentment building up. Start with 20 minutes per meeting. You can go longer if needed, but only if both partners are feeling up for it. If you didn’t get through everything you needed to talk to and one partner is overwhelmed or tired, take a break and schedule the rest of the meeting for another time in the near future.
A few other tips Beau and I have learned first hand:
- Have something to write notes on. Whether it’s your notes app or a napkin, there’s a reason Gottman says to write down key points from the meetings… nothing starts a fight more in our house than someone forgetting something important.
- Sharing a calendar can save you! If I close my eyes, I see my calendar etched on my eyelids. Beau, on the other hand, is a normal human who has to have everything written down. After a few forgotten events, we decided to share our Google Calendars. We haven’t had a scheduling fight since! Well… unless someone doesn’t look at the calendar.
- Give it a few times before you judge it. It takes a few meetings to get comfortable and make it a habit.
You might be thinking, “Daniela… this sounds more like a business strategy… I want to keep my relationship fun and spontaneous!” And to that I say: this IS how you keep the fun and romance! It’s not romantic to talk about responsibilities every day. Save as much as you can for the meeting, and then tell me your relationship doesn’t feel lighter!
Let me know how your meetings go!
ps. If you want to hear more relationship hacks like this one, we highly recommend reading Dr.Gottman’s “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”. This book was the basis of our pre-marital counselling and it has changed our marriage. We refer to it almost on a daily basis!