In my work with couples throughout the years, I’ve been amazed by how little partners talk with one another. Sure, there’s the obligatory hello and how was your day, but beyond that there’s very little communicating going on. Some couples don’t even say hello.
I still find this to be surprising and…sad. I can’t imagine coming home every night and not having an adult conversation with my partner–how lonely. Intimacy is all about sharing your world with your partner. You can’t do this if you barely talk to one another.
The reality is people need connection, plain and simple. If people aren’t feeling connected at home, they will go outside the home. Women often will turn to their girlfriends to fuel them emotionally while the men turn to work. After a while, both parties are getting a majority of their needs met outside the relationship.
It’s often only a matter of time before this distance becomes too great to surmount.
If you have a motivated partner there is a simple tool you can put into place to help increase the connection and reduce the distance: the check-in. The check-in is a simple way to keep the communication flowing in your relationship and to help one another to decompress from their day.
The check-in is a brief fifteen to thirty minute conversation in which each partner checks in about their day. Both partners take turns discussing any positive, negative, exciting or stressful moments that occurred throughout their day. This includes areas of uncertainty/worries/concerns. Each partner can view this time as an opportunity to decompress and let go of any negative energy he/she comes home with.
When done well, the check-in can be a great grounding tool for couples. It enhances the friendship between the partners and serves as a quick connector in a stressful world. Be sure however, to follow the ground rules below.
- Give your partner your undivided attention…do not multi-task while talking. Put your paper down, shut off the TV, radio, and computer. Do not answer the phone during this time.
- Keep the check-in to a manageable time period of 15-30 minutes.
- It’s best to do this when children are in bed to keep distractions to a minimum.
- Do not discuss any problems in the relationship during your check-in. The check-in is a sacred space for both of you to decompress about the outside world. Do not cross over into your relationship difficulties.
- When you are sharing your side, be clear what you want from your partner. If you just want him/her to listen and be empathic, say so. If you’d like help brainstorming solutions, ask for help. Don’t assume your partner knows what you want and don’t get angry if he/she is not giving you something you didn’t ask for.
- When you are the one sharing…SHARE! Do not make your partner pull teeth—that’s annoying. Whether your partner understands your job or not is irrelevant. Share your daily happenings with her/him and make space for your partner to join your world. Just saying your day was fine, is not sharing. In fact, it’s annoying. Choose two to three incidents/happenings/difficulties from your day and bring them home to share. You will notice a difference and so will your partner.
- Learn to get interested in your partner’s day. Many people tune their partner out because the say they’re not interested in what their partner does all day. Tough! Your life is no endless road of excitement either. Have humility, patience, and acceptance. You listen to your partner’s life happenings because you love your partner…and to make a relationship work–you have to be relational. So step up and listen like you care. You might be surprised by what you learn and by the shift that happens in your relationship as a result.
- When you are the listener, you’re whole job is to be empathic to your partner and be supportive. Now is NOT the time to tell your partner where you believe he/she went wrong. Just listen and support. This sounds like: “Wow that sounds hard. I’m sorry you had such a difficult day. Is there anything I can do to help?” Don’t put in your two cents if your partner didn’t ask and don’t take the other person’s side even if you think you’re partner was off (unless he/she asks for your opinion on how they handled the situation. Even then, tread carefully).
Remember that intimacy means “Into me you see”. In order to be intimate, you have to share a part of yourself–otherwise you’re roommates with benefits. Being roommates, gets lonely. Dare to ask for more in your relationships.
CHALLENGE: If you happen to be in a relationship where there is little communication, ask your partner if he/she would be willing to try the check-in. If the answer is yes, follow the rules and see how it goes. If the answer is no, ask your partner if he/she has an alternative solution to the lack of communication going on between the two of you and if so, try that one.
If your partner is not willing to do anything, you have a bigger issue that may need outside help.