Every marriage takes work. Every marriage has issues. And, over time, in every marriage your tight bond as a couple may loosen.
Having a marriage meeting — where you discuss everything from chores to challenges — can help. Psychotherapist Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, shares the details of the four-part process in her book Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted.
A marriage meeting helps couples reconnect on a regular basis. It prevents problems from building and escalating. It keeps a household running smoothly and helps couples work as a team.
Marriage meetings also let both partners feel heard. As Berger notes, “A successful marriage meeting requires both partners to communicate their thoughts, feelings, wants and needs.”
Specifically, couples meet once a week, every week, and go through this same sequence:
Each partner takes turns talking about what they appreciated about the other partner during the previous week. This sets a positive tone for the rest of the meeting (and your relationship).
For instance, you might say, “I appreciated you listening to me vent about my job yesterday,” “I appreciated you turning off the phone so we could talk,” or “I appreciated you making dinner on Monday.”
Don’t interrupt your partner while they’re talking, and avoid criticizing them.
According to Berger, this part proceeds like a business meeting. Each partner talks about the chores on their to-do list. Together, you decide which tasks will be tackled next week, and which tasks can wait.
Next, you figure out who will perform or delegate each task. Then you discuss your progress with the tasks from the previous meetings.
If talking about a certain task becomes too emotional, move that conversation to the last part of your meeting.
Planning for good times.
In this third part, couples schedule their weekly date, family outings, vacations, get-togethers with friends and at least one enjoyable activity they do on their own. Partners present their ideas and brainstorm together. Then they decide on the activities and schedule them.
Your date can be anything from taking a long walk to having coffee at your favorite café to packing a picnic for the park.
Resolving problems & challenges.
In the last portion of your meeting, partners pick one or two issues they’d like to discuss. While you’re talking about the issue, your spouse listens fully. Once you feel like they’ve understood and heard you, your partner can respond. Then you brainstorm solutions.
In the end, you might reach an agreement, decide to continue the conversation at your next meeting or accept that the problem can’t be resolved and you’ll both learn to live with it (such as a partner’s trait).
Over time, you also might realize that an issue is causing a rift in your relationship. That’s when seeking professional counseling can help.
If there’s time, you can tackle another issue, and go through the same process. End the meeting on a positive note, and thank each other for participating. Then do something you enjoy, either together or individually.
- Initially, your meetings may last longer than 30 minutes. But limit them to 45 minutes, so your meeting remains productive.
- Avoid discussing sensitive topics and bigger challenges for your first few meetings. For instance, bring up easier-to-resolve concerns during the first four to six meetings. According to Berger, a good goal for each meeting is that it inspires another one the following week.
- Don’t attack your partner. Instead, address the specific problems.
- Use “I” statements, such as “I like,” “I’d rather not,” “I feel” or “What I would like instead is.”
- Don’t meet when either of you is hungry, irritable or exhausted.
Having this kind of meeting may feel strange at first. But discussing your concerns and how your household runs as well as planning fun time together can go a long way in helping you reconnect and rebuild your relationship.