Q: What’s so great about marriage meetings?A: An obvious need exists for a proactive approach for success in marriage. Divorce is epidemic. Fifty percent of first marriages fail. The statistics are more dismal for second and third marriages. Marriage meetings provide an ongoing way to create and maintain forever the kind of relationship we all long for — a loving, lifelong union that fosters the growth and vitality of both partners. The meetings increase romance, intimacy, teamwork, and smoother resolution of issues.
My husband and I have been holding a weekly marriage meeting for nearly thirty years. I give these short, respectful, loosely structured conversations major credit for our lasting happiness together, and for inspiring me to share the marriage meeting tool with couples everywhere.
Q: Who will benefit from holding marriage meetings?A: Couples who want to make a good marriage even better will benefit. So will those who want to jazz up a ho-hum relationship. Even the healthiest couples have differences that they can learn to deal with more smoothly, which can be about in-laws, money, parenting, sex, or something else. The meetings can also help couples who aren’t relating as well as they used to; holding them can help them get back on track.
Q: Why can’t couples just talk instead of having to conform to the artificial structure of the meeting?A: “Just talking” is fine and certainly desirable daily. It is easy, however, with all life’s pressures, to talk in ways that don’t foster a positive connection with your partner or resolve issues. You may want to discuss an issue when your partner is preoccupied — watching television, reading, or doing something else. The Marriage Meeting covers all bases; it allows each person to feel heard and understood, without interruptions. It provides a predictable time to talk about anything, positively and respectfully.
It’s easy to take one’s partner for granted, to forget to express appreciation. Chores can pile up or not be handled well. You may forget to plan dates and other enjoyable activities. By scheduling a time for a marriage meeting, you’ll get to reconnect every week. The meetings foster direct, positive communication that addresses concerns at a time both of you are likely to be receptive. You get to feel appreciated and valued, gain a smoother running household by coordinating chores, and add romance by planning dates. Issues are resolved and challenges are met before they escalate into crises and grudges.
Q: What if one spouse wants to try holding a marriage meeting but the other refuses?A: The reluctant partner might fear getting criticized. So keep the first several meetings light and enjoyable. Doing this helps you gain confidence about holding the meetings. Use positive communication techniques to express yourself clearly while being kind and supportive.
Choose a time to bring up the subject of trying a marriage meeting when you’re both relaxed and available. You can say, “I would be very grateful to you for trying a marriage meeting at least once.” You might mention some advantages of marriage meetings, such as:
- They increase intimacy.
- They help the two of you reconnect at each meeting.
- They include expressing and receiving appreciation.
- They increase teamwork around household tasks and other activities.
- They remind you to plan to an enjoyable date for just the two of you each week.
If your partner is still not convinced, you can negotiate. For example, if basketball’s not your thing and he wants you to go to a game with him, say okay, on one condition — that he’ll hold a marriage meeting with you. If he agrees, schedule your meeting right then. Men tend to like marriage meetings once they hold them. The meeting’s structure makes it easier for the less verbal partner, who is typically, but not always, the husband to speak up and be heard.
Q: Isn’t scheduling a formal weekly meeting unromantic?A: Marriage meetings actually increase romance! They increase communication, which is a powerful aphrodisiac. They foster mutual appreciation and remind you to plan dates for just the two of you. The meetings clear up misunderstandings. They prevent grudge holding, so romance can flourish.
Q: How do we decide who talks first about topics covered in a Marriage Meeting?A: Usually, the less verbal partner should talk first. This helps him or her to share ownership of the meeting. Reflect back what you hear your partner saying when appropriate, using the Active Listening communication skill, which is explained in chapter 9 of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love.
Q: So are couples supposed to express appreciation, and talk about chores and problems only during our Marriage Meetings?A: Of course not! Spouses should express appreciation daily. If a pipe bursts or if a chore needs to be done immediately, you don’t wait for your marriage meeting to call a plumber or to arrange how to handle any pressing task.
If you feel like you need to express yourself about something your partner did that either pleased you greatly or annoyed you immensely, you don’t wait for your weekly meeting to do this, but still do your best to communicate positively. Your marriage meeting is a commitment the two of you make to provide a time to make sure that all aspects of your relationship are given attention regularly.
Q: I’ve heard that some people hold Marriage Meetings less often than once a week. Why do you encourage people to hold the meetings every week?A: I like meeting every week. The meetings foster connection and prevent grudges from accumulating about any aspect of your relationship.
Yet, some couples who have attended my Marriage Meeting Workshops reported in follow-up studies that they meet every two weeks. One couple said that they have been holding marriage meetings once a month since they started seven years ago. All find them valuable for keeping their relationship on track. On the other hand, a psychologist in a class I teach for professionals said, “I know only one happily married couple. They’ve been holding a weekly meeting for fifty years.” My husband and I have been holding a weekly marriage meeting for almost thirty years. Meeting less often makes me feel clogged up!
Q: Do we need to keep holding marriage meetings for the rest of our lives in order to keep our relationship on track? A: Not necessarily. One wife said that after she and her husband held marriage meetings regularly, their improved communication was long-lasting enough they no longer feel the need for formal meetings. This couple excels at going with the flow and at working around each other’s imperfections. Both are accepting, flexible, and happy together. Some other couples similarly report that after they stopped holding marriage meetings, the improvement in their relationship was sustained. They continue to express appreciation often, communicate positively, and deal with issues promptly.
But if you value the intimacy, reconnecting regularly, teamwork, and closure that marriage meetings foster, you will be glad to invest a small amount of time each week to hold them. Marriage meetings are a form of insurance.
Q: Do you need to be married in order to benefit from Marriage Meetings? A: Any two people who live under the same roof, including committed couples, can benefit from holding weekly meetings using the marriage meeting format. After reading some of my material about marriage meetings, a friend and his roommate began having effective weekly “roommate meetings.”
Q: If a couple has longstanding grudges and unresolved issues, couldn’t a marriage meeting backfire? A: Ideally, after both partners have read this book, they will agree to try a marriage meeting, or at least the first agenda topic, Appreciation. Possibly, they will be happily surprised. But if they aren’t able to conduct the meeting well enough on their own, because they get stuck on blaming or the trust level is too low, they’ve learned something important. If they want a better relationship, help is available in many forms, including marriage counseling, individual therapy, or couple therapy.
Once you are ready to use positive communication techniques, you’re likely to be ready to hold the meetings on your own.
Q: How can we be expected to find the time to hold a weekly meeting when we’re already so busy? A: If you have time to fight or stew, you have time for a marriage meeting! Marriage meetings save time and money! They don’t replace therapy for couples whose concerns call for professional help. But if your marriage is basically healthy, you can hold the meetings on your own and avoid the expense of therapy.
It eats up time and energy to silently ruminate about whatever may be happening in your relationship that is not getting handled. It takes less time to hold a marriage meeting. The meetings also save money also by providing a forum for talking about potential expenditures rationally and respectfully. They help you become more accountable to each other financially and cooperate about spending, saving and sharing money.
By holding effective meetings, you get to reconnect regularly. Each of you gets to wipe clean your slate of mental clutter. Once you get used to holding the meetings, you will probably be able to complete the simple agenda successfully within twenty to thirty minutes.
Q: Can any marriage be saved by holding a weekly marriage meeting? A: A marriage meeting cannot save any marriage. Some people marry for the wrong reasons, such as physical attraction, money, or some other material concern. Later they realize that they are too incompatible to stay together. When their values and goals are too different, there may be no way to save the marriage. Also, some couples have serious issues, such as physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or infidelity. Such people will need to restore their relationship before they could hold effective marriage meetings.
But for couples who are basically healthy, compatible, and have enough similar values, marriage meetings are a great way to reconnect every week. The meetings foster romance and intimacy; teamwork; and smoother handling of whatever comes up.
Q: Don’t some couples just grow apart? A: We’ve probably all heard that “We just grew apart” comment. The truth is that couples do not grow apart; they drift away from each other either because they lack the tools for staying connected or they have them but forget to use them. Marriage meetings are a weekly wake-up call for reconnecting and growing together.
Q: How can we learn how to hold a marriage meeting? A: Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted shows couples how to hold these gentle, loosely-structured conversations that increase intimacy, romance, teamwork, and smoother resolution of conflicts. The book includes guidelines for meetings, a four-part agenda (Appreciation, Chores, Planning Good Times, and Problems and Challenges), positive communication skills, and couples’ stories. It empowers couples to get the marriage they’ve always wanted, one that fosters the growth and well-being of both partners in all the important ways — emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
All kinds of people, married and single, can pick up valuable communication skills described in detail that enrich any relationship, including those with friends, family members, and coworkers.