“I’m not happy anymore. I think I want a divorce.”
All too often in my counseling office, I see a husband and wife, and one of them has just been blind sighted from their partner—their partner isn’t happy—and yet they had no idea that there was any major problem. To avoid this, one of the biggest communication skills I recommend to couples (both engaged couples completing premarital counseling and to those married for a number of years) is that they have regular check-up conversations. The purpose of the check-up conversation is to check-in with your partner to see how they are doing, and how they feel the relationship is going. This gives each partner a platform to express their feelings about the relationship, and helps each of them figure out what needs to happen next. I recommend that these questions be used throughout the life of a marriage—not just when someone initially ties the knot.
I shared these communication skills in a recent article about communication on mywedding.com. While I’d love for you to check out that article, I wanted to provide a little additional information here.
Here are the six questions to ask during a check-up conversation:
1. What information do I need to share? What do you need to share?
2. What’s something you appreciate about me?
3. What needs to change with me (my behavior)?
4. What are my hopes and dreams? (This can be short term or long term, and can also include, any new things I’m looking forward to).
5. How can I pray for you? (If you are faith-based), or What can I do to help you with things going on in your life?
6. On a scale of 1-10, how full is your love tank? (To what degree are you feeling loved in this relationship)? What can I do to better fill your love tank?
I recommend this conversation occur once a week. Figure out a place and time that the conversation can happen—a time when you can both be attentive to one another and not be distracted by other people and other things.
Here is how these questions can help you and your marriage:
- Increased communication—it keeps you from putting your marriage on auto-pilot. It also decreases the chances that the “but I didn’t know you were that unhappy in our marriage” conversation from happening.
- Encourages appreciation & admiration—couples who only complain about the problems with their partner and don’t focus on what’s going right are statistically less satisfied in marriage and more likely to get a divorce.
- Prevents defensiveness—Couples who use these six questions come into the conversation knowing what to expect—they know that part of the process includes talking about what needs to change. Knowing this keeps you or your partner from feeling bombarded or attacked.
Having regularly scheduled check-up conversations is a small behavior change that keeps you connected and on the same page with your partner. What are some other ways you and your mate stay on the same page about your relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.