Relationship Mechanic

It’s so interesting to me that many times, as people, we do things that really make no sense.  In the past, I’ve spoken about how you’re willing to spend lots and lots of time checking out which jeans to buy or which computer will really suit you.  But you don’t spend nearly the same amount of energy exploring if you should speak to a professional about your own personal psychological health or that of your relationship.

Here’s another analogy that boggles the mind (at least mine):  Some of you pamper your autos by washing it and cleaning it out.  Most of you will make sure that you take your car for regular maintenance check-ups.  Or, at the very least, you are diligent that your car runs smoothly be changing the oil.

But what about your relationship?

Of course, generally, everyone knows that the oil in the car is supposed to be changed every 3,000 miles.  And, there’s a manual that comes with a car that indicates what servicing needs to be done at what point.  But how do you do a relationship check-in and how often?

I’ll get to the nuts and bolts in just a moment but here’s a general game plan: you and your mate can decide to “check-in” once a week, every two weeks, or monthly.  I’d suggest putting it on your calendar as you would any other important event.  This is really important because if you don’t, somehow you never get to it.

Plan to talk for about ½ hour with a10-minute “overtime.”  This will allow enough time to cover the points so the women are happy and not go on too long so that the men get frustrated.   And, of course, really be paying attention to one another as you do this exercise.  That means, turn off the TV, don’t answer phones, and attention is not put anywhere else.

Down to the nitty-gritty

For each of the points I am going to lay out for you, you each take a turn.

I think I’ve told you before that studies have shown that there’s a 5:1 ratio between positive and negative.  That means that you can say 5 positive things to your mate and then 1 negative which will wipe out the 5 positive.  That’s how heavily negative comments weigh!

So to start your check-in exercise, first let your partner know the positive things you noticed in the relationship.  Little things count — remember you are trying to improve upon your partnership.

Next, move to areas that could be improved.  In presenting these, still talk about these in a positive light.  As a concrete example, you might say, “I really liked that you started picking up your clothes; if you could be even more aware of that, it would be really great!”  What you don’t want to say is: “You’re still not picking up your clothes.”

Then, move on to needs you may have.  Yes — it’s okay to have needs and it’s okay to ask that they be respected.  But, you don’t have a right to demand your needs be met or even expect that by the expression of them, they will be met.  However, your chances of having them met will be more so based on the way you ask.  Here’s where “I” statements are really important:  “I would feel much more appreciated if when I cooked/changed the oil in the car you noticed.”

Finally, if you’ve had a conflict since your last “check-in,” now might be a good time to talk about it.  First, make sure you’re each ready to discuss it.  The factor that determines readiness is if the emotion has calmed down.  If it hasn’t, it’s not a good time to discuss it yet and agree to do so later.  But do come back to it — unresolved conflicts do not go away.

The purpose of the discussion is to understand each person’s perspective on the situation.  If you had seen it the same way, there would not have been a conflict.  It’s similar to two people witnessing the same accident; likely each will have a different version.  Once you understand your partner’s perspective, you can come to some understanding or compromise.

Finally, if there’s time leftover, you might talk about things you want to watch for until your next check-in.

So, there are your steps.  I would suggest that if, as couples, there were regular check-ups (or check-ins) the state of our partnerships would be a whole lot better!