Weekly Relationship Meeting-- to avoid resentments

One of the things that going to therapy as a couple provides is an "accountability factor." This comes from knowing you are continuing to work on your relationship. While you are in counseling, your therapist holds both of you accountable to do "the work."

When couples graduate from therapy, they need to have a method for helping each other stay focused or accountable to the relationship. One of the things I believe strongly in is having a weekly relationship meeting. This is where you discuss your feelings openly so you keep resentments from taking root.

The goals of the Weekly Relationship Meeting are to increase awareness, bring greater peace and harmony into your lives, and develop deeper communication. The support and understanding that can come from these gatherings creates more depth and a richer experience in your relationship.

Here are some simple guidelines to help you get started. Remember that all relationships are different and not every step is exactly right for yours, so be creative and adjust these guidelines when necessary.

1. Connect with your partner. Do this by holding hands and look into each other's eyes. Verbally thank each other for participating in this process. This lets your partner know that you are present emotionally as well as physically. Ask each other how you are feeling right now.

2. Focus on the positive. Begin by acknowledging what has been done correctly over the past week. You can start the discussion by talking about the "nicest things that happened that week." In areas where changes are needed, encourage each other to talk about feelings, not just tasks.

3. Attendance is mandatory. Consistency is key to making this process, and your relationship work. In a very short time you will enjoy the focused attention and look forward to this time together every week.

4. Encourage each other to participate fully in the meeting. Give each other equal time so you experience balance. Remember the basic rules of communication: the speaker speaks while the listener listens without getting defensive or accusatory.

5. Choose a space to hold the meeting where each of you feels equal. Personal offices or workrooms may not offer feelings of safety for the other partner. Peaceful environments like patios or even a location away from the house work best.

6. Make a permanent record of the decisions reached. Share the note taking duties. One of the things you can talk about in addition to current issues or working on resolving previous issues are the notes from the previous meeting. Also talk about the calendar for the coming week and future plans.

7. An agenda may be followed at each meeting, but don't make it rigid. It needs to be flexible enough to discuss topics as they come up. During the week each of you should write down items you wish to discuss on a 3X5 card that you keep handy.

8. Call the very first meeting for the specific purpose of planning a fun activity. Each of you needs to have a say in what the activity will be. Offer suggestions but do not force your own ideas. Each individual should have equal opportunity to present ideas and offer alternatives. Fun of some kind should follow each meeting, some couples make this their "date night."

9. Work toward compromise and consensus. Avoid a winner-takes-all situation by talking until you both agree. Remember the purpose here is to bring you closer together and enrich your relationship.

10. When the discussion ends consolidate the gains you have made and share the vision and the goals of your relationship. Be sure to acknowledge each other for participating in this process. Keep a sense of humor and enjoy this time together.

Remember the focus is honest communication and the goal is maintaining a healthy relationship. This proven process leads to better connections between couples and prevents small issues from becoming relationship breakers.

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