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How to Have a Relationship Check-In

As a couples counselor and a relationship coach, I know we can all make the mistake of leaving our relationships on autopilot… until there’s a problem. But relationships need intentional care on a regular basis. Just like workers need quarterly performance reviews, partners need space for feedback and reflection on their strengths and the things that could be better. In this article, we’ll explore how to have a relationship check in so you can keep your connection strong for years to come. 

Why Have Regular Relationship Check-Ins?

Check-ins allow you to continue getting to know your partner as time goes on, and renegotiate your wants, needs, boundaries, and desires as you both grow and evolve as people. This allows you to grow together, which is the secret to keeping a relationship healthy and fresh for a lifetime. 

Additionally, regular relationship check-ins help you address problems proactively. As a marriage and family therapist, I know that couples often wait until things are very bad to discuss the state of their relationships. On average, couples wait seven years to seek counseling from the time that problems arise. (Related: See this article on when to get marriage counseling). This is a big mistake and can even lead relationships to fail. The earlier you identify challenges in your relationship and address them, the better. 

I also know that having a relationship check-in can be easier said than done. Busy schedules and responsibilities like caring for children can overwhelm couples and make finding the time feel challenging. Another major hurdle is complacency. It’s not uncommon for people to say “till death do us part” and then forget that their relationships require ongoing attention beyond the wedding vows. It can also feel a little vulnerable and awkward to initiate a check-in. If you’re afraid of inviting negative feedback or disrupting the light and fun aspects of your time with your partner, you may feel the impulse to avoid these conversations. 

My advice is to do it anyway, even if you’re busy and a little nervous. It’s helpful to attach a check-in conversation to something you both enjoy, like a coffee date or a breakfast out. 

How to Have a Relationship Check-In 

There are several different ways to approach a relationship check-in conversation. One of my favorites is called the Daily Pulse Conversation. It consists of five main topics:

  1. Appreciations — Share what you have appreciated about your partner recently or what is going well in your relationship. This encourages an atmosphere of gratitude that will help you avoid accumulating resentment. 
  1. News — Update your partner on anything important you haven’t shared yet. Keeping each other up to date on the latest and greatest in your life not only ensures you are on the same page, but helps build and maintain your friendship. 
  1. Worries — Share if something is stressing you out, making you feel anxious or creating difficulty for you. Be clear with your partner about whether you want them to exclusively listen, or to help you solve the problem. 
  1. Complaints WITH solutions and positive needs — Present your complaints with a softened start-up and then ask clearly for what you need to resolve the complaint. (I’m feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of making dinner every night. It would be helpful if you would choose a couple nights a week to be in charge of dinner.”) 
  1. Look forward to what’s next — The Daily Pulse check-in ends with an eye on the future. Share with your partner something you are looking forward to, excited about, or hoping for in order to cultivate shared hopes and dreams. (I’m looking forward to our trip over spring break!). 

Relationship Check-In Questions 

I believe anniversaries are not just a time for celebration, but also a time for open and honest conversation about the relationship. When couples do this yearly, there are fewer opportunities for pain and resentment to build up over the decades. 

Here are some relationship check-in questions to encourage open, emotionally intimate conversation on your anniversary:

  1. What has gone well? 
  2. What has felt challenging? 
  3. How are we maintaining our commitments to one another? Are there changes or additions we would like to make to our “vows?”
  4. What are our hopes for the next year?
  5. How have we grown as a couple?

Support for Strong, Sustainable Relationships

I hope you found this article helpful. These conversations are important, and sometimes couples need support to navigate them. A good couples therapist can help you dig into your relationship on a deeper level, and create systems to keep your connection strong and sustainable over the long haul. That is how couples counseling works; by providing a structured, safe environment where you can build your understanding for each other, resolve problems, and grow closer. 

If you are interested in doing this valuable work with my support, I invite you to schedule a free consultation


Jessica S., M.A., LMFT

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

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