What if someone were to suggest that you and your spouse hold a weekly marriage meeting? Would you think, "Great idea! When do we start?"
But if the thought sends shivers up your spine, you're not alone. You might fear that the meeting will turn into a blame fest or a laundry list of demands or complaints. Yet by following guidelines for holding constructive meetings, you can avoid such pitfalls and gain intimacy, teamwork, and a smoother resolution of issues.
Research shows that couples who hold these short, loosely structured, gentle conversations gain a significant increase in marital happiness. I can vouch for their effectiveness both personally and professionally.
From Marriage Expert to Marriage Newbie
Before I got married, I was considered an expert couple and family therapist. But I couldn't be an expert about my own marriage because I couldn't be objective while inside of it.
I give our weekly meetings major credit for our lasting happiness.
As newlyweds, over 30 years ago, my husband and I took a marriage class. We picked up on the idea of conducting weekly marriage meetings. We still hold them after all this time because the benefits are so huge. I give our weekly meetings major credit for our lasting happiness.
Can All Couples Benefit from Holding Meetings?
Couples who want to make a good marriage even better will love the results. So will those who want to jazz up a ho-hum relationship. Even the healthiest couples have concerns about in-law relationships, money, parenting, sex, or something else.
Even the healthiest couples have concerns about in-law relationships, money, parenting, and sex.
Some couples need professional help to restore their relationship before they can hold productive meetings on their own. Typically, good therapy encourages them to change complaints into expressed wishes and to use positive communication techniques. Once partners are relating more warmly and empathically, I coach them through the four parts of a marriage meeting.
When couples tell me that they've been holding successful marriage meetings on their own and with good results, I find it heartwarming.
The Marriage Meeting Agenda
An effective marriage meeting follows this sequence:
Plan for Good Times
Problems and Challenges
Appreciation. Each partner takes an uninterrupted turn to say what he or she specifically valued about the other during the past week, starting with "I appreciate..." or "I liked it when you...”
Chores. This is the business part of the meeting. Partners say up to a couple of things on their to-do lists. Each says what responsibilities he or she will handle and by when.
Both of you will know you're loved, and issues are resolved smoothly and respectfully.
Plan for Good Times. Now is when you plan a weekly date just for the two of you. You can also plan get-togethers with others and enjoyable activities to do individually.
Problems and Challenges. Partners bring up issues to resolve and clear up possible misunderstandings. It's best to limit yourselves to one or two topics. Discuss easy-to-resolve concerns in early meetings, so you'll see good results and want to continue holding the meetings.
Guidelines for Marriage Meetings
Schedule a time to meet when you're both alert and sober, not when either of you is hungry, tired, or angry. My husband and I noticed that our meetings were less productive when we held them too late at night because we would get cranky. So we began holding them earlier. You'll want to meet when you can put forth your best energy.
Meet when you’re both alert and sober, and when you’re not hungry, tired, or angry.
Your first meetings might take up to 45 minutes, but don't let them go longer because fatigue can set in. After a while, most of your meetings are likely to take no more than 30 minutes.
Another guideline is for the less verbal partner to lead the meeting and speak first on each topic. Usually, it's the husband, but not always.
Use Positive Communication Skills
I wrote Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You've Always Wanted to explain step-by-step how to hold successful marriage meetings. By doing follow-up studies on couples who attended my marriage meeting workshops, I learned that some of them needed better communication skills for constructive conversations. So I added that to the workshop and included them in the book.
What If My Spouse Resists Holding a Marriage Meeting?
The reluctant partner might fear getting criticized. So keep the first several meetings light and enjoyable. Focus on expressing appreciation and planning for good times. Be kind and supportive.
Focus on expressing appreciation and planning for good times.
Choose a time to ask your spouse to try a marriage meeting when you're both relaxed and available. You can say, "It would make me happy if you'll hold just one marriage meeting, and we can see how it goes." You may want to negotiate or ask for it as his birthday or anniversary present for you. Men tend to like marriage meetings because they value the structure, appreciation, and opportunity to get heard.
Can People Who Aren't Married Benefit?
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."
Hold successful marriage meetings, and you'll reconnect with your partner every week. Both of you will know you're loved. You'll enjoy more intimacy, romance, and teamwork. Issues will usually be resolved, smoothly and respectfully. Grudges won't build because you'll clear up misunderstandings promptly. Simply put, you create an emotionally and spiritually fulfilling relationship that lasts for a lifetime.