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The Importance of a Relationship Check-In


In our jobs we often have formalized methods for getting feedback. Whether these work or not or are remotely satisfying is a topic for a different area (and, yes, I have pretty strong opinions….)

One of the reasons we need feedback is that often we do not see ourselves clearly and can be unaware of the way our perhaps good intentions impact another.

In a positive, functioning annual performance review, we review what is going well, what perhaps needs additional focus, what each party sees a little differently and what the next steps are in growth, learning and career progression. The same should happen in a relationship. Circumstances change, people gain new interests and let go of others. In order to have a relationship continue to be strong, this type of review is vital, otherwise auto pilot can kick in and routine, stagnation or growing apart the result.

Most couples do not do this type of review and I believe it is a wonderful ritual to develop, hopefully right from the beginning of your relationship when things tend to be all perfection, and seen through the rosy, blinkered lenses of love’s first blush. Oh, I love everything about you! Having once told the other that you think they are perfect or that you enjoy their hobbies every bit as much as they do, it can be difficult when something changes, becomes annoying because it is overdone, or any of a myriad other things that occur.

If you have developed a way to look at your relationships and find that the first reviews seems silly because everything is just dandy, there is an urge to stop doing them as it feels like a waste of time. What happens, then, down the road when you don’t have a process and procedure with which to air any concerns, grievances, or dissatisfactions? Add to this that often we don’t realize ourselves that we are feeling aggrieved. However, if you sit down for your monthly, bi-annual or whatever review and look at the category of social, for instance, and realize that you are feeling dissatisfied with the frequency of your social outings, you can have a much easier discussion than if you let it slide – knowingly or unknowingly – until it becomes a big deal

My significant other and I used to do a review that we found in some brochure somewhere and we did this for about two years. Not much surfaced though I do vaguely recall some wee things came up. They weren’t a big deal and presumably we made some changes or talked about them – I don’t recall details. We stopped doing this. We are good communicators – we don’t need this. Then, years and years later, something came up. We didn’t talk about it. Resentments grew. We didn’t talk about it. Big hairy problem. We didn’t talk about it. If we’d had that review still going, I do strongly believe it would have surfaced the issue and we’d have been able to deal with it in a much less confrontational and positional way.

There are any number of reviews and you can pick one off the internet easily enough. It helps to have started with a framework that makes sense for you as every couple is different. One tool I use is the Relationship Wheel (click here for a complimentary copy) which is like the Wheel of Life many people are familiar with. This can be individualized as well. You can use a rating scale for satisfaction or you could use smiley face stickers or thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways depending on your need to use more or less language. For those who like colour, use green, amber, red. Whatever. Pick something, agree on what is important for the relationship and determine how you’ll do the review and, most importantly, when/how often you will do the review. Put it in your schedule. Do it with the intent to understand and come up with solutions that create an even stronger “we”. Remember that in the same way we are looking for frequent, meaningful and relevant feedback at work, the same applies to a relationship – don’t wait until the annual review, deal with things as they occur. Also remember that positive acknowledgement works wonders!

At the same time, and on the opposite side of things, we also don’t always stop to acknowledge and celebrate what is going right. This is equally important. Find out what is really working for the relationship and see if you want to do more of that!

Assuming that things will never get tough and that you’ll always be able to just work it out if something comes up isn’t setting your relationship up for success. I don’t know anybody that hasn’t had complicated or challenging times or issues in their relationship. Do you?

For Relationship Coaching, including setting up agreements, contact me.

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