The Weekly "Meeting" Every Married Couple Needs To Have

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Taking time to talk things out really does resolve and prevent conflict.

Communication is key. We've all heard this. And though many of us want to put it into action, it's hard to know how in the context of day-to-day life.

I have a solution: regular weekly meetings. Make it a standing date. Separate this time from your routine, take a step back, and discuss the state of the relationship — for couples, families, even work partners and friends. You'll enhance cooperation, tolerance, and rationality, and defuse conflicts as soon as they arise. Or you'll have a chance to talk about problems, resentment, and frustration before they ever get a chance to build. It will make a tremendous difference in the emotional atmosphere of any relationship.

When you have a regular chance to talk about what’s going on in the relationship, problems, resentment, and frustration don’t get a chance to build. If you have children, every member of your family has a right to have his or her opinions respected. You don’t have to agree or go along with what your child or spouse wants, but you should at least know what it is, and your child should know why you’re overriding his or her preferences. Regular meetings, where everyone, including the children, expresses feelings, negative and positive, and all of you work together to solve the problems, can help a lot.

For relationships and families that are already established, it might feel a bit awkward to begin the meetings at first. But it's important to include everyone, and allow them to each be heard. Order pizza, or cook a meal together, consider beginning the session with a brief prayer or blessing and a round of compliments.

Try having everyone at the meeting express these three things to the group:

1. Gratitude.

Each person states a positive thing about every other person in the family — preferably something that has happened that week. For example, "I really appreciate how much you helped me this week when you knew I had a deadline at work." Or, "I noticed that you made a big effort to keep the kitchen clean." Or, "Thank you for your sense of humor. It really helps when you make me laugh when I’m getting too serious." Be sure to thank the person after praising them. If you follow a religious tradition, you can open the meeting by giving thanks in the manner of your faith.

2. Things that can be improved upon.

Each person then mentions one thing they want to improve, and what they want to do to make it better. Small children will need help until they understand, but they will catch on quickly. 

3. Problem-solving.

If anyone has a problem to solve, he or she can describe it, and then ask for help from the group to solve it. The rule is that, in order to bring up a complaint, you must have a suggestion for a solution, even if you don’t think it’s the best possible solution. Everyone can work together to try and solve the dilemma. Be careful not to allow the description of the problem to deteriorate into criticism and complaining. To state a problem use matter-of-fact terms, and use "I" messages: "I get discouraged and frustrated when the house gets messy." "I need to come up with some money to fix the car." "I have a problem at school."

This simple meeting will do more for the state of your intimate or family relationship than you can imagine. If you fill your "relationship reservoir" with good feelings, forgiveness, support, honesty, appreciation, caring, affection, emotional intimacy (and sexual intimacy where appropriate,) you build up a backlog of good will and affection and your memories will be warm and mutually admiring. If you fill it with coldness and dissatisfaction, you’ll have a reservoir of resentment and disdain.

Each time your relationship makes demands on you as a result of major problems and stress, you will draw on your relationship reservoir. If you have built up a supply of good feelings and goodwill with your daily interaction, you’ll cheerfully give what’s asked of you. If not, whatever’s asked will seem like too much to give.

I wish you a reservoir overflowing with warmth and good feelings — the true guarantee of a lasting relationship.

Find more tips like these in Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage

 For low-cost counseling, you can email Tina at tina@tinatessina.com.

This article was originally published at Dr. Romance Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.