October 14, 2021
We grow in relationship to others.
This is a simple, yet profound idea that holds a lot of truth.
If you prefer, you can also watch this article on YouTube.
This idea — that relationships are integral to growth — is perhaps nowhere more true than in our romantic relationships.
As someone who takes a sincere interest in self-development, I sometimes neglect to see how important relationships are to my personal growth.
That’s why I want to share a practice from my personal life that has been a bedrock of my relationship with my wife Claire this past year.
We call it our relationship meeting.
Quite simply, it's a meeting we hold to discuss our relationship.
Yes, we actually plan regular meetings to discuss our relationship, replete with an agenda, follow-ups, and a meeting owner.
Before you think, “Wow, these nerds!” or “This is just too much.”, hear me out.
At the heart of this practice is the idea that we need to proactively make space for the conversations that matter.
It can be so easy to sweep an annoyance or two under the rug until it builds up to something more serious. Equally, it can be easy to put off discussing a difficult conversation with your partner until it's too late, emotions are running high, and you land yourself in a fight.
Having a relationship meeting has given Claire and I the space to talk about bigs things and small things that might escape our everyday conversations.
Let's take a look at where this idea came from.
The idea for this ritual came from Claire's family background. Growing up, whenever her family would have a disagreement, her mom would bring everyone together for a little "family chat."
Each family member would get a chance to share their side of the story, and even when things got heated, it almost always ended in the fam hugging it out and feeling better about whatever issue was at stake.
When Claire told me about these chats, I thought it would be a fun experiment to bring into our relationship. When I suggested this, Claire was excited and took the reins, drawing up our first agenda and leading the meeting.
Our first relationship meeting was in the early months of our courtship, and now here we are, married and (working on) living happily ever after. :)
Relationships take work. Whoever thinks that "chemistry" will sustain an intimate, long-term relationship is in for a surprise.
But even though many of us we recognize that honest truth, it can be easy to just sit back and hope your relationship will strengthen organically on its own.
We put so much effort into our jobs, our livelihoods, staying fit, practicing our sport, etc. but can we say the same about our partnership?
Creating space to connect on a deeper level and speak about your fears, goals, challenges, and concerns feels great, but we found it doesn't happen enough without some effort.
That's why proactively making time for this type of conversation is crucial.
We use our meeting as a space to talk about the important thing that get missed in day-to-day life.
It's a space where we share heartfelt compliments that might not otherwise be said out loud.
It's a space where we feel comfortable airing a small annoyance with each other that might evolve into something uglier.
It’s a space where we share personal reflections, goals we’re working towards, and areas we’d like each other’s support on.
It’s a space where we dream about our future and make forward-looking plans (or at least try to...damn you corona).
It's a space for you to bring to light anything and everything you'd like.
I believe it’s helped us nip small issues in the bud, while also dive deeper into the dreams and fears that each of us hold.
Let's take a look at how it actually happens.
To start with, you can design the meeting however you like! We are constantly changing and iterating on our structure, and I'd encourage you to experiment with your own version.
For us, we've found that having a short agenda is helpful. Not only does it guide the conversation, and helps us make sure we have a balance of topics, it also gives us discussion prompts that we reflect on privately beforehand, so we can come feeling prepared and like we've given the topics some time and thought.
Personally, I love to walk to some woods nearby with my journal the day or two before, and just free-write about the prompts and see what emerges.
Generally speaking, we'd recommend you try to keep a regular cadence. Every month might be a lot, but waiting 3-4 months between meetings feels long. So we'd suggest aiming for once every 1-2 months.
We take turns creating the agenda, and always are improving it and adding new conversation questions as they come up.
Finally, we try to take a few notes during the meeting to remember what happened and to capture some of the ideas that came up that we'd like to pursue.
Let's take a look at some questions you could use.
We try to strike a balance between positive discussion points and more critical ones. You don't want to spend the whole critiquing your partner, but equally, you don't want to shy away from the sticky, tough issues that exist.
Here are a few conversation starters that have worked well for us:
What's more important than the content of the conversation is the quality, so remind yourself to listen fully and give the gift of attention to your partner.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw
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