My wife and I – following the advice here – have been holding a weekly ‘marriage meeting’ for several months now. I’d like to share how that has worked for us. I’d definitely recommend it to any married couples, but especially young married couples who are learning to live with each other. Marriage is not dating, even if you lived with your boyfriend or girlfriend. The horizons are much longer and the integration of your finances and families much closer, and therefore the responsibility much higher.
The point is to have habitual meetings where you and your wife can talk about all sorts of things in order for your relationship to run more smoothly. This covers everything that might come up – budgeting questions, whether to go to that party next Friday, and issues between you as a couple. It’s a chance to make sure things you want to do have a plan, and that things you should probably talk about get brought up before they become a big problem. The meeting itself does not have to be long. Instead of resolving every issue here, you can set aside time to discuss once it’s been brought up.
I’ll be honest, we felt awkward about it at first. It can feel weird to have the same kind of check-in you may have with your team or your boss at work in your personal life. But a marriage is a full partnership, which means in all the practical concerns as well as in the romance, so it makes a lot of sense. It still felt weird, though. We had to find ways to get through the awkwardness at first. I think that it’s been worth it. It gives us a chance to touch base on important things before they become problems, to appreciate each other, and to remember to have fun together. It’s corny but it’s practical.
First, the structure. The meeting happens every week and is divided into four parts that give different opportunities for discussion. To make it less awkwardly serious at first my wife gave them weird names we always share a drink while we do it. As such, the overall meeting is called the “Ceremony of Matrimonial Harmony” and the four parts have similarly tongue-in-cheek names.
The Toasting of the Virtues: This section always goes first. It is a chance for us to say something that we are thankful for or admired about the person during the week. The rule is that you have to say something, even if you’ve said the same thing before. Sometimes you feel pretty dumb because there is nothing new to say – “thanks for doing the dishes, honey” – and sometimes it is a profound expression of appreciation for your partner. But either way being grateful for each other is an important habit to cultivate and saying so is a good way to start the meeting off on a note of appreciation and cooperation in case there are harder topics to discuss later.
Mission Briefing: This section is for discussions or heads up on practical and/or long-term issues. This is where we talk about things like the budget, home repair, or job searches that will affect us as a couple. We make plans for the future. This often includes making plans to have a separate, more in-depth conversation for more complicated projects. This section of the meeting is important because sometimes chores get divided according to ability or interest – such as one spouse being much more involved in the finances – and this section gives the other spouse the opportunity to learn what is going on so they are part of the important decisions. This buy-in can be important for reducing conflict or misunderstanding down the road! The meeting is also a motivating deadline of sorts. You want to make progress on these things because you know it will come up in the next meeting.
The Planning of the Revels: This section is for planning fun events, especially short-term events. We talk about going hiking, or whether we’ll meet the friends at the bar, or invite people over for dinner this week, or plan a date together. We also might talk about anything we’re planning to do individually that will take some of our time. I’ve found it’s a nice way to remember to make time to enjoy ourselves if we are making a plan in this meeting and then have to acknowledge in the next one if it didn’t happen.
The Airing of the Grievances: This is our chance to talk about anything that’s bothering us. You can vent about something outside the marriage here if you need to, but it’s especially an opportunity to raise issues within the couple – whether that’s chores that didn’t get done, to emotional issues, to whatever. You want to get comfortable with the idea that things aren’t perfect and it’s OK for either of you to point out something that’s wrong. It’s important to understand that working on problems is part of a mature relationship. Having this place where there is the expectation that you say something – and if you didn’t say something nothing exists – helps keep from hiding things that will be more of a problem later or cause hidden resentment. Like the Mission Briefing, if there is a big issue here you can set aside time to talk later once the ice has been broken.
We’ve been following the template above for months now and don’t see a major need to change it. We are definitely going to keep doing this and make it a marriage tradition.
Give it a try!