Long-term, committed relationships can be tough. Co-existing with another complicated human doesn't come without its challenges. This is not a knock on commitment; rather, it's a reminder that, as with all good things, long-term relationships require consistent care and maintenance. But maintaining healthy communication doesn't have to be as hard as you might think.
Implementing one simple strategy of a 10-minute talk at the end of every day, will provide the awareness and attention needed to keep things running smoothly and deepen your connection with each other. Sure, it sounds simple, but taking care of your relationship often is. Taking the time every single day to set up a dedicated daily check-in practice, will cause transcendent ripple effects in your relationship.
Improve Communication – How it works…
Typically we don't communicate with our partners outside the day-to-day small talk, until something has gone wrong, and by that point, many of us are not communicating very well. Creating and abiding by a daily end-of-day conversation ritual, means intentionally setting aside a time and place to reconnect every evening and to share how your day went and how you’re both feeling.
This is not a time to bring up current relationship conflicts. Instead, this talk should give you and your partner the space to chat about whatever else is on your mind or in your heart outside of the relationship. This is a time for you to express compassion and empathy for your partner's feelings and thoughts without judgment. It's an opportunity to “be on your partner's side” in all areas of life without the pressure of discussing conflicts between the two of you.
Clinical psychologist John Gottman, Ph.D., of The Gottman Institute, refers to these daily talks as “deposits” in a couple's emotional bank account. There will likely always be withdrawals throughout the relationship: times when we interrupt, snap back, or shut down. But if you intentionally make time to deposit love and energy back into your relationship and one another, you'll find both of your emotional banks often balance out.
Your evening conversations don't have to be complicated or drawn out. In fact, they can simply be referred to as “How was your day?” conversations—in other words, short, connected check-ins that ensure you both feel heard and supported.
That being said, a little bit of structure goes a long way in ensuring that your end-of-day check-in doesn't become another task on your to-do list—one that you get to begrudgingly and half-heartedly, if you get to it at all.
Here are five guidelines to make sure your daily conversations are truly effective at increasing communication, deepening your connection, and solidifying your long-term commitment.
1. Connect intentionally every day
Before you begin your end-of-the-day chat, I'd recommend making some agreements to bring clarity and importance to your unspoken expectations.
First of all, agree on the timing. Try scheduling your talk for an exact time, such as the immediate 10 minutes after you both get home, or another easy-to-remember interval in your day. Some people want to connect the moment they walk in the door; others (myself included!) need to decompress on their own before they're ready to engage. Agree on a time that you both feel good about.
Secondly, be intentional about having the end-of-day conversation even when you are tired. When my husband and I are especially tired (we have a 19-month-old son!), we like to lie on the bed facing one another, hold hands, and talk casually for those few precious minutes we've agreed to spend together. Then we go on with our evening.
2. Be present
When you ask “How was your day?” make sure you're in a space to hear the answer. It's easy to think that if you've asked a question and your partner has answered (or vice versa), then you've checked communication off your relationship to-do list.
Truly communicating with your partner requires deep presence—not done while watching TV, cooking dinner, or disciplining the kids. As they are speaking, pay close attention to the emotions they're conveying so you can follow up another day and help them unpack the experiences they shared.
3. Ask the right questions
Asking questions lets your partner know you are present and interested in what your partner has to say. Genuine curiosity about their day and expressing that interest through open-ended questions invites them to dive deep. When you present questions that require thoughtful and engaged responses, you show your partner that you truly care about connecting more deeply with them—and you may even learn a thing or two!
4. Focus on connection, not conflict
I always recommend leaving conflict off the table in your daily check-ins. That's not to say you should avoid tough conversations; but try to make your daily check-in a sacred space. Make this a space to share in each other's worlds outside of your relationship. Focus on how you can be empathetic toward one another's daily lived experience—whether that's inside or outside of your relationship.
Welcome all of their thoughts and feelings. This talk is a space to vent about anxiety or stressors, big and small. You should also allow this space to be a place of celebration if you have a win at work or as a parent. Beyond discussing concerns, a relationship is also about sharing and celebrating the meaningful victories of life together.
5. Take turns listening
Finally, remember that this is a conversation; for as much as I encourage you to ask questions, this is a two-way street. Make sure you both have an opportunity to share openly about what is going on for you and to feel supported. When it's your turn to share, be open and honest.
When it's your partner's turn, practice active listening. Engage fully in not only what they are saying but to the overall message they're communicating with body language, tone, emotion, etc. Give your partner your full attention—and you’ll garner the same in return.
Taking 10 minutes to check-in and share with your partner every day might not seem like a revolutionary relationship tool, but when put into practice, the results are transformative.
This daily check-in is an opportunity to not only connect with your partner and unwind; it's a simple way to remember and grow the love that you share. By making it a daily practice that you both commit to show up for, you'll find that you're connecting and communicating so much better over time— both in good times and in bad.