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How about a relationship meeting?

Many couples benefit from having a basic honest meeting about the relationship on a regular basis. This can just put things on the agenda that need to be acknowledged even if the solution is not clear or immediately apparent. I suggest a weekly or fortnightly session of a fixed time period – an hour is best with a set time and procedure. It should be at a time where both participants are alert and fully in adult mode. This means no alcohol, phones or children present. This is a relationship business meeting and should be conducted with attention and presence that conveys the commitment to the relationship.

 

The key principle for an effective relationship meeting is that there should be ample space for each party to raise concerns that they feel are important enough to discuss. There should be no dismissing or exclusion. The feeling should be curious, interested and receptive. For this process to work well it is essential that both parties feel a sense of emotional safety. Therefore this is not a forum for attack, criticism, defensiveness or denial. The feeling should be one of calm, openness and space. Accept that all issues may not be resolved but space can be made for issues to be raised, heard and acknowledged.

 

If you prefer you can develop a written agenda where each party can itemize the issues that they wish to discuss. These are issues that are causing some distress and that, in the view of either party, is resulting in relationship tension. The focus should be on openness and a desire to understand each other’s perspective even if a “solution” is not immediately forthcoming.

 

Many problems can be resolved by making the space to “air” them. Many times an immediate solution is not clear, however once the issue is tabled, then there is often an organic way that the issues be lightened and can help in developing a more productive understanding between the parties. It assists in increasing relationship “transparency” and therefore emotional intimacy.

 

If there is too much material for one session, schedule more. Allow at least a few days between sessions to allow for processing. There may be ongoing conflicts that you decide to keep out of this process to enable you to cover other topics.

 

It may be helpful to follow these steps in organizing the session:

 

1. Take an audit of your relationship since your last session. What have been the major points of tension and what went well? This is a chance to specify what you want more of and what you would prefer less of.  Are there issues that are being avoided?

 

2. Set the agenda. You might want to develop a rolling agenda covering issues that need attention – these can range from practical issues to interpersonal styles, points of sensitivity, big picture items – planning and general outlooks, goals, areas that need attention.

 

3. Discussion. Decide to take turns allow equal “air time”. When not talking listen attentively. Eliminate any interjections, talking over. When listening give non verbal cues of attention – that is a relaxed state whilst making eye contact with your partner.

 

4. Action steps can be recorded at the end of the session

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