The Magic of Marriage Meetings
Habits Determine Happiness
One of the relationship reminders I use most often is “Your relationship HABITS will determine your relationship HAPPINESS.”
There’s no other habit that has made a bigger difference than the Marriage Meetings my husband and I have built into the fabric of our Couple Culture.
Timing Is Everything
My husband and I used to just squeeze in important, difficult, stressful or functional conversations whenever they popped into our mind. That was a recipe for disaster.
I’d wake up in the morning when my husband had already been up for a few hours and he’d have twenty questions ready to go while I was NOWHERE near ready to talk about ANYTHING let alone things like taxes, schedules or the to do list of the day.
By 9pm I’d be at the peak of thinking of life and next steps, but he was SPENT. I remember once asking him about my mom coming to visit and he just looked at me pleading to save it for another time.
Then we agreed that we would refrain from asking each other about these types of functional issues after 9pm or before 9am. 9am to 9pm were our “office hours”.
Yet there were plenty of times within that window of our “office hours” where it was STILL intrusive or problematic to have these important, yet stressful discussions.
We noticed that talking about these issues at any time they popped into our mind was causing unnecessary stress and not handling the issues in a helpful way. The conversations easily turned into conflict and were susceptible to escalating into an argument all too easily.
We knew we needed a better habit to handle the functional in life without it robbing us of the opportunity for being flirty, having fun and relaxing together.
We experimented with different times, various agendas and found what works for us. It’s been a journey of exploration that’s ultimately saved us a ton of time, stress and conflict.
Plan, Practice and Pivot
Now YOU know what works best for you, your marriage and your lives, so as you read through the options about the Magic of Marriage Meetings, don’t get overwhelmed by the options. Don’t take them all on. Pick and choose what seems like a helpful next step. Start small, explore and find your ideal flow for handling the functional and leaving yourselves time for flirty and fun to come in.
Topics with Tension
Part of the evolution of our Marriage Meetings was to identify which topics were off the table unless we had set out to talk about them intentionally and with BOTH of us ready to dive in. Topics we avoid unless we are in a Marriage Meeting include:
- Money - Debts, spending, taxes.
- Time - Scheduling, changes, invitations, travel or guests.
- Goals - Setting new ones, updates on others, how we’re doing in our relationship.
- Needs - Issues to resolve, complaints to air (or better, to translate into requests and next steps).
Make a list of what topics are off the table for outside of your meeting times. That may be different for each of you, Honor each other’s experience, perspectives, habits and desires.
Types of Marriage Meetings to Consider
While it may sound overwhelming and time consuming, the meetings listed below actually LOWERS our stress and SAVES us a lot of time - and heartache too!
While we’re not purists and we don’t weaponize our meetings or criticize ourselves or each other when they do not happen, we do keep leaning into this habit of only talking about certain topics at certain times.
Consider the variety of Marriage Meetings below and find what works for you and your beloved.
- Daily - Body Mind Heart Spirit / Marriage Mantra / 7 Needs
- Weekly - Time, Money and Goals
- Monthly - Relationship Report Card
- Quarterly - 90 Day Goals Setting Retreat plus sexy time date.
- Annually - State of Our Union / retreat for 5 year and 1 year goals. (Deep Dives - Calendar, Intimacy Anchor Manifesto.
- BONUS: Money Meetings - Can be done in any of the meetings above or can stand on their own.
These mini marriage meetings are more like quick check-ins. They ensure that we are 1. Intimately connected to each other. Intimacy = Into Me You See so knowing how we are each doing daily brings us closer together and 2. They can also provide insight into our own and each other’s current mood or state of mind.
When my husband and I come together for dinner after work, having a habit of a doing a temperature check lets us know how to move forward with our evening. Did one of us or BOTH of us have a tough day? Do one or both of us need some support or time alone?
We mix it up with the check-in models we use and when we use them, but try to use at least one of these check-ins daily.
- Marriage Mantra - We say our shared vision to each other, (we have it memorized) to take a moment to presence who we SAY we are as a couple.
- Body Mind Heart Spirit - We give a number score of 1-10 about how we feel we are doing in each of those four areas. You can either just give it a number or add a sentence or two about why.
- Needs - We do a quick assessment of our own needs and share those scores, (1-10) with our beloved. We like to use Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s model of the 7 core human needs - Connection, Honesty/Trust, Autonomy, Meaning/Purpose, Play, Peace and Physical Wellbeing.
None of these habits are meant to turn into a big discussion. They are intended to inform you of where your beloved is at, but not turn into 20 questions about WHY they feel that way.
As far as handling the functional in life so that you can enjoy the flirty and fun in your relationship, I find the weekly meetings to be the most meaningful.
Create a plan, experiment with it, then adjust your meeting agenda of what you talk about and when you meet.
Even though it took a good five years to really make the weekly Marriage Meetings with my husband an unconscious, just-who-we-are, Couple Culture habit, we kept experimenting little by little with when was a good time to talk about what.
We first learned what did NOT work and we ruled those times OUT. Nothing after 9pm or before 9am. Now years later, we’re even more intentional and Fridays at 10am is our weekly check-in to talk about the calendar, money and our relationship goals.
Even when you do succeed at making a weekly meeting habit, things can change, demands on your time can shift and so will the flow of how often you met. Last year was a great year with us making 80% of the meetings. This year we’ve been traveling a lot and are at 65%. We’re not upset about the drop. We just do our best to make as many of them happen as possible without getting crazy or controlling over when they don’t.
The three areas we have on our weekly agenda include:
- Time - Scheduling can be a big deal, especially if you have kids or other significant demands on your time. Getting on the same page about what is happening that week resolved a ton of conflict or misunderstandings.
- Money - This can be a hot topic and one that often seems easier to postpone. Flying blind about where we are and what we need can lead to unnecessary stress and conflict. 5-15 minutes for a quick check in of account status, upcoming expenses or income shifts is essential to use staying peaceful and in partnership.
- Goals - We set 90 day goals to bring our shared vision aka Marriage Mantra to life every quarter and year after year. Weekly we take 5-15 minutes to at minimum read our goals aloud and ideally discuss what should happen next and to schedule those actions into our calendars or reminders.
These are our agenda topics, but choose what is most important to you, your beloved and your relationship.
Our monthly meetings are more like a State of Our Union check-in. We take 2-3 hours to dive deeper into any topics not fully covered in our weekly meetings, but most importantly we review how we are doing as a couple. We call this our Sunday Sundra Reset Summit and follow a tool we created called the Relationship Report Card. (Stay tuned for a Masterclass on this tool live Dec 2002). We cover:
- An opening exercise to arrive, ground and connect us. We have 5-6 options we can choose from depending on our mood and how much time we have. We might say our vision/mantra, say our wedding vows, name 5 things we’re grateful for about our beloved or our relationship or do eye gazing for a few minutes.
- Scoring our relationship vision/mantra, our wedding vows, the 7 core human needs, etc. We don’t pressure ourselves to score them all, but do as many as we can in the time we have.
- A Goals Check in more depth than the weekly meetings. We play 90-Day Games for our goals so that’s only 3 times over 3 months to see how we’re doing and where we can do better.
- We will also do 1 of a choice of 3or 4 activities to Clear, Complete and Create. We check to see if there are any misunderstandings to clear up, any Rift Residue to get complete about or an argument we want to review to learn form and do better next time with an Argument Even Better Ifing exercise.
- We finish off with a Conscious Close to wrap up and close the container so the conversation feels complete and doesn't seep out later at inappropriate or unhelpful times.
- A BONUS round to invite us into making any public declarations, posting any reminders or prompts or any other activity to take what we SAID and turn it into ACTION.
On our tenth wedding anniversary my husband and I realized we had not been to a single trip with just the two of us since our honeymoon. We went to plenty of family visits, conferences, birthdays and weddings, but we were missing out on time just for us.
Plus we were trying to squeeze in setting our 90 Day Game goals here or there and not giving them the time they needed and deserved.
Now, every 90 days my husband and I do our best to get away for at least a few days to first review our goals, complete our 90 Day Game that’s ending and to create the next one.
We also use these retreats to spice things up with a sexy date to celebrate our efforts and build more connection. We know that it is all too easy to let sexy-time slip away to the back burner so we make sure that with every goal setting retreat we go on, at least one full day is devoted to passion and play. We call it our orgy for two. We purposely loose control, let ‘er rip and stretch our limits. We build deeper intimacy and cultivate having the best sex we’ve ever had.
These quarterly retreat agenda’s include:
- A review of the last 90 Day Game goals
- Creation of the next 90 Day Game goals
- A check in with our annual goals
- A playful passionate day for intimacy and sexiness
You may or may not be able to get away from your other responsibilities for a weekend. Sometimes even an hour seems like too much to spare. Specially if you are raising kids. Nevertheless, if you do not invest in intimacy and your shared purpose or goals with intention, you’ll end up paying the price later with distance between, conflict popping up regularly and important goals and dreams left to slip away.
Our annual Mariage Meetings are similar to the quarterly retreats except we dive deeper and take a more long term approach. We gove ourselves 4-5 days instead of 2-3. We take the time to look closer and go all the way through the biggest hurdles and hopes.
The priority is a look back at the year and then to review and edit our one and five year top level goals. We do a lot of the monthly and quarterly agenda items as well as fold in any deep dives about our calendar, intimacy, money or whatever other topic has been big for us in the last year that we want to move forward before we start a new year.
We do 3 days of “work” and planning then have TWO days for the passion and play time.
You may not be able to get away as much as you like due to time, money or other factors, but you can still do this at home or take on as many elements as you can. Use and adapt this to what works for you both.
Money is a topic that can become stressful enough that it warrants its’ own meeting time. My husband and I fold this topic into our weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings.
- Weekly we invest 5-15 minutes to check in on balances, expected income and expenses and any goals that need attention.
- Monthly give ourselves 60-90 minutes to review our goals and any specific needs or current hopes or hurdles in more depth.
- Quarterly we set new financial goals for the next 90 days.
- Annually we set goals for one, three and five years.
NOTE: There’s A LOT to be said about money meetings and how to make them magical. I could write a whole blog on just that and I will! In 2023 I’ll be partnering with Jennifer Love of the Living Wealthy Institute to bring you a PLAYbook and Masterclass on how to create and maintain a healthy and prosperous relationship to money with your beloved.
Top Tips For Making Meetings Magical
There is no right way to do this. Every couple is different in the preferred styles of learning, communication, connecting, growing and getting things done. Respect each other’s favorite flows. Lean into discovering the synergy between you. What works best for BOTH of you.
Here are a few key tips for making your Marriage Meetings magical.
- Start small and go slow. Pick a time and topic that works for both of you. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Build one habit and after that is a new Normal, THEN add in something new.
- Experiment. My former mentor used to say “How can you use and adapt this?” Try out some of the ideas above. Create your own meetings. Test them out and see what works best.
- No business in the bedroom! Once you’re in bed and your mind starts to run through all there is to do, DO NOT start something when you’re both trying to relax and rest.
- Create an agenda. Have a plan for your meetings. It’s easier to get where you’re going if you know where that is. An agenda clarifies your priorities and makes meetings more efficient and effective.
- Minimize distractions. Turn off your phones, make sure the kids are asleep or cared for and focus on the moment at hand.
- Follow your agenda. be committed, but not rigid. Sometimes you need to toss the guidelines out and just do what is most needed.
- Be committed, but not a purist. It’s awesome that you even aim to have Marriage Meetings. When they can’t happen, don’t mak yourself or your beloved wrong. It’s not about being perfect. It is about doing better.
- Refrain from weaponizing your meeting agreements. Don’t say, “You said we were going to…” Don’t pressure or criticize. Invite, inspire and enroll instead!
- Be prepared for things to change, evolve. Adapt as needed based on what you have going on, where you are and your interests.
- Honor each other’s time and timing. Find times and create agendas that work for BOTH of you.
Practice Your Plan
Build Marriage Meetings into the fabric of your day to day lives. You don't have to meet every day or even every week, but learning to save certain conversations for specific and intentional times can be a magic for your marriage.
Stop squeezing in important, difficult, stressful or functional conversations whenever they pop into your mind. Have a plan, practice it without expecting yourself or your beloved to be perfect about it and then enjoy the magic that Marriage Meetings can provide.
- Make a list of what topics are off the table outside of your Marriage
- Choose a day and time for your meetings whether those are daily, weekly,
monthly, quarterly or annually.
- Create a draft agenda that covers what you want to talk about.
- Refrain from talking about any of those topics until it is time for the meeting.
Put what you want to talk about in your notes to come back to.
- Have your meeting and follow your agenda.
- Review what worked and what could be even better next time.
Your Ally in Aiming for Awesome,
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