At the beginning of every new year, most of us sit down and make a list of what we want to accomplish or change for the coming year. We also take time to review the year behind us, the ups and downs, and sometime marvel at how much we have accomplished.
However, very few of us sit down with our partner to review our relationship and make resolutions or goals concerning our relationship for the year to come. Doing a "relationship check-up" can give you the opportunity to have more intimate conversation with your partner and check the vitals of your relationship.
Where to Start
The easiest place to start is to share your reflections about your own life with your partner. Under ideal relationship conditions, you would already be fully aware of one another’s current hopes, goals, and most importantly, life dreams. But the rush of every day always seems to get in the way. The jobs, kids, extended family, and other challenges life throws our way. So instead of plunging into an intense conversation, how about preparing yourself by just sticking a toe into the water first?
The perfect way to start would be a more lighthearted Q&A session like this one from Psychology Today that will let you deepen your connection. So make some popcorn, brew up a pot of coffee or hot cocoa, get cozy with your partner, and just talk.
The following exercise is provided by The Gottman Institue and is based on research completed separately by psychologists Judith Wallerstein and Dr. John Gottman. Please note that this questionnaire is intended to be psychoeducational. If you would like a full evaluation of your relationship, feel free to contact me or schedule an appointment online.
Read each statement below and circle either T for “true” or F for “false” to gain a sense of the strengths in your relationship and the opportunities for improvement in 2018.
1. Relationship with family members
- Our families visit when invited. T F
- Their visits are satisfying. T F
- I enjoy speaking with family members by phone. T F
- Family members give advice when they are asked. T F
2. Identity as a couple
- You feel loyal toward each other. T F
- You listen carefully to each other. T F
- You know each other’s histories. T F
- You pay attention to each other’s moods and body language. T F
- You share your thoughts and feelings. T F
- You allow each other privacy when asked and respect it. T F
- You respect each other as separate, autonomous people. T F
3. Children and your relationship
- The best gift you can give your child is a strong relationship between the two of you. T F
- You try to stay in touch with each other emotionally and nurture your relationship. T F
- You set aside time every week for the two of you to spend time alone together. T F
4. Relationship challenges
- You never blame each other for the stress that comes with a crisis. T F
- You face difficult times as a team. T F
- You look for ways to support each other emotionally. T F
- You help each other keep your perspective when there is a crisis. T F
- You seek support during times of crisis (talking to friends, family, seeing counselor). T F
- You have had serious conflicts, but they haven't permanently damage your relationship. T F
- You respect the other person’s right to stand his or her ground. T F
- You find anger uncomfortable, but you accept that is it healthy to express in a safe way. T F
- You call a timeout when your emotions escalate. T F
- You know how to calm yourselves down. T F
- You take care to speak and listen non-defensively. T F
- You validate the other person’s point of view, even when you disagree with it. T F
6. Sexual intimacy
- You sometimes have different levels of sexual needs, but you make room for each other’s changing levels of desire. T F
- You are honest with each other about your changing sexual desires and feelings. T F
- You make time for your sexual relationship. T F
- You have fun together. T F
- You make each other laugh. T F
- You find each other interesting. T F
- You each have your own interests that you pursue on your own. T F
8. Emotional connection
- It is okay to be vulnerable when you are with your partner. T F
- You understand each other. T F
- You encourage each other. T F
- You pay attention to each other’s moods and respond when the other seems needy. T F
- You have good memories of when you fell in love with your partner. T F
- You are glad to be growing older with your partner. T F
10. Affection and admiration
- You show affection for each other. T F
- You apologize for the hurtful things you may say or do. T F
- You show each other empathy. T F
- You are polite to each other. T F
SCORING: Give yourself 1 point for each “true” answer.
20 or above: Congratulations! There are a lot of strengths in your relationship. Remember that prevention is much more effective that intervention, so make sure to keep your relationship a priority this year.
Below 20: You have some opportunities to improve your relationship. I recommend reading, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work".
Congratulations! You have done some really hard work in evaluating the health of your relationship. Hopefully you have gained a greater understanding of your partner and the ups and downs of your relationship.
Now you can set some goals or resolutions for improving your relationship this new year. After you decide on your resolutions, make sure you discuss how you will measure the results of your work toward your mutual goals. I recommend revisiting them on a regular basis so you can stay on target throughout the year.
Jennifer Tougaw is a couples counselor in Denver, Colorado. She helps couples reconnect and change the way they move through time together.