Updated: Apr 11, 2022
When we enter relationships, we tend to fall into routines or patterns.
This is particularly true in the way that we communicate with each other.
Unfortunately, some of those patterns are negative and far from relationship-building.
In our couples therapy work, we emphasize proactive communication between partners.
And the best way to do that is through weekly State of the Union conversations.
This type of communication:
is open, intentional, and explicit.
prevents problems from festering.
is effective at helping couples stay ahead of issues that may arise.
You're probably wondering...
What is a State of the Union conversation?
Well, it's a relatively short conversation of about 15 minutes that partners in a romantic relationship have every week.
During these conversations, partners can share their real feelings and thoughts about the state of their relationship.
What format should these intentional check-ins take?
Here's what we advise the couples in our therapy sessions to do...
Step #1: "What I love about you..."
Start off by telling each other 5 things that you appreciate about your partner. Maybe it's something they did recently that made you feel loved and connected. Or maybe it's a quality they have that you respect and admire. Regardless, you're going to want to reference your partner's character.
So for example, instead of saying, "What a great salad you made for dinner yesterday," you could rephrase it as, "Loved the salad yesterday. You were creative and resourceful when you thought to add nuts and berries to it from our garden!"
By complimenting your partner about how creative and resourceful they were, you show that you admire those character traits that they possess.
Step #2: "Here's where I think we're struggling..."
Here's where each of you can discuss unresolved issues from the past week. Often, when we talk about problems, we discuss what the person didn't do, or what we didn't like.
We advise our couples to rephrase this into the affirmative about what you do need and what you would like.
Please note, this step can generate conflict. If it does, perhaps check out some of our posts on how to handle conflict, like this one.
Step #3: "Here's how I can try to be a better partner to you..."
Ask one another, "How can I be a better partner to you throughout this coming week?"
This reminds us that relationships are a work in progress, and the goal isn't to get it perfect, but rather to keep trying. Trying to show our partner we're committed to our relationship. And trying to show them how much we care about them.
Wait a sec... What if we don't solve anything during the State of the Union convo?
The point of these check-ins is just that... To check in with our partner. To hear them. To try to absorb what they're saying without getting defensive or needing to immediately find a solution.
That said, if an issue does come up that needs solving, you can attempt to do that the following day. It's best to tackle those larger issues outside of the State of the Union convo. Ideally, with a therapist present.
Want to go deeper into learning more about State of the Union conversations as well as other communication tips that can improve your same-sex relationship and make it last?