A couple of years ago, around the time that we only had two kids and life wasn’t too crazy yet, my husband approached me and asked if we could start having a marriage meeting. My first initial response was totally defensive, “What the heck is wrong with our marriage? I think we’re doing just fine, thank you very much.” It turns out that we were doing fine; he just wanted it to stay that way.
He read about something called a marriage meeting from the Art of Manliness (a pretty cool blog if the man in your life is looking for something to read), and so we decided to give it a shot.
What is a Marriage Meeting?
The premise behind a marriage meeting to make sure you’re on the same page with your spouse. We all live busy lives, and even though we think we are on the same page, we could both be reading totally different books. Time to get on the same page.
Ideally, you meet every week. This is an intentional meeting, which means not just while you’re hanging out binging on Netflix and chatting during those 30 seconds before the new episode comes on. It’s also not a family meeting—this is just between the two of you—and it’s intended to be somewhat structured.
If this becomes a weekly habit, you’ll only need about 30 minutes for it. Make notes throughout the week, and be prepared. Bring your planners/calendars, turn notifications off on your phone, turn off the TV, and be intentional to actually discuss things with your partner.
What You Need
This is what works for us, but find your own rhythm and see what works best for you. It is handy to have a few supplies on hand, just to make sure you have all your bases covered. Here’s what we use:
We pick a time when it’s just the two of us, so usually in the evenings after the kids are in bed, or this last time we actually met on a Sunday morning. Turn off the TV, and turn the phones on silent.
A Family Calendar.
Get a calendar that works for your lifestyle. They have large dry erase ones, or a flip or classic tear-off paper desk calendar (that we hang on the wall). By the way, keep an eye out in Target’s one-spot bins, because we’ve seen the desk calendars in there for $3 around the first of the year before.
Everything will go on this calendar, so make sure it has space for all the things, and is something you will use and will work for your family.
Writing everything in the same color isn’t just mundane and boring, but everything will blend into each other and nothing will stand out.
Every person in our family has a different color sharpie devoted to them, so if we want to see what I have in store for the month we can look for my color. If I want to see what day my daughter is doing something, I find her color. It just makes it more personalized, colorful, and more fun.
If you’re not a planner person, the calendar on your phone can work just fine, too. I prefer to have things written down. This is the one I’ve used for the past two years; I like that it’s compact enough that I can carry it in my purse, and I can still add everything I need to the pages. I used to be a huge fan of the Erin Condron planners, but they got too big and bulky for me. I’m very seriously considering trying this Day Designer planner for next year. I like that I can actually plan out my day, which could be handy with three kids.
My husband loves using the 18-month weekly calendar from Shinola, and he uses their Medium notebook that he makes into a makeshift bullet-journal. Just looking at it stresses me out, but…different strokes for different folks!
Find what works for you and roll with it. Other planners I’ve heard great things about: Simplified Planner,
Tell Me More!
So, if you think of this as an actual meeting, it’ll help to find the structure. There are four parts to a marriage meeting: Acknowledgement, To-Dos, Activities, and the Airing of Grievances.
Start your meetings off with something nice about the other person. Acknowledge something they did in the past week and show your appreciation out loud to them. This can go such a long way, because how often are you sitting in front of someone and they thank you?
Need some ideas?
- Thank you for doing the dishes that one day last week.
- Thank you for putting your plate in the sink last night.
- Thank you for taking out the trash*.
- I appreciated when you played with the kids so I could shower.
- Thanks for the sex even when I know you wanted to sleep instead.
- I appreciated that random, middle of the day phone call when you just wanted to say hi.
- You looked really good in those new jeans you wore on Sunday.
- You helped me do that one things that one day, and I really appreciated it.
A N Y T H I N G nice will do!
If you’re having one of those weeks and you just can’t think of a single thing, compliments really can go a long way. Thank your spouse for something they do that’s mundane and routine; finding the good in the little things is totally fine.
*As a family we’ve started clapping for the person who takes out the trash. Any time they come back inside the house, everyone claps for that person. Nobody ever wants to take the trash out, right? So this is a nice way to let them know that we see them doing the lame job, and we appreciate it.
This is the meat of the meeting…the stuff that has to get done. Bring your planner, your husband’s planner, a family calendar, your kids schedules, etc. But also think about things you need help with. Things that are stressing you out, and you may need a different plan to make it happen.
Yes, this is when you get in sync and make sure that your schedules are aligned and you’re not missing anything, but it’s also when you see what’s working and what isn’t.
Do you need help getting food on the table one night every week? Speak up and figure out a plan.
Is housekeeping getting a little out of control? Discuss your finances and see if hiring someone could be an option.
Is there a way to make something that’s frustrating you, less stressful if your spouse helps you out?
This is where you literally bring things to the table. Make notes throughout the week if you need help with something or if something isn’t working right, and figure out a new solution.
This category sort of goes with the to-do list above, but it’s so important to make sure you’re scheduling fun things, too. The to-dos above are the things that have to get done. Doctor’s appointments, kid’s sports practices, weekly commitments, etc. This section is for all the fun stuff.
Date nights (or morning dates, or day dates) are so important in a marriage. You certainly don’t have to do one every week, but try to plan for one night a month and get it on the calendar so you can make sure it happens. If you plan it out in advance, you’ll have time to find a sitter and actually follow through with it.
Family dates or one-on-one “dates” with your kids are important, too, so put that on the agenda. Don’t forget about “me” time or time with friends. You may think there aren’t enough hours in the month to do everything, but there is if you plan it out.
If you hold your tongue from really wanting to do something (by yourself, with friends, with the family, with your husband), you’ll resent it, and then your spouse will be blindsided when you explode in frustration from not getting to do it. Skip that step and bring it to the table.
Airing of Grievances.
I laughed while writing that title, because honestly, I think this is our favorite part. So here’s the deal: this isn’t a bash session, but it’s more like constructive criticism.
If there’s something bothering you, speak now! And it doesn’t have to specifically be about the other person.
Maybe something with one of your kids is upsetting you and you need a solution. Maybe you don’t like the way one of the schedules changed, or you’re unhappy with some sort of situation. Maybe you’d like more intimate time, or are frustrated with your finances and how money is being handled. Perhaps it annoys you that you’re in the kitchen cleaning up after you already made dinner instead of playing with the kids.
This isn’t meant to be a mean and hurtful part of the marriage meeting. It’s meant to open communication more and learn how to express what you’re feeling and thinking. If you’ve never done something like this before, then start small and start with more superficial things…keep the deeper stuff for the second or third meeting.
I mentioned that this is one of our favorite parts, because throughout the week if something is bothering us, we’ll actually say out loud that it’s going on our list of grievances, and that we’ll discuss it later. And you know what? We actually keep a list so we don’t forget.
Marriage Meeting’s Rock
How can you ever fix something or work on something if you don’t know that anything is wrong? We don’t live perfect lives, and we don’t have perfect families or marriages, so it’s always constant work. It makes sense to have a marriage meeting at least once a month to make sure all the parts are working together.
Even if you don’t hit every category above, just getting together to discuss life with your spouse is so beneficial not just to a marriage, but for your sanity and your families happiness.
Have you ever had a “marriage meeting” before? What does yours look like? If not, is this something you think you and/or your spouse would be onboard with trying out?