As a couples therapist, "communication" is cited as the number one reason couples come to therapy. Often one or both partners feels under-appreciated, unsupported, unloved, not seen/heard, or unimportant.
In our other relationships, for example with friends or family, our sole purpose is to connect. We get together to do something, to talk, to go somewhere fun. Connection is baked into the fabric of the relationship because whenever we're hanging out, we're connecting. When we're talking, we're connecting. For couples, though, especially after moving in together or having kids, the sole purpose is NOT connection - it's logistics. We get together to clean, we converse about picking up the kids or who's going to do what when. It's not fun, not sexy, and DEFINITELY not connecting.
There's one tool that can help couples START to spend a little bit of time focusing on each other and showing up compassionately for each other. It's called the Emotional Check In and couples report that it helps a whole lot. I must have picked it up from somewhere but I've made it "my own" and now I send almost every couple I treat the pdf version of this tool.
The emotional check in does some unique things. It helps YOU to assess what you're bringing into the time you're about to spend with your partner. It lets your partner know how you're doing, physically and emotionally. And it allows you and your partner to actively support each other, thereby improving your relationship in so many ways.
How it works:
BEFORE you engage with your partner:
Do a self-assessment. How am I doing? Check 4 things: My body. Am I tight or in pain anywhere? My thoughts. Are they mostly positive, negative or neutral? The events of the past 24 hours (or something from the past that you're still thinking of). Did anything stressful or exciting happen? Is there anything I'm holding on to from the events of the day? How did I sleep? What am I appreciative of today?
When you see your partner:
Say "Hi. This is how I am" rather than "Hi, how are you?". Give a number between 1-10 (1 being the worst, 10 being the best). Summarize your check in: "I'm not doing the best right now. I have some muscle pain and I'm having a lot of negative thoughts about work right now. If I seem distant or short, it's not because of you, but I'm going to try to make sure that doesn't happen! Something good that happened is_______ or What I appreciate today is______"
Reflect back, mirror back what you heard (this doesn't mean you agree or disagree, it means nothing about your opinion at all! You're simply saying "what I heard you say is..."). Ask them if you got it, and if there's more. Then you do your own emotional check in, and your partner will reflect back.
Validation makes us feel good! If you can celebrate with them or share an "I'm sorry you're having a rough day, want a hug?" or something else you know helps your partner feel loved, you will build connection & trust, and your partner will feel like you have their back.
Try this and let me know how it goes!