Relationships

How Not to Kill Your Partner (Just Kidding)

Weekly Relationship Ritual

One night a few months back, my boyfriend and I told one of his friends about our impending move in together…

Our friend’s eyes grew wide, as though we had just announced we were planning to scale Everest.

“Living with someone can be…” he trailed off, searching for the right word. “Challenging.”

He told us that when he and his wife first moved in together, it was not without speed bumps. One person would silently stew or else blow up over something the other person didn’t even realize was an issue. After a number of such incidents, they instituted something they call House Meeting, which is a dedicated time each week when both people sit down to air grievances, share anything that came up that week, and generally check in about how everyone is feeling. He said it was a godsend.

“What I’ve found is that when you put a little distance between the thing that pissed you off and the time when you talk about it, you realize it’s not actually that big a deal,” he said. “It forces you to sit and process before you react. And because you know there will be a time to talk about everything, you don’t stew in the meantime.”

Fast forward a few weeks, when we had completely forgotten about our friend’s suggestion. Cue everyone sulking around thinking things like: Why was that rice pot still soaking in the sink? How hadn’t we realized that we keep completely different hours? Why didn’t I seem more appreciative that he had sold or donated pretty much all of his “wagon wheels?”

But then, we remembered our friend’s advice. In our household, I have re-named it Weekly Board Meeting, so coined because it allows me to justify “catering,” AKA snacks. Everything is better with snacks.

Having that time set aside makes it feel like communication is a priority, like drinking water or paying the electric bill. In a world riddled with busy schedules, dirty dishes, et al., it saves us from ourselves.

In self-help books and therapists’ offices across the land, the idea of a weekly meeting has been circulated under the banner of a “weekly review,” a “marriage meeting,” a “family check-in” — even a “radical truth conversation.” But the name matters not. Make up your own name! Build your own ritual around it! One friend finds it helpful to have relationship conversations while taking a walk. The more authentic it feels to you, the better. I am simply here to say, it works.

Do you have any relationship rituals? Or ways that help you communicate? We’d love to hear.

P.S. Five words that changed my relationship and 11 women share the advice they’d give their younger selves.

(Photo from Crazy Rich Asians.)

  1. Libby says...

    Something that has helped my husband and I was learning to let go of the idea of 50-50 when it comes to cooking/cleaning/child caring. Early on in our marriage we would often argue about division of labour, but after some illnesses, rough pregnancies, job changes etc it dawned on us that life will always be filled with seasons where one person may be able to bring more to the table than the other. We’ve found that respecting and appreciating what each other does (and making a point of showing and verbalising gratitude) is far more important than always dividing duties equally. Working together to shift our focus from ‘how much is he/she doing’ to ‘whats the best I can give with what I’ve got right now’ was a real game changer for us!

    • Katie Wood says...

      Best marriage advice I’ve heard, from a guy who had been married for 60 years, was basically this. He said – the secret is to pick up the slack when the other is struggling, and know that they will do the same for you.

    • M says...

      Font too small to read

  2. Alyssa says...

    Communication is so important when it comes to your situation

  3. Christy says...

    Super late here but the thing that has been a total game-changer for me is assuming the best in my husband before I get mad. This is kind of the next step after “the story I’m telling myself” which I also 100% recommend using. Not only to I frame something as the story I’m telling myself, I also try to think about what my husband’s story might be if I assumed he was coming in with the absolute best intentions.

    Whenever I get annoyed or think he’s intentionally being a jerk or feel upset, I take a moment and ask myself “What would be the nicest spin I could put on this?” and think about where he might be coming from. Even putting myself through this thought exercise is a really helpful way to think about him as a human being who means well, rather than a monster who is hell-bent on making me upset.

    • jdp says...

      i can really, really use this advice right now. thank you, thank you, thank you.

  4. Yes! My husband and I have done this since we started living together; we’ve always called it Family Meeting. It used to be solely about budget guidelines and saving attempts for a house and we did it monthly!

    We are still doing it 5 years (and 2 kids and a house later) but now it includes everything from expensive purchases we wanna save for, home renovation priorities (or tattoo priorities, lol), kids stuff like preschool or lessons, our own career goals, budget, division of chores, airing of grievances, hopes and dreams, whatever we’ve got goin’ on or need to address. We pour some wine and spend over an hour chatting and then we know we’re on the same page for anything that comes up. I still remember the Family Meeting when we planned our elopement, or the ones when we decided we were ready to try for another kid! We discussed it, factored it into our budget, and scheduled going off the pill. Ha! Sounds very unromantic but we love to plan. In a few years when our kids are older (they’re only 1 and 3) we plan to include them so they can air their grievances with us and throw out some ideas, too! We want them to feel heard and to give ourselves a platform to explain to them why we make some of the decisions we do.

    I keep minutes for each monthly meeting and we have them in a shared Dropbox. Man, we’re geeks! But it sure works, especially in those early days of living together, marriage, and new parenthood.

    • Ali says...

      I think I love you!

  5. Tara says...

    I am really late to the game here but my aunt passed on a piece of advice to me from early in her marriage. It was one of their first Christmases together and my uncle decided to trim off branches of the tree inside and sap was dripping everywhere. My aunt was understandably annoyed but paused and told herself, “I choose to be pleasant about this.” I stop and think of that so many times. (And sometimes proceed angrily, in my lesser moments but it has helped many times in 12+ years of marriage.)

    • jdp says...

      this brings up a question i was thinking of asking — does anyone else out there fight MORE with their partners around the holidays? we had one today in the midst of all the holiday decorating/cookie making/kid excitement/hosting ….we’ve learned to notice this upped tension and try to be kind, but…sure wish i had other strategies for this time of year especially. does anyone know what i’m talking about and maybe have any advice?

  6. Mindi says...

    Oh, my gosh, this could not have come at a better time. I got so annoyed at my husband this morning for not refilling the dish soap. It’s a small thing, and as I type it seems so petty…but I pointed out to him that there are so many tiny things I do all week that add up (like buying and refilling dish soap) and it just finally boiled over and annoyed me. Of course this led to a fight…clearly it’s time for us (after 15 years?!) to institute the airing of the grievances!

  7. Heather Bonner says...

    We call it Air Your Grievances (ala Seinfeld). Even our daughters are involved. It is amazingly refreshing to everyone to say our frustrations out loud. It is especially helpful during stressful times like holidays or when we had a house fire.

  8. Elle says...

    We call it our annual “state of the union” conversation. No televised audience, no promises about the tax code, just us trying to be a better version of ourselves, together.

    • Alex says...

      Now that we have a baby we try not to disagree/argue in front of her. So we text the grievances. It is so much better – it makes us moderate what we say. Fewer escalations to pettiness, gets the point across.

  9. Courtney says...

    I love this idea! In thinking it out, I’m wondering – do you refrain from talking about the things that bother you in the moment throughout the week?

  10. Carrie says...

    Got this from an instagram follow, and it’s been really helpful in guiding our days: each morning, we ask each other, “how can I bless you today?” and “how can I pray for you today?” (You can obviously omit the latter if not religious). These simple questions help us show love to each other, but they also help us communicate our most important needs for the day!

  11. Melissa Stark says...

    My husband and I have followed the weekly he found here: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-and-why-to-hold-a-weekly-marriage-meeting/

    He brought it up when we were dating and it’s been a ritual every Saturday morning.
    The four parts help us structure it:
    1. Appreciation
    2. Chores
    3. Plan for Good Times
    4. Problems & Challenges (We’ve renamed “The Airing of Grievances”)

    One key addition, sit next to each other somewhere comfy and start/end with a kiss. It’s been a great thing for us!

    • MCE says...

      I love this! We always hold it on our couch so it feels relaxed. Also, because we wait to air our grievances, we wind up laughing about them! It builds intimacy!

  12. I think if you’re not working on your stuff as individuals and a couple, then living together just magnifies what needs to be sorted out. If you’re taking care of your mind, heart and issues, living with your person can be the most glorious experience even if there’s tension.

    My fiancé and I moved into a floating home a year and a half ago and it’s been truly lovely. It was our entrance into living together and we were dating at that time.

    There’s a book called We Do written I think by Stan Atkin that might be one of the best relationship books. We Do is something you read together so to elicit what needs to be sorted to ensure shit doesn’t show up down the road simply because it’s easier to avoid pain vs. turn into it.

    Hope this helps ❤️

  13. Sarah says...

    My parents always had weekly check-ins and monthly budget meetings, and my husband and I have chosen to follow suit. It helps to make sure we’re on the same page, especially now that we have a child and stay so busy. We can feel like ships passing in the night sometimes, so it helps to have this time set aside to just catch up. Also, we live and die by the shared Google calendar. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not happening. Major lifesaver.

    • Ari says...

      Monthly budget meetings have been so key to our relationship!

  14. MCE says...

    I love our meeting! My husband and I meet every week – either on Saturday or Sunday. We have an agenda (it’s a shared iPhone note). The agenda is:
    Finances (weekly spending, big spending obligations, savings goals, general budget), calendar (appointments, work schedule, paperwork, chores for day off), meal planning, and marriage (needs for the week, grievances, and future plans/thoughts).

    It helps us stay organized and on the same page! It’s amazing.

  15. L N says...

    Yet another CupofJo post where I wish I could “Like” the comments and refer back to them for years to come! Instead, I’ve copy/pasted some of my favorites in an email. Thanks for the thoughtful tip Caroline & commenters! <3

    • Haleigh says...

      I love this idea! How can we save these brilliant conversations?!

    • Em says...

      Yes, please! I would absolutely LOVE a way to “like” CofJ comments.

    • Megan Raitano says...

      @Haleigh, I highlight anything I want to save and then click on the Google Keep chrome app. It will collect all of your selected clips in one place where you can search them later AND you can choose multiple clips on a page.

  16. Ari says...

    We don’t have a weekly meeting of this kind (that just doesn’t work for us), but after several early arguments, we discussed what would fully be under each person’s purview and agreed not to micromanage the other about how they accomplish things. So, for instance, my husband is responsible for cleaning the cat litter and surrounding areas. It is NEVER as clean as I want it to be or as clean as it would be if I did it, but ultimately, I’m not the one doing it and I need to trust him and his methods and keep quiet! We’re more or less project managers of the things that work best for us (I’ve got folding laundry and dishes in my bucket, because those are in my wheelhouse). This division of labor extends to child-rearing stuff, too. So for instance, I’m responsible for my son’s morning routine, but my husband does drop off and pick up. It may not work for others, but we practically never fight about these kinds of things. It did take some honest conversations though!

    • Jessica says...

      We do exactly the same thing! Works so so well for us and we never argue about who’s “turn” it is to do the dishes etc

  17. Jacqueline says...

    YES SARAH, I FEEL YOU!

  18. Sophia says...

    Honestly, the best advice I’ve ever read, and taken, has been from The Four Noble Truths of Love, by Susan Piver. This book will rock your world and understanding of the ebbs and flows of relationships. Amazing stuff.

  19. My partner and I do have been doing a weekly six-question check in for over a year and it’s wonderful. Some weeks it takes 10 minutes; some weeks it takes much longer. It’s taught us both to listen better and hold space for each other.

    The questions are:
    1. What brought you joy this week?
    2. What was hard this week?
    3. What’s something specific I can do for you this week?
    4. Has anything gone unsaid?
    5. What’s a hope, dream, or thought that’s been on the forefront of your mind this week?
    6. How are we stewarding our finances?

    (Source: I came across the questions on a site called Love Intently!)

    • Raquel says...

      I LOVE this. Just sent it to myself in an email and I plan on asking my partner tonight. Thank you so much!

    • Jane says...

      Wow! I love this! Thanks for sharing!

    • Totally just copied and pasted those questions into our Family Meeting templates for the next one. Thanks!

  20. courtney says...

    Thank you for sharing this relevant relationship topic! I feel like intentional weekly or monthly meetings, coffee dates or a board meeting would be so helpful! Sometimes in the midst of being busy every day, it’s so easy to glaze over helpful planning conversations . Also, just having a set time to check in on a little bit deeper level and knowing its there seems really comforting to me! Cup of Jo is like having a community of best friends to hear ideas from and connect with! Thank you!

  21. Magdalena says...

    My boyfriend came up with the rule “solutions before dinner, problems after”. So when we both come home from work, tired and hungry, we are only allowed to talk about good things or solutions to problems. Once we have cooked and eaten we can move on to problems and issues. That extra hour and some food in the stomach works wonders, sometimes the problems aren’t even problems anymore.

    • TC says...

      This is a great idea! When someone comes home from work and is fuming, it can really kill the whole night.

  22. Nanaka says...

    Slightly off topic, but which movie is that photograph from? (If it even is from a movie?) Seems like something I’d like to watch :-)))

    Other than that, I can totally confirm that dedicated meetings to discuss what is bugging you about living together is a really good idea. Of course I didn’t know this when moving in with my boyfriend 7 years ago, and both of us slowly cooked until someone would explode… sometimes about irrelevant things really. We then had a “serious talk” to sort it all out, and now know what tips the other off. We don’t really have these “serious talks” about living together any more, but things have since fallen into place… it’s really nice :-) (Even through half of my kitchen stuff is still cluttering the cellar, since we had every item twice suddenly… we made a plan to sell most of the stuff when I moved in, but really forgot about it. Oh well. Just a heads-up for everyone wanting to combine households… be aware of sooo much stuff becoming obsolete! Make a plan what to keep!)

    • Meredith says...

      Its from Crazy Rich Asians :)

    • Lizzie says...

      Crazy Rich Asians!!

    • Tucker says...

      Hey! That is from Crazy Rich Asians I think it’s one of the opening scenes where they are talking about meeting his family for the first time.

      Duplicate stuff irks me, I’ve never combined households, but hope that one day I can do it as gracefully as you’ve described not my predicted day of deliberation over whose can opener is nicer or what plates can stay.

    • Steph says...

      It’s from Crazy Rich Asians!

    • Ali says...

      I think its Crazy Rich Asians but Im not sure :-)

    • Nanaka says...

      Awesome, this goes straight onto my “watch list” :-) Thank you all!

      @Tucker: Haha, nothing too graceful about surplus Tupperware silently fading away within boxes down in the cellar… oh boy.

  23. Jodi says...

    Forgive me for sounding like a jerk, but what’s going on with all these hanging apostrophes? There were a bunch in Jenny’s latest post, too. I keep rubbing my eyes and my screen to see if it’s something about me, but no—random apostrophes everywhere! Please keep good copyediting a part of your brand!

    (Apostorophes do not replace quotation marks. They need to be directly next to the word, no extra spaces. Maybe a WordPress update situation?)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes it’s a coding thing and is only showing up on certain browsers. We are working to fix! Thank you so much!

  24. Jodi says...

    I think this is a lovely idea for any couple that feels they need it. My partner of almost 19 years (!!!!!) and I are lucky to have a well-established and open communication that flows easily without needing to schedule time for it. But! What matters most is that the communication is happening, whenever and however. A tidbit that I have learned over all these years, is to stop and decide before you open your mouth, “Does this really matter to me?” We have learned over time to let go of the things that we don’t really care enough about, but that might hold great importance to the other person. It’s an ongoing dance, but if you are well matched it will become a flow state that isn’t difficult. Also, if your needs aren’t being met in some way – just flat out tell them! My partner and I are very different and simply asking for what you need takes away a long, laborious process of trying to magically figure it out. Oh, and one last thing – say thank you. A lot. Have gratitude for the things they do and acknowledge it.

    • Megan says...

      YES to all of this!!!

    • polyana says...

      this sounds a lot like my relationship which is 5 years in – looking forward to getting many more years in :-) my partner is much more open about his needs, and has urged me to be more open about mine (i.e., asking me to just flat out tell him!), which has helped immensely in our communication as a couple, and for me outside of our relationship. we also constantly thank one another for even the most menial things. usually i’ll get up earlier than he does, so i’m usually the one to make coffee. and he’ll thank me every single morning for making us coffee. he’ll make the bed every morning, and (although i don’t care if the bed is made or not, haha), i’ll thank him too. having that daily acknowledgment for the little things is definitely an easy and gratifying way to show you appreciate having that person in your life!

  25. Sarah says...

    Any tips for how to do this when you have lots of little people to take care of and are routinely exhausted?

    • Mallory says...

      Yep! Weekly couples therapy lol.

    • Reba says...

      How about using Kate’s questions from upthread (1. What brought you joy this week?//2. What was hard this week?//3. What’s something specific I can do for you this week?//4. Has anything gone unsaid?//5. What’s a hope, dream, or thought that’s been on the forefront of your mind this week?//6. How are we stewarding our finances?) but instead of one big meeting, do one a day.

      And on the seventh day, you rest! This is just one season of life.

    • Amanda says...

      I could’ve written this too. It’s so hard for free time to be anything but catching up on rest. The energy to talk about things seems daunting but probably very necessary. Love the reminder that it’s a season. One I adore very much but will look forward to regaining me and couple time as the bitties grow.

    • Lulu says...

      Hi Sarah,
      As one who has ‘been there’, may I suggest keep saying “I love you” to your partner and know that even though it may seem that a Monday afternoon can go on for days, life and the challenges will change sooner than you think.

      Make time even to hold each other for a moment and just be there together in the hug. Maybe this is all you need to start with. (I had three under five years old and we just had to make it through the chaos. Take loads of photos because you will want to look back at this time and remember it fondly.)

      Sending you a big smile and best wishes for a great day wherever you are.
      Lulu x

    • Erica says...

      Mallory LOL.

  26. Dalia says...

    Haha yes!! We do Friday night business meeting and Saturday night date night. Business meeting is usually about the errands that need to be done for the week and what are plans are for the coming week. What kid needs to go where and which one of us will do it. I know I have Friday night to discuss so it doesn’t stress me it and I don’t stew with it. Then we can enjoy our date night the next night!

  27. Alli Horst says...

    Yes! Totally agree. We’ve added the question “how did you feel loved by me last week?” and it is so interesting to see the mundane and very different ways we felt most loved. Very rarely do we answer what the other was expecting! Last week it was his quick apology after a dumb comment that made me feel loved and known.

  28. AE says...

    Brilliant idea!! Definitely stealing…

  29. We work together and have a weekly staff meeting. With donuts. It doesn’t count if there are no donuts. ;)

  30. Jane I. says...

    We call in Family Time! 4 years strong. Every Wednesday followed by a trip to Yogurtland. :)

  31. Lulu says...

    My husband and I are now in a long distance marriage, he had to move to another city for his job. After six years of living together, I am for the first time living on my own during the week (I lived with roommates until we got married). You really start to see what the other person does for you, when they are not around. Now if something is dirty, it’s usually my fault or I have to clean it. It’s weird going from seeing someone everyday to a couple times a month. Now our weekends are so full of stuff that we would normally do during the week, that he and I are exhausted when Monday comes around.

    • Emily says...

      Lulu, I totally relate to this! My partner and I are also in a long distance relationship after living together. He moved across the ocean for a job and grad school, and I must say I have really noticed how quiet my daily life is with just me…and how dependable my partner was for fun time and getting things done around the house. Somehow the distance has made me feel really in tune with what we need to communicate to each other since the overlap in time we are both awake is smaller now!

  32. Kim says...

    This reminds me of the article in the times (I think?) recently about how therapy is taking over everything. I love therapy and have gone when I need it, but we don’t need to open overly rigid about how we conduct relationships. I guess this is one of those things that’s great for you but not for me. Just talk to your partner! Scheduling meetings seems kind of ridiculous and formal. When I first moved in with my now husband, we just told each other our quirks as they came up. We just talk! We’ve been together years now, and there are definitely some things he does that would drive me up the wall, if I were in a position to be driven in a wall but I’m just not. It’s just not that important. I love him and every time I find one of those things he does, I laugh, roll my eyes and let. it. go. His wonderful quirks are some of the things I miss whenever he’s out of town.

    I love the comment about roommate vs relationship issues. That’s exactly it. Is it worth bringing up, let alone having a standing weekly meeting about it? We all have our quirks. It’s a give and take. As long as you’re both giving and taking and talking, it should be okay and pretty easy.

    • Robin says...

      I like how you said things should feel pretty easy. My marriage feels easy, and I sometimes don’t understand when friends talk about always having to work on their relationships. I think we are the lucky ones, but I also think maybe we are the ones who just let the little things go, and others will dig into the little things, wanting to discuss every little thing that is bugging them, striving for a perfect marriage where everything is going exactly how they want it to. I don’t know. I prefer to be easygoing, as it sounds like you do too. It means my marriage is far from perfect, but I’m pretty sure every marriage is.

    • Cay says...

      I think that the fact that you’ve been together for years is a big difference here. I don’t find this ridiculous at all.

      When you first move in with someone, it can be hard to figure out how to live together. Creating a safe space where you both agree to be open about what you’re feeling can be important, especially if you have busy schedules and maybe brush certain feelings under the rug “for later” because you’re too rushed to address them fully.

      Also re: “it should be easy.” Maybe. But also some of us deeply love our partners and want to live with them, but learning HOW to live with them is not always easy. Living with someone comes easy to some, not to others, and the idea that if it doesn’t seem “easy” then it’s not right is just…not right. Some things take time and effort, but can still have a good outcome.

    • Abby says...

      I relate to this comment so much.
      Whenever I have girlfriends complaining about one or the other thing their partners did and adding a “you know how it is” I simply have to say (in my head) “no, I don’t know how it is” because I don’t have any of these issues with my partner. We just talk constantly about anything and face things straight away instead of letting it take up room for too long (I cannot even imagine waiting until a “weekly meeting” to bring things up!).
      I give therapy that: It helps when you add an “I” perspective instead of blaming your partner over leaving the crumpled dish towels on the work surface instead of leaving them on their hook – but when you say these issues out loud instantly – at least I very, very often have to smile and tell myself I am being ridiculous. Life is too short to not enjoy each others company! You can call yourself so lucky to have found a partner you can be happy with! So many people don’t have that and would gladly change for crumpled dish towels left on the work surface!!!

    • Kim says...

      Cay, I never said if it wasn’t easy it wasn’t right. It seems like my comment struck a nerve.

    • Jules says...

      I thought the same. I actually called my husband after reading all the comments to ask if he feels different than me, because this is how we approach things. I was worrying I was missing some huge form of communication help. Glad to hear I’m not alone.

    • Kelsey says...

      I also can’t imagine doing this with my husband! We just talk as things come up and it works fine for us. The idea of having something like this sounds like a nightmare to my anxious personality type, reminds me of debriefs/performance review with a supervisor at work or something. To each their own!

  33. Sara W says...

    We have a weekly “staff meeting” :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha i love that.

  34. MK says...

    My boyfriend and I just moved in together as well. First off, CONGRATS on this big milestone!!!! I feel like people skip the part acknowledging what an awesome moment it is and skip straight to incredulity and questions like “HoWs ThAt GoInG tO gO?”
    Anyways, we’ve also had great luck with a weekly meeting to discuss household stuff and general relationship status. Though I have to admit I had never considered adding snackage to the ritual, so great idea.

  35. Anon says...

    Recently me and SO had to start driving to work together and We have noticed that has been a blessing in disguise as we can actually truly catch up , speak whats on our minds without the distraction of tv or phones or children! We now look forward to the commute instead of dreading it ! Daily check in meeting scheduled automatically haha

  36. AB says...

    Thoughtful as usual! Though in my own marriage, I follow an entirely different approach. We have always been quick to praise and naturally discuss our goals daily without much prompting. I also find it healthier to disagree — calmly! — in the moment, as waiting a week can suggest you’ve been stewing / the details of the event have faded.

    That said, I imagine I’ll need a system like this when kids are in the picture and our organic daily one-on-ones are no longer a possibility.

  37. Kelley says...

    My spouse and I don’t have regular meetings, but after 14 years living together I’ve learned that it’s just better to come out and talk about whatever’s bothering me than obsess about it angrily. We try to talk about everything, even if it’s embarrassing, amidst a long commuting grad school schedule, the hectic whirl of having three small kids and all the other things that keep us focused on everything else. Even though it’s sometimes hard, talking to him honestly always makes things better, even if it’s just knowing that I’m safe in our relationship.

  38. Emily says...

    Coming up on thirty years together, my partner and I take nightly walks after dinner and discuss anything urgent. Then, every couple of months, we have a “coffee date,” during which we together write down bigger picture ideas, goals, thoughts, dreams, ambitions. Just this morning we had fun looking at our dreams of 25 years ago, seeing what’s changed, what came to fruition, what we still are ambition to do, what’s important now that wasn’t important then. Communication and mutual respect are everything.

    • Abby says...

      Nightly walks after dinner sound incredibly romantic and powerful for building a relationship!

  39. Brittany says...

    I learned the hard way that my husband has an opinion about EVERYTHING. Literally everything. I remember turning to him when we were registering for wedding gifts and saying, “Why do you have an opinion on that?!” He wanted blue-tinged glasses; I wanted the ones with little polka dots on them. (Granted, I now realize how much I played into the gender confinement and norms, but I was young and naive and overwhelmed at the time and just wanted to make a gosh-darned decision). Long story short – we finally figured out that we needed an opinion scale. As in, I’m a 10 out of 10 on the opinion scale on that one (polka dot drinking glasses). Or, meh, I’m just a 4 out of 10 on that one. Whenever we state where we are on the opinion scale, we instantly get a read on how big of a deal this is to the other person and we can, usually, calibrate accordingly. It has saved us many a fight.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so smart, brittany!

    • Florencia says...

      Oh my gosh. I love this. I have an opinion about everything and I’m sure it will be so helpful for my husband, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and myself to rate my opinion. Thank you!

    • Nad says...

      Heehee this is such a good idea! My husband also has opinions on absolutely everything from child rearing, to choosing tech for our home, to what we eat, to what dose of my meds I take – all of which he has the right to of course and is well meaning, but it can be exhausting when it’s every tiny thing. Am going to try this technique :-)

    • kath says...

      this is SO smart. i also have a totally opinionated husband and I’m going to introduce the scale. such a good diea. thank you!

  40. Meredith says...

    I’m so glad to see lots of other people have regular meetings too! All of my friends in real life think it’s cute and quirky that my husband and I have regular family meetings. Granted, maybe it is quirky that we almost always have a written agenda ahead of time too. . . But it really works for us! And it makes a lot of sense to have a clearly defined objective/talking points. A lot of what we discuss is just who is accomplishing what in the upcoming week. We don’t often have grievances (still in the honeymoon phase!) but reviewing the budget spreadsheets (plural, lol) and our financial goals is honestly a shared hobby. We are even planning to have a specific “Values Summit” in January to work on a family mission statement and discuss what is most important to us as we head into a year of lots of changes: moving, new jobs, trying to start a family, etc.

  41. Rachel Hepburn Craig says...

    I like this idea for my family, where I am the only parent to two kids. But it also reminds me why, having been through a 20 year marriage, I would not want to live with a partner ever again!

  42. sarah says...

    My advice in those early days of living with someone is always to go back to the big picture. My husband and I moved in together, quickly got engaged and then accidentally got pregnant, all within a few months. Cue the stress. There were definitely rough moments in those early days. In time, I found my rational voice. The reality was that I found the love of my life and neither of us was going anywhere. We would have to figure this out. With family meetings, marriage classes, some counselling and many many calls to my mother we eventually found our way. For us, the hard work was worth it.

  43. Julie says...

    We do the following questions every Sunday:
    *what brought you joy this week?
    *what was hard for you this week?
    *I appreciate XXX about you this week
    *Is there anything we haven’t talked about
    *What can I do for you this week?
    *What do you hope for this week?

    We’ve been doing it since we started dating (and I mean like week 2, lol). It’s so helpful!

  44. Sarah says...

    I find in the moment it can be (depending on the nerve hit) really challenging to keep my composure and carry on as normal without bringing up the grievance right then and there.

    Sometimes you’re hungry or tired or home from a hard day at work; the thought of holding off on discussing something that bothers you for a week sounds brutal!

    My husband and I do what we call ‘argument refereeing’ where after the snappy little fight is over, we come back together and critique/add footnotes to our argument. We learn a lot about what was really going on in each-others heads during the argument, because the core of it (red hot frustration at the sight of ANOTHER soggy towel left on the bed, for example), is usually the cover for something else.

    • Kristen says...

      Genius. We do some of this debrief-in-a-calmer-state naturally, but I love “argument refereeing” as an active strategy.

  45. JFS says...

    Totally support the 1:1 meetings with a partner, but we’ve found it helpful to do a “family” check-in with our kids, too!

    We borrowed an idea from agile / scrum software where we combine a “standup” meeting with a “retrospective” every Sunday. We talk (over snacks!) about what worked well last week and what didn’t, what we want to do differently or better, who’s got what going on next week, and who needs help with something. Including our kids has made them feel included in all the appreciations, complaints, and resolutions, and it’s definitely improved how we all communicate with each other.

    Bruce Feiler wrote a book and has a great TED talk about this:
    https://www.ted.com/talks/bruce_feiler_agile_programming_for_your_family

    • Alex says...

      I recently went through scrum training and I (sort of jokingly) asked if I could use this methodology with my family and the trainer dodged my question! Love this!

    • Lorraine says...

      I love this! My husband & I both use agile methods at work, so at one point we actually created an agile board with epics, stories, tasks. It felt like such a great organization strategy when my older child was born, and we had a ton of basic home stuff to do on top of adjusting to a baby.

      We did that for a good few months, and have talked about starting it up again. I love the idea of a family sprint planning/retrospective. Now that we have two kids things get chaotic fast, and I like the idea of having the kids contribute to setting some order while enjoying that process.

  46. Lydia Koller says...

    We do this! It honestly is THE BEST.

    We always kick off the meeting by having a list of 3 things each that we really appreciated/admired about the person over the last week…. it’s the best part. We’ve been married 10 years and I still tear up every. single. time.

    • Grace says...

      Yes! Since we were dating, my husband and I would do semi-annual State of the Unions. We always start by acknowledging what’s going well and what we appreciate about the other person. It goes a long way in setting a receptive tone when we move on to the airing of the grievances. We’ve been happily married for almost 10 years!

  47. Katherine says...

    I’ve found my husband and I connect really well and have deep conversations on walks. It’s a guaranteed time that neither of us has our head stuck in our phone and there’s something about getting up and moving in the fresh air that helps the conversation flow.

  48. My fiancée and I have monthly “check ins” on the calendar :) We also aim to be each other’s “goal partner,” so she and I discuss how we’re progressing on our goals for the year.

    If she and I don’t have any grievances to share, we just discuss finances and how much we love one another!

  49. Sonya says...

    I love this! I once banned any conversation about ‘the future’ (including topics like what city we might try and find work and money) when I moved in with my boyfriend. It’s a miracle we ended up getting married! Another thing that’s really helped us – we split a few big household chores. So he does all of the laundry (his pick cos he can do it at home) and I do all of the food shopping (which I secretly love). He’s been away this week and it’s been a shock to wash, hang and take down my own washing :)

  50. CJ says...

    Yes, yes, and yes to this and the supportive comments. My husband and I have regular ‘executive committee meetings’. It makes it also sound fun and important to talk about when we’re in public and it has become our inside joke. For example, at a grocery store addressing what we’ll possibly serve at a party, or even if we’ll move after our lease is up… “well…we’ll have to talk about this in greater at the next executive committee meeting and have a vote…” ;p. We review the budget and everything big to small in these meetings. We’re going on fifteen years together with tons of ups and downs (like serous highs to lows), but this constant was a game changer and continues to help us focus on the ‘home team’. Good luck with your transition!

  51. HM says...

    This is all so true and good!

    One other piece of “moving in” advice I always share with friends, is, if possible, get a two-bedroom. Especially if one or both of you is an introvert, or extremely messy, or extremely tidy… that second bedroom can serve as one person’s retreat space, or clothing explosion zone, or whatever is needed to make sure both partners’ souls are able to feel at home.

    • Meredith says...

      100% This. The fact that we can just close the door to my “office” AKA “arts and crafts EXPLOSION room” and my husband can pretend the mess doesn’t exist is the secret to our marriage success.

    • Ann says...

      i am keeping this mind as we will soon be looking to buy our own place and 2 bedrooms is starting to feel mandatory. our current and first apt together is a junior one bedroom and, while cozy and sweet, is seeming smaller a year into marriage. the introvert in me neeeeds a little retreat space!

  52. Jill says...

    We call our meeting the “State of Our Union.” It keeps it a bit corny but also Very Important. :-)

    • Carolyn says...

      We call ours the “State of the Union”! Always makes me chuckle and makes keeping meeting minutes feel like a bit of a game.

  53. A. Morrison says...

    Our couples counselor calls it “jewels and toads.” The idea being that once a week you talk through grievances but you also talk through things that the other did that you really appreciate. That way you leave the meeting with a reminder of all the nice things the other has done, and feeling a little better about yourself.

  54. George says...

    Get a duvet one size larger than your bed. You don’t need a king size bed to have a king duvet!

    My number one tip to any couple moving into together.

    • Louisa says...

      Genius.

    • Julie says...

      LOVE THIS. So true.

    • heather says...

      My husband and I just did this after 13 years of marriage. GENIUS. No more cover hogging.

    • JFS says...

      Even better: separate twin duvets! That’s how they roll in Scandinavia : )

    • Margot says...

      No way – Just get two twin duvets – to each their own :)

    • Abby says...

      My partner just recently said: I could never imagine sleeping comfortably with someone else in one bed before I met you and was introduced to separate duvets (German over here).

    • Karyn says...

      1,000% yes to separate twin duvets in a king size bed, and for the kids’ beds we do twin duvet on full-size beds, full-size duvet on queen-beds… Less fabric, less struggle :)

  55. Blair says...

    One thing I have done with these types of weekly meetings is to always express gratitude. If I have three grievances to bring up I try and also express three things that my husband did that week that I am grateful for. This approach has really helped me to keep a loving attitude even when there are issues to work out.

  56. Allyson says...

    In a similar vein; BUDGET MEETINGS. Every Thursday before we get paid, my husband and I sit down with a v. v. fancy spreadsheet and tell every dollar exactly where to go. It took about 3 months to get into a rhythm where the meeting felt like two equals (I make more money than him, but he’s much more thrifty) and collaborative. We are crushing it and haven’t had a late bill or an anxiety-causing financial emergency for about a year. When a coworker shared the total money disconnect between him and his wife, all the chaos and uncertainty we used to live with came back to me and I did my best to pitch BUDGET MEETINGS. Biggest upside of budget meetings: I know exactly how much fun money, clothes money, household money and baby money I have to spend every two weeks. It’s awesome.

    • agnes says...

      This is so wise; I wish I could do that. I know I can. Do you write down all your spendings? How can you do that? please, teach me!

    • CL says...

      Second this. My partner and I have been tracking all our expenses for the last seven years. We don’t have any joint accounts but we do use a shared spreadsheet of projected spending for the month broken down by category (house + utilities, food, car, travel, fun money, etc.) and then sit down bi-weekly or so and go through all our actual expenses. It really sets the tone for lining up our expenses with our values and pinpointing where we want to be and how to get there financially. Every dollar has a job, as they say!

      10/10 recommend. Any old Google Doc budget spreadsheet will do!

    • Allyson says...

      Hey Agnes! You totally can. Initially we did write down every expense we knew (the recurring stuff is easy. You always have rent/mortgage, electric, water, internet, car payment, student loans, etc). The variables (gas money, groceries, “extras” like birthdays, etc) take a few budget cycles to pin down. We over-budget on things we tend to go over on (groceries & clothes) and save the difference if we have any at the end of the pay cycle.

      For me, the impulse-spender, the most uncomfortable part was going purchase by purchase through my bank account with my husband to identify exactly what we should budget for. That’s how I ended up with $150/month “fun money” and $200/month clothes budget. Ultimately this budget gives me freedom to spend a reasonable portion of my paycheck vs. in the past when I would spend it all and we lived paycheck to paycheck.

      Specifically HOW I write down everything I spend is another spreadsheet. It’s a Google spreadsheet that I have on my phone and I track each purchase as I make it under the appropriate category. If I am busy, I’ll come back to it with a receipt or a few days later from my bank account to make sure I’m tracking what I spend. I also hear great things about the following budget apps/software: YNAB (you need a budget), EveryDollar & Mint. However you go about it, it takes practice and grace with yourself. But it is so worth it. We are working on being part of the #debtfreecommunity so check that out on Insta if you need some inspiration. It can be very Christian, which doesn’t resonate with me, but ultimately I’m happy to see so many financially secure, stress free families!

    • Allyson says...

      CL- exactly! And to your point about values…when I see my husband spend some of his “fun money” by donating to the same charity or political candidate I did it makes me love him more :)

    • Eli says...

      Can recommend YNAB app to the ends of forever!! It has been a huge game changer for me. The envelope system and spreadsheets just didn’t work for me (even though Excel is an entire love language for me!!). YNAB is super simple to use, allows you to move money around if needed and cover overspending, but also set goals and work towards them. I’ve been using for almost a year now and I am still working on being consistent but my impulse buying is ALMOST nonexistent, except for gifts during this holiday season. I can see where I need to do better, cough”eating out”cough. Takes 15 seconds or less to log a purchase/expense made.
      If you are a visual person, seeing the green for money available, or red for overspent really makes a difference and helps keep me on track.
      – I believe you can be logged in on 2 different devices and it syncs across (I budget on my desktop computer and my app syncs and updates immediately), so I would think it would be easy to use with a spouse as well.

  57. Silver says...

    I say get a cleaner – nothing ruins love faster than arguing about chores and seething because you’ve suddenly realised your partner’s idea of equal right doesn’t extend to laundry. Then, if you find you can’t afford one – get out the list of every house chore and agree who does what.

  58. Kathryn says...

    One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to get a housekeeper. I would literally give up almost all other expense before cutting that one. We still clean in between visits, but it doesn’t feel so loaded. We now look forward to our house keeper day as a night off, where we just get to relax together instead of doing things! It feels like someone has taken care of us together, which is a pretty rare feeling.

    • Emily says...

      That is exactly how I feel. I would stop drinking, never eat out again, sell all my clothes before I say good bye to our housekeeper. I have burst into tears more than once coming home to a clean house after a stressful day. I’m so grateful and she is truly a special part of our family.

    • Christina says...

      Yes to this, both Kathryn and Emily!!! If absolutely nothing else, I will never clean a toilet again, and that keeps me attracted to my partner (who stands to urinate). Ha!! Today is my housekeeper day, and I am sooo looking forward to putting my feet up and enjoying the evening. We also typically get takeout or have date night on the housekeeper day, to keep the kitchen sparkling clean a little longer! <3

    • Hilary says...

      I second this too! She’s spendy, but the money we pay our housekeeper is sacred and the last thing I’d touch if we needed to cut back. Plus, she’s a woman running her own business and I do that too, so it feels good to support another woman entrepreneur WHILE not killing, nagging or seething about the state of the gd toilet. Because really…eeeew.

    • Katey says...

      Yes, yes, yes! This investment keeps the peace! Agree with others, I would curtail all other expenses if needed just to keep the housekeeper. It is not that I mind cleaning (I actually enjoy it), BUT in a household of two if you are the only one doing it then you have your moments of being totally annoyed and resentful. So getting a housekeeper has been a game changer for us.

    • Alexandra says...

      Yes, agreed. We are two parents, two kids, and three quarters of the family have a different cleanliness standard than the last quarter ….. I do make the kids clean though as well, as they have to learn how to do it (and so that they appreciate what a special service a cleaning lady is).

  59. We call these “State of (our) Union” talks – they can be about anything! Sometimes they’ll be about daily stressors, like division of household labor, sometimes about big things like the possibility of grad school or a big move, sometimes about sex (when we want it, when we don’t want it, how often we want it, how to make it more fun and exciting, and everything else). It’s so helpful to frame these conversations as productive and helpful things we can do to build our relationship foundation. I’ve found if we don’t do this, the pressure over some issue will build and build (even if, or especially if, the other partner doesn’t know about the issue at all!) until it reaches a boiling point and has to find some way to explode. Often by that point it’s hard to find the original source of the issue, because the steam has exploded in some entirely different way. It’s so important to communicate at times when you can be empathetic and respectful, rather than when you’re both coming in hot.

    • Mel says...

      We call them state of the union talks too! When we were dating/engaged they seemed so serious and mostly about ‘us’ now we’ve been married 5 years and have a 3 year old and one on the way and they’re more like ‘are you happy with job/house/travel/sex/household stuff/me. Oh wait, that seems serious too. It feels less so because it’s just a calm sit down, tell me what’s on your mind thing. Love them.

  60. jdp says...

    we have a weekly meeting every sunday night after we put our kid to bed. not only do we hash out any issues from the previous week, but we quickly align our schedules for the entire coming week so we are not taken by surprise by double bookings or anything else “uncommunicated” (the ultimate resentment fueler). it’s also a time when i gently ask my husband what he’s cooking at least once that week, or when i might be able to take some hours to myself during our packed schedules. (and vice versa). it is a relationship saver for sure.

  61. You're probably the problem... says...

    If you need a WEEKLY meeting to discuss how incompatible you/your lifestyles/habits are, you probably shouldn’t be living together. We have a meeting ever six months and call it the State of the Union. You know, to check in on the state of things in our union. If someone, anyone, came to me with their grievances weekly I’d tell them to collect their wagon wheels and get the heck out!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh i think it’s just little things, like making a plan for who’s getting the groceries that week, etc. alex and i would have a lot to talk about every week and i consider our marriage very happy! :) hope that helps.

    • Heather says...

      Yeah this isn’t a ‘are you happy with your life decision to marry me’ check in, but just a good way to set aside time, recouped and sync up for the week ahead. I love this idea!

    • A.N. says...

      i could not disagree more. and weekly meetings in most marriages are likely not grievances or about how incompatible you/your lifestyles/habits are. they are a check-in. “what do you have going on this week? what do you need help with? can you pick up the slack on XX for me, since i have XX going on?” especially with kids involved, it’s hard to get one-on-one time to just talk to your partner without a child around.

    • AR says...

      I also completely disagree. It is such a healthy way to communicate with your partner. Relationships take work and this is one way to put in that work.

      And my mom used to say about relationships ‘I’d be more concerned if you DIDN’T have disagreements/differences’

    • Julie says...

      We have been doing weekly check ins since we started dating, it is awesome and we are definitely meant to be together…it’s a great way to check in when things are crazy and/or just having the safety net of knowing there is space in case you do need to talk to someone. Just because every six months works for you, doesn’t mean checking in weekly doesn’t work for other people. Having adult conversations and keeping things from piling up is a life skill that you’d think you’d applaud, not tell people they’re the problem.

    • Heather says...

      Ak – regroup* !!

    • Cait says...

      The title of this comment comes across so mean. If it’s not something you need or would institute, there’s no need to shame someone else who benefits from it.

    • Lizzie says...

      I tend to agree. We have a budget that we occasionally review and recalibrate but all these scheduled sit downs with agenda and spreadsheets of who does what? Seems like torture to me. I do that all day at work and frankly no one is paid enough to maintain meeting minutes. If I had to do a questionnaire once a week with my husband over who is doing what chore I’d lose my mind. This type of micromanagement of feelings and score keeping seems like a strange control thing.

  62. Maggie says...

    When my now-husband and I moved in together, I remember being shocked at what a smooth transition it was (we’d never been the types to spend every single night together when living apart – and we can be bickerers – and we had just graduated from law school during the recession). I told my mom how great it was going and she said, ‘that’s how it was for me and Dad! It keeps getting better, then you have kids and it gets much worse, then they move out and it gets good again!’ Haha, thanks, Mom!

    • Marisa says...

      TRUTH

    • Silver says...

      This is the BEST – I’m currently in the living with the child in the house phase – and overtime my husband and I dash off to a hotel for a birthday or anniversary we remember how perfectly in sync we are.

    • Nicole says...

      As someone who doesn’t have kids (but might like to)…genuine question – why have them if things get worse? I constantly hear people say things like this and it makes me wonder. Would love to hear – thank you!

    • Patricia says...

      I wouldn’t say it gets worse, just so, so different! People get used to the way their lives are and all of a sudden, everything is busier and there is less time for just the two of you. And things will come up that you maybe didn’t foresee. There are so many ways to parent and it is hard to know what kind you will be until you have a child. For example, you may be laid back about keeping a sleeping schedule for your child, and your partner wants to adhere to one. That makes doing anything outside of a two hour window nearly impossible. One of the things I found hardest when I became a mom was how boring I felt. I felt so uninteresting and like I had become the stereotype I dreaded. I heard myself talking about poop, and thought “My God, I’m that lady now?! That’s what I want to talk about?” Ha!The early years were for sure the hardest for our family, but since our youngest turned three (she’s six now), it has seemed pretty easy. And really fun…I barely ever talk about poop anymore.

    • Neela says...

      Nicole, we are in the thick of it, with a 3.5yr-old and an 8-month-old. I would say ‘worse’ for your relationship because you maybe have less time to dedicate solely to each other and your well-being as a couple. (Which will surely pass.) But better in that you become more whole as people, you garner a deeper appreciation for life, and you come together as a team to work your way through the ups and downs of parenting, which also solidifies your bond, if you approach it in a mindful and open way. We still have a long road ahead of us, though- let’s see how I feel in 18 years time!!

    • Abby says...

      Thanks Nicole for asking this question “out loud”! I feel the same and thanks Patricia for your attempt to answering. I wish Cup of Jo could go into the decision of having or not having kids (environmental reasons could also apply) more in detail.

    • Maggie says...

      Nicole, I think she was referring to they types of things referred to in this post – how living together works. So if you move in together pre-kids, maybe one person picks up groceries on the way home and makes dinner, you clean up together, talk about your days, watch a show. You move your partner’s laundry to the dryer without resentment and don’t fight too much about money (ours was pretty separate before we had kids). Then kids come and none of that works anymore. There are just so many more logistics and chores, more noise and less time, more decisions that have to be made together. So it’s not that you love each other less or that you’re not having any fun, but it’s not easy anymore! (I keep saying “you” – I’m describing my own experience here, and that of my parents. And a lot of my friends. But probably not everyone?)

    • Angela says...

      Hi Nicole- I can honestly tell you that there was very little “better” in our marriage in the first 18 months of raising twins. Early parenthood is a time of extreme transition and I’ve always had trouble navigating transitions. There was more work to be done with less time available, new roles to navigate (with NO ABILITY TO PREPARE FOR), less time for ourselves, and heightened tensions due to lack of sleep. We’d had so much fun together as a couple and could be so selfish in our lives before kids. Life was so good before adding kids to the mix, but that didn’t mean it would never be good again. Parenting is a real learning experience and I have grown as a person. Despite the challenges and how taxing it was on us and our marriage, knowing what I know now, I would still choose to be a parent. I wanted to be a parent because I knew how much love (and money and time) my husband and I had to give to a family. Currently, I wouldn’t say life is any better or worse than before kids because they aren’t easily comparable any more. Parenting 4 year olds is hard, but it is definitely better than the beginning stages, and we’ve gotten better at being parents. I guess the answer is: things did get worse but we got better by adapting our expectations and expanding our skill sets as partners in a shared relationship. I come from a big family and feeling the warmth of being surrounded by loved ones was a big reason I wanted to be a parent. I thought it was because I liked kids, but being a mother taught me I don’t really like kids, I like my kids. I truly wanted a bigger family, but that doesn’t make sense given the demands of adding more people into the mix (both personally and in an environmental sense). I pour everything I’ve got into my little family with the understanding that each year it gets a little easier, and l’ll have more resources to devote to myself and my marriage when our family is done being raised. I hope that answered your question. As with most things, for me, it got worse before it could get better.

  63. Susan H. says...

    When one of my husband’s habits annoys me (not putting something away repeatedly, noisy chewing, leaving the bathroom fan on forever, etc.) I try to remember two things:
    1) I probably have lots of faults that annoy him but he NEVER says anything so I can at least be as mellow about things, and
    2) someday I will probably miss these little quirks. I read a letter to Dear Abby years ago where a woman complained about her husband’s whistling. Another reader responded that her husband, also an annoying whistler, had died recently and she would give anything to hear his whistle again.

    • Amy says...

      Yes! I think about this often. If my husband died, I truly would miss his dirty socks lying around, his lack of directional awareness, his slurping, chewing gum smacking…
      Why oh why do these things drive me bananas now then?

  64. Samantha says...

    The book Fair Play is amazing for creating a system in your house and assigning tasks to each member of the household and having them take FULL ownership of the task. Highly recommend! My boyfriend and I now have a spreadsheet of everything that goes into running our home, and a column for which person has ownership of each task.

    • Julie says...

      Oh man, I’d lose at this game so hard haha. Rules and designated chores are not my strength. Do you ever mix up who does what?

    • Samantha says...

      Julie, yes! You can re assign tasks as much as you like. The book sets it up as playing a game and each task is a “card.”
      Re-deal cards often!

    • Abby says...

      Thanks for the recommendation! Will look into this book asap as my partner is really keen on helping me with the mental load.

  65. Neela says...

    Best advice we received before marriage came from my grandmother-in-law-to-be: when arguing, don’t use the words ‘always’ and ‘never’. (As in, ‘you always use the wrong towel’ or ‘you never support me’.) Has saved us so much strife! Something to think about during those weekly reviews!

  66. N says...

    Any thoughts on “keeping different hours” from your partner? For some reason this has driven me crazy the last couple years, and I’ve been desperately trying to reach a state of zen about it, but can’t help but be annoyed that the house doesn’t “wake up together” (aka I don’t have to get dressed in the dark), or frustrated that I wake up before 11AM on the weekends or crash by 10PM.

    • Ana D says...

      For me, it really helped to find out about research showing that people have unique internal clocks. A morning person is truly a morning person, and we have different internal chemistry than night owls. That made it less about a “personal choice” or “character flaw” as I had been raised to see it.

      Then I was able to see that for me and my relationship, asking my husband to become a morning person would be like him asking me to become a night person. I’d feel unseen, misunderstood, and set up to fail.

      Surprisingly to me, I’ve started appreciating my mornings to myself. I really like being efficient and time-saving, so I appreciate the darkness incentive to setting out my clothes and accessories the night before, then I can walk them to a room where I can turn on the light, or dress sightless and still end up professionally attired at the end.

      I knew he was a night person when we’d been together for a few months, and this is a part of who he is. I’m glad he accepts my morning personness and has become resigned to my inability / unwillingness to go out at night for the vast majority of activities he proposes. He knows to find a friend for Tuesday night concerts or weekend night sporting events.

    • Isabel says...

      This used to (and sometimes still does) drive me crazy too. On top of all of the inconveniences that come from keeping different hours, it can feel lonely. But now, after being together for almost 10 years, when my husband comes to bed at the same time I do, I can’t fall asleep and I miss my few minutes of alone time to read or zone out on my phone. Instead of waiting for my husband to get up in the morning, I’ve made an effort to meet up with a friend at a yoga class or for coffee. I think it’s more common than pop culture will lead you to believe (couples ALWAYS go to sleep at the same time or out together for early breakfast on tv!). Once I let go of the misconception that “happy” couples do everything together, I was able to appreciate the tiny gifts that our different schedules allow us as individuals.

    • Rae says...

      My husband is a doctor with a schedule that includes working nights, split shifts, shifts beginning at 6 am, and everything in between. I am a teacher and we have children so I keep typical “parenting” hours. In other words, we are only asleep at the same time a couple of days a week. It can be very hard but here is what’s worked for us: our bedroom is the room that is most removed from the rest of the house. His post-shift beer and Netflix at 3 am don’t wake me; my getting the family ready for school at 6:30 am doesn’t wake him. We also store as much outside of the bedroom as possible. I chose my clothes for the next day (including workout gear etc.) when the bedroom is unoccupied and move it to the guest room or bathroom. We keep our phones, books, computers, sunglasses, slippers etc in our family room or elsewhere in the house so they aren’t trapped with a sleeping person. When we look at our schedules each week we plan our time together, even just to watch a show or go for a morning walk. It helps to know when I will see him next!

    • Mary W. says...

      I agree with Isabel about the lonely aspect of this situation. For the most part, I try to fill the time with things that I like to do (swimming), but sometimes I end up doing chores (yuck). Still sometimes I realize that I feel trapped by having to wait around for my husband, especially on the weekends. I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with that trapped feeling, but naming it is a start to giving me control and solving the problem.

    • Samantha says...

      I wake up before my boyfriend and started picking out my clothes for the next day the night before, and i set up a vanity in our guest room so i get ready in there. at first i felt like i was being “kicked out” of our room, but now i really enjoy the quiet few moments to myself.

    • erin says...

      Some things that have helped my husband and are:

      1. If I go to bed earlier than him (often), he always comes to “tuck me in” so we get a bit of connection before I fall asleep.
      2. Paperwhite Kindle’s and eye masks! We both have these so we can read without the light on in bed, and we both keep eye masks by the bed in case someone needs the lights when the other is sleepy. He puts his on when my alarm goes off in the AM so I can get dressed and turn on lights without bothering him.
      3. Off hour email updates! We both will email each other things that come up when the other is sleepy/or asleep when we think of them. This way we’re able to touch base on things when we’re both in the right head space

  67. Anne says...

    I think the concept of love languages plays a huge role here. It took me way too long to realize that my husband was leaving clutter in our entry way, on the coffee table and next to our bed not because he didn’t care how much it annoyed me, but because I had never expressed to him that my love language is acts of service like keeping our space clutter- (ie. anxiety-) free or handling a bill or scheduling a service to help keep our frantic to-do list under control. I reorganize and clean our space to show my love (acts of service), while he upgrades our technology and furniture (gift giving) to make our down time together more relaxed (quality time). Once I acknowledged his love language as it plays out in our space, it was much harder to get annoyed at his shortcomings as a co-housekeeper.

    • Sarah says...

      This! My love language is definitely acts of service, at least it is in my current relationship. I am someone who needs to keep my home (and life) need and clean in order to function – I simply can’t function when it feels chaotic. So, I can’t just say “i know my partner doesn’t do the dishes / leaves clutter everywhere / etc., but that’s OK because I know he loves me and this is a roommate issue”, because to me, it really feels like he’s disrespecting me by not doing the things we’ve discussed many times. Once I explained to him that by him performing these “acts of service”, I actually felt more loved, that seemed to click with him a bit. He gets that helping me maintain the home because it is something I truly need shows me he loves me, even if he himself doesn’t care that much about it. It’s still a work in progress for sure, but we’re getting there!

  68. Maria says...

    We always schedule our family meetings as a hike or a walk! We realized all of our really substantive conversations were happening on hikes so we just decided to make it an intentional practice. The walk itself is relaxing and it loosens up the conversation—I think this is a tried-and-true therapeutic technique?

    • JFS says...

      Love this, Maria! Such a good idea.

    • jules says...

      YES to walking and talking! Also to driving and talking. I feel like nothing like a long car ride gets kids (or partners) talking about stuff that is a little too intense when being done with eye contact. “oh, were making a right turn in 2 miles…. also I really dislike my job and I think I might quit”

    • Ginger says...

      This is a really great idea. Not only does movement help unlock a lot of things you may be burying, talking about things that might be contentious is less damaging to each other when you’re side by side rather than facing each other. When you face a person and air a grievance, they may take it more as a personal attack because the energy of your emotion is directed straight at them. If you do it side by side, preferably while walking or even sitting in the car together, the energy of the issue is less confrontational and the one on the receiving end is less likely to react with defensiveness. A whole lot of energy work, couples therapy, and personal therapy have led me and my husband to finally (after 12 years together) break a lot of our cycles of conflict, simply through tactics like this. We go for a long walk or a country drive when we’re feeling disconnected from each other and the conversation flows so much better, even when there’s conflict beneath the surface.

      One thing that’s also helped recently I actually read about on Cup of Jo – the one where you say ‘the story I’m telling myself is…’ before you jump to conclusions about what your partner is thinking but not saying. It makes it more about how you’re feeling and less about accusing your partner of any wrongdoing or passive aggression. Life changing for someone who likes to think themselves a mind reader…

  69. Lisa says...

    My now-husband, then-boyfriend and I used to do “Head Check Tuesdays.” It was great because our relationship was new and we were trying to understand each other’s quirks. It definitely cut down on misunderstandings and miscommunications.

  70. Courtney says...

    My partner and I had a pretty rocky first six months or so (okay, year) of first living together and a complete gamechanger for us was the book Spousonomics (which is now called It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes… we liked the old title much better!). It explains relationship stuff like chores, time together, fights and things that annoy you about the other through a lense of economics and provides super practical solutions. My partner especially really connected to it. We recommend it to everyone who moves in together. Seriously, game. changer.

  71. KC says...

    And when you bring it up, never accuse, “You ALWAYS do/ don’t do whatever.” Address the conduct, but don’t frame it like a character flaw. I learned that from a parenting book, but it also applies to adult relationships!

    • Laurel says...

      Any advice on how to phrase this? Because some people always do X!

    • M says...

      Laurel: Try framing it as, “I’ve noticed recently that you have been doing X” or “Sometimes you don’t remember to X”. Even if it feels more accurate or honest or cathartic to tell your partner they “always/never” do something, it’s damaging because it sets them on the defensive. It comes across as a criticism about who they are as a person instead of a complaint about a specific behavior.

      The book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work has more info about this with better examples.

    • KC says...

      The recommendation is to phrase it in the positive by focusing on what you want to happen, rather than harping on what was done wrong. “When you stop at the grocery store on the way home, can you call to see if I need anything?” “Please put your towel in the hamper instead of leaving it on the floor.”

  72. J says...

    After reading the idea in a marriage book, my husband and I started trying to share our “withholds”. The goal is to share two things that you appreciated during the week that you did not express to your partner and one thing that frustrated you, which you also “withheld”. It’s always nice to sandwich the frustrating withhold between the two nice ones. :) The trick is that each of you can only say “thank you” after listening to what your partner has to say and shouldn’t talk about the issues for at least 30 minutes, so that any hot emotions have time to cool down. It definitely helps to express frustrations, but is also great to think about those positive things your partner does or says that you sometimes take for granted!

  73. Robin says...

    I really like that! What a good way of separating things – roommate and relationship issues. I think the roommate issues are things you have to be more relaxed with. My husband also continually refuses to put dishes in the right spot, but I try to let it go. What’s the point, I’m sure I do a million annoying things as well that he doesn’t tell me about!

  74. Heather says...

    Great idea – even for families with teens. Also – he’s so dreamy!

  75. Robin says...

    You know how you can tell right away if your spouse is grumpy, or pissed off? We’ve gotten to the point where we immediately say, “what’s the matter?” which is an invitation/order to say what’s on your mind. We deal with our crap right away rather than on a weekly basis. Often the cause is a simple thing like feelings of unfairness around who picks up the dog poop. But sometimes it’s bigger things, such as sex, grief, infertility, mental health issues. Unfortunately, my husband usually feels worse after these discussions, and I usually feel better, no matter who brings up the issue. Not sure how to deal with that one yet. Communication is ever changing, and even after 10 years with someone it’s still a big challenge for me!

    • Caitlin says...

      Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband has routinely mentioned that after we’ve had one of these more intense conversations he doesn’t feel catharsis from it, while I generally always do. And I haven’t known what to do about that. Glad to know it’s not just us! We’ve been together for 6.5 years but only got married last month, so it’s a work in progress! (As I’m sure it will always be.)

  76. Kenzie says...

    Yes! We have a “weekly household meeting” each Sunday (but it doesn’t include snacks and I’m not sure why…). I love having a time to air grievances and check in on our relationship but I also love it as a time to check in on the week ahead. We always make a point to ask things like: how can I support you this week? do you have anything big going on at work? what weeknight activities/obligations do you/we have?

    It’s nice to have a weekly forum to advocate for what you need (and how you can help meet the needs of others) – even if it’s just a heads up that you may need a hug or a waiting cocktail after a big meeting at work.

    • Laurel says...

      Ooh I need to start asking the support question. I’m usually so focused on logistics and food prep.

  77. Sara says...

    “there are roommate issues and there are relationship issues and you should never mix up which is which.”

    This. This. This!

  78. Kirsten says...

    I love Lizlistens on Instagram. Suuuuuch good advice on maintaining relationships. My husband is luckily the best communicator I’ve ever met and has done wonders on my tendency to seethe quietly, but her tips on turning towards your partner and recognizing your own triggers in conflict are so helpful.

  79. jules says...

    UGH! Me and my husband had the same thing (friends acting like moving in was so much bigger than it was) when we first moved in together years ago. It was the best decision we ever made and I still love sharing a home with him. I do think for communication the opposite works best for us – if something is annoying me I say it right now – because waiting until the weekly meeting might let me turn whatever it is into something bigger or smaller. I would also definitely get antsy in the build up thinking about what he might bring each week. We say it as it comes up and get rid of it, and usually we fix it right then and there if we can. If it is something bigger or requiring more time then we pick another day (usually Sunday morning) to tackle it. I do love a good walk to do the real deep down check ins, though.

  80. Emmie says...

    Last year my husband and I started a weekly coffee date where we go over schedules and upcoming family events. If one person has a particularly overwhelming week, they have to ask the other partner for help with at least one thing. It has been so helpful! Knowing why a partner missed a chore or is a little crankier than usual has saved us from some many fights. We also take a picture every week. It’s been really fun to look back over them and see how we have changed over only a year.

    • annie says...

      what a lovely idea. a coffee date with the express purpose of going over what’s coming up sounds so comforting and useful!

    • Ashley says...

      This is the cutest dang thing I’ve heard in a while! I love the idea of taking a photo together each week to compare! And also love the idea of pre-empting any arguments because you’re already clued in. so so cute!

    • agnes says...

      We do that aswell, and it’s great! From organizing menus, holidays, bills, or deeper talks about what we really to do in life or where we want to be in ten year. I still love those weekly coffee date… They make us feel like a team, and so we are one.

    • Kathryn says...

      Love this, I have never been able to get up enthusiasm for a family meeting, but a coffee date sounds amazing. I especially love the idea of just saying you are feeling overwhelmed by the upcoming week! So simple.

  81. M says...

    We have an annual Team Meeting – on New Year’s Day. My husband jokes that he can’t party the night before or he won’t be ready for it. We review how we did financially (did we meet our saving and giving goals?), highs and lows of the previous year, and then discuss plans for the next year: including person goals, financial goals, budget tweaks, and plans for our vacation days. I deeply believe that communicating expectations is key, and being proactive about the big things that are finite (time and money) helps the whole year go smoothly. (I’m aware that the conversation I just described sounds like some people’s nightmare, but we love it). I also love calling it our Team Meeting because it reinforces that we are on the same team, helping each other achieve our shared and individual goals.

  82. Annie says...

    We call ours “Business Meetings”! Sometimes we dress up for them in an attempt to make them as silly as possible. We talk about scheduling for the next couple weeks, goals and the boring parts of living together like bills. I love the idea of incorporating more relationship communication into these meetings as well :)

    Great post!

  83. Becka says...

    I say this with a spirit of great affection for the blog and all of its writers, a wonky love of grammar, and with deep terror that this will come off as extremely nitpicky and irritating… but shouldn’t the title be “How to Not Kill Your Partner?” rather than “How Not to Kill Your Partner?” To me, the first reads as “how to avoid killing your partner” and the second reads as “you should kill your partner, but avoid this way of doing it.” :) Made me laugh. Thank you for being my favorite corner of the internet!

  84. Stephany says...

    While we were raising small kids, my husband and I forgot to talk to each other. We were so busy just trying to keep everyone alive. Now that we are sleeping through the night, the kids can wipes themselves, and we have more time for ourselves, we have even deeper conversations that last all night. We have come to realize that there is no reason to stew. We are on the same side.

    Loved this post. ❤

  85. Gina says...

    Here’s the best piece of marriage/relationship advice that I’ve received: When your partner does something that annoys you, you really only need to bring it up if its a pattern. Meaning, there’s no need to comment on one-off offenses, like when he accidentally leaves the freezer door open or is late to dinner. Only if these things happen regularly and are driving you mad should you bring it up. And even then, be full of love and patience as they try to establish new routines.

  86. LK says...

    My neighbor and her husband have quarterly check ins, like at work. They talk about their triumphs, goals, etc.

    • Esvee says...

      My husband and I do this. We’ve been doing weekly money check-ins for 15+ years, and one day we realized that our relationship deserves a weekly check-in too! Much more, even. We call them Love Talks :)

      Reading all of the reader comments has given me so much food for thought on how to make these better!

  87. Melissa says...

    I am HERE for the weekly meeting! It’s been really helpful in my marriage. And… when I first saw this title, my stomach lurched. Unfortunately, intimate partner violence is really commonplace and that was where my heart and my head went. While I’m sure we all joke about this from time to time (being so frustrated that we want to kill someone), I wonder if you would consider rephrasing this title? Always so grateful for this community and the thoughtful writing.

  88. Emily says...

    Imagine if during these meetings/reviews/check-ins all issues were framed as “the story I’m telling myself”? Relationship goals!

  89. Flannery says...

    The BEST advice I ever got on this topic was from the mom in a family I used to babysit. As she rolled her eyes after her husband put the kids’ lunch-boxes away in the wrong spot for the millionth time, she said to me “there are roommate issues and there are relationship issues and you should never mix up which is which.” I think about this ALL THE TIME. It’s so important to remember that when your partner doesn’t unload the dishwasher, it has nothing to do with how much they love you.

    • Kat says...

      this is so wise!

    • Lauren says...

      This is such an awesome distinction!

    • Olivia says...

      THAT IS SO GOOD.

    • Kim says...

      That is absolutely brilliant & sooo true.

    • Michelle says...

      I love this!!

    • Emily C says...

      This is really powerful. Thank you for sharing this. :)

    • KL says...

      how wonderful!!!!

    • Heather says...

      This is eye opening – love it!

    • Elly says...

      Thank you for writing this. My husband and I bicker over chores and it’s so easy to break down and think “my marriage must suck” because he hasn’t taken out the recycling yet this week. But you’re right, that’s a roommate issue, not a measure of his love.

    • Mandy says...

      Ohhh that’s good! I’m totally going to keep that in mind!

    • Nat says...

      Wow wow wow this is so helpful!!

    • Elle says...

      That is amazing!

    • E says...

      I just wrote this down! Such a simple “duh” concept which has never dawned on me!

    • Isabel says...

      Wow, this is the best. Serious marriage game changer.

    • Deanna says...

      This is genius.

    • Holly Warren says...

      THIS COMMENT…. is everything!

      Thank you <3