As a wife and a mom, I think that many of us out there can say that communication might not be our significant other’s strongest skill. Now, my husband is fun and friendly and loving and hard-working and takes amazing care of his family. But, there are days when I swear if I have to repeat myself ONE MORE TIME or have to ask him to take out his darn AirPods when I’m talking or realize he’s forgotten something that was important or… well, you get the picture. I’ll lose it. We needed a communication overhaul. A communication spring cleaning.
About a year ago, these issues – compounded by lots of travel, having to tent our house for termites and the million other little stressors of everyday life – prompted us to get to work on a communication solution. Even with a decade of marriage under our belts, the clutter of bickering, small hurts and judgments were getting in the way of us enjoying one another (and we REALLY do like each other). So, with the help of an amazing therapist, we made a plan to ditch all of that junk. And WHAT a difference it made.
So, here you go. Some tips for your own Communication Spring Cleaning.
Communication Spring Cleaning
My goals for our communication refresh was to feel SEEN, CELEBRATED and HEARD. My days as a stay-at-home mom look very different than my husband’s. The things I am proud of, or feel are important, or even find concerning, didn’t always fall on his radar the same way that they did for me. And, the same went for him. I often dismissed parts of his day and his responsibilities because I didn’t personally place much value in them, or our home life wasn’t directly impacted by them. Obviously, this was not a recipe for being super in-sync. In the same way, our communication styles differ. I like to talk about things in the moment and work through any issues right away. My husband prefers to process and then address things. We needed a compromise. Enter, a neutral third party: Our therapist.
After talking things through together, we cleared the clutter and came up with a plan: The Check-in.
Here’s the process:
- Choose a relaxed time, once a week, to spend about 30mins “checking in” with one another. It doesn’t always have to be a date night or lunch (finding time for that weekly is tough!), but a quiet, planned moment to focus and talk.
- Each person covers:
- 1. What you’re proud of/you’ve accomplished during the week
- 2. Anything you’ve struggled through or that is challenging you
- 3. Anything you feel that you need to address with your significant other – Things that irritated you, or that you might need assistance with in the future
Yep. That’s it. You allow the other person to cover all three points without interruption, and then, you just talk.
Why it worked for us:
This format provided an opportunity to let the other person know your highs and lows, and, after leading with the good news first, address any issues BEFORE they become real problems or a cause for bitterness and division.
This allowed me to let go of small issues, knowing that I would have time to cool off and address the with my husband in a few days. On the flip side, it also provided a deadline for him to finish processing and talk about what is on his mind instead of stringing it along for weeks or months.
By adding structure, it also made this process efficient, by allowing us to squeeze time in between events, travel or school pick-up, while still keeping things warm, relational and constructive.
Some important notes:
I will note that it was important for us to separate this time from our to-do lists or family goals. We often run over the coming week on Sunday evenings, but adding something else to the day was overwhelming and made me (real talk) super grouchy. Also, Mondays are not a good day for me (are they for anyone?!). Again, super grouchy. So, Tuesdays it was. We had enough of the week under our belt to have a handle on things, but not so much that there wasn’t time to adjust our sails.
Obviously, it is really important to be flexible. Skip a week? Just catch up next week! Only have 5 minutes? Maybe split things up into two check-ins. Get super mad, stuck, or just or have a lot to cover? You might need more time. Adjust to what works for you and move on.
The Outcome: So fresh and so clean, clean
Ahhh. You know that feeling when you FINALLY make it up to the attic to go through the bins of clothes you’ve been meaning to sort for three years? Or when you toss all of the expired spices in your cabinet or fold all of the fitted sheets in your linen closet? THAT is what it feels like when my husband and I are “caught up” and on the same page. We have the margin to tackle new things, and the headspace to find more peace and fun in our days!
Your solution may not look like this one at all. But, I hope that hearing a bit about our journey to better (tidier!) communication has sparked some ideas for you about how you might be able to do some Communication Spring Cleaning yourself! And, if/when you get stuck, you may find freedom in talking to someone else, like we did! No shame in that therapy game… In fact, my husband mentioned this method in his Tampa Bay Moms guest post last month – we’re both fans!