Engagement – NOT The Ring-Giving Kind!
When we hear the word “engagement” in the context of a marriage relationship, we usually think about that memorable occassion where a guy gives a girl a ring to start the whole matrimonial process! But what happens when the couple gets “engaged,” gets married, gets on with life, has a house and 2.3 children??? Are they still “engaged”? For many couples, this is when their “engagement”–their emotional engagement–gets strained. It’s hard to stay emotionally connected while “doing life”!
So, what’s an easy way to stay “engaged” (emotionally)?
One low stress way to stay engaged is “The Daily Check-In”! Spend 15-20 minutes per day with your partner “checking in,” debriefing your day and giving and receiving emotional support. Couple tend to do this naturally when they are dating – either seeing each other in person or spending time on the phone. But the stress and schedule of married life gets in the way. However, if couples don’t find ways to defeat this stress and scheduling challenge, they can quickly become disengaged! In just a little more time than it takes to “Check-In” on Facebook, you can “Check-in” with your spouse–with a lot more personal and positive results!
So, what do we talk about?
The average couple has tried this before, but one of two things tends to happen. Either they 1) bore each other to death with endless talk about what happened in meetings, carpools and work, OR 2) they dive into bickering about whatever unresolved conflict has been festering between them! Like Bob Newhart said playing a therapist in the famous YouTube Clip – “Stop it!”
A great strategy for running this session is to ask the “high-low” question. Ask your partner, “What was your emotional high point of the day, and what was your emotional low point of the day?” Easy, huh? this simple two part question gets your partner to screen out all the boring stuff of the day and get straight to the “point” of what really mattered to them — positively or negatively — in the course of their day! What a great gift! YOUR job is to ask the question, listen (and don’t interrupt), and to offer emotional support (NOT advice, corrections, competing stories, criticism, NOTHING else – nada, nothing). By doing this, you are telling your partner that you care, that their life and experience matter to you and that you are willing to listen. You will get BIG extra credit if you also REMEMBER this information and ask follow up questions as you check back in over the next few days! Once one partner has completed this process, let the other partner take their turn as well. This is about mutual support and two person engagement.
In a future post, I will let you know WHY this matters so much!
If you would like to read more, check out John Gottman’s book, Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work. You can buy in The Summit Store through our partnership with Amazon books!