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Building Relationship Resilience: How To Improve Communication + Alignment With Your Spouse

By March 10, 2017 No Comments

This past week, my wife Sarah gave birth to our second son, Max Miller.

As any parent will tell you, it’s impossible to overstate how truly “miraculous” childbirth is.

It’s also hard to overstate how challenging it can be to raise that little “miracle” in his or her first few days, weeks, and months of life 🙂

Recognizing Max was going to be as disruptive as he would be beautiful, Sarah and I decided, in January, to work on building our “relationship resilience” before his birth.

In other words, we wanted to get better at communicating, learning and growing together as a couple.

The solution we came up with has been so effective that we want to share it. Our hope is that you can use it to improve the quality and “resilience” of your relationship, too.

Improving Relationship Resilience: The Family “Pow-Wow”

Early on in our marriage, Sarah and I committed to using the calendar to improve our communication.

Business travel, doctor’s appointments, exercise, book club, kids play dates…we turned everything into meeting planners and invitations.

For the most part, this system works great. The problem, however, is that it’s hard to provide appropriate context via a calendar invite.

While we knew, technically, what was happening in each other’s life, we were often scrambling to find a babysitter, or change plans, at the last moment, when our plans didn’t sync up with reality.

This was the problem we were trying to solve when we introduced the Family “Pow-Wow” — a weekly, 45-minute meeting during which Sarah and I reflect on the week that was, and plan for the week(s) ahead.

The Secret To Effective Family Meetings

As I often counsel senior business leaders, if you’re going to hold a standing meeting with your team, you’ve got to keep it simple and structured.

The same holds true for effective family meetings.

To ensure that we stay on time, and target, Sarah and I created a simple standing “agenda” that we use to manage our time each week.

This short list of questions makes it easy to prepare for these meetings (we know what’s coming) and ensure that, by the end of our time together, we really understand one other’s priorities and needs.

Here’s what it looks like:

1. Review Of Last Week

  • Big wins and/or key accomplishments?
  • Of what are you most proud?
  • What didn’t happen, that you hoped would?

2. What’s Coming This Week

  • Top personal + professional priorities?
  • Key events / priorities?

3. What’s On The Horizon? (Next week + Beyond) 

  • Key events + priorities
  • What do we need to get ahead of / start planning for (events, travel, dinners, etc.)?

And then, once every two months we add in a “Family Financial Review” during which we discuss:

  • 5 Key Family Financial Metrics**
  • How are our investments doing?
  • Anything we need to change/modify/consider with respect to our finances?

Building Relationship Resilience, One Conversation At A Time

As our life gets increasingly “full” (of children, community and work commitments), Sarah and I believe that our ability to get, and stay, aligned will mean the difference between a relationship that grows and thrives, and one that stagnates or implodes.

When we first committed to testing this idea out at the start of the year, we didn’t know if this “Pow-Wow” would be a good use of time.

Today, three months in to our “test,” we can say with confidence that this is the best, most important, 45 minutes of our week.

Not only does this short meeting reduce scheduling “friction,” but the time spent discussing the highlights and lessons learned from the previous week has helped us to grow closer together emotionally.

If you feel like your relationship is under siege by the “busy-ness” of life, consider scheduling a “Pow-Wow” with your partner or spouse.

As I’ve written before, a great relationship often starts with a single great decision, but creating relationship resilience it requires consistent and intentional effort, every day.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes.


**Note: The five financial metrics that we discuss:

  • How much money have we spent? (monthly expenses)
  • How much money have we made? (income, after tax)
  • How much money have we saved? 
  • How much money have we given away? (charitable giving per month total + % of income)
  • What is our current “Lifetime Savings Rate”? (net worth / lifetime income)

For more about managing your money as a couple, read this.

Ben Sands

Author Ben Sands

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