One of the things that successful couples are doing that struggling couples are not doing enough of, is checking in. This simple practice can mean the difference between relationship fulfillment and relationship hell.
What is checking in?
Checking in refers to taking a brief break from our efforts to fulfill the endless list of daily responsibilities and redirecting our attention to our inner experience. During check-in, we focus our awareness on what’s happening within ourselves, rather than our external concerns. We bring a non-judging awareness to our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical sensations.
This practice, also known as mindfulness, brings us into the present moment and simultaneously quiets and calms agitated thoughts, allowing us to relax. Doing so enables us to see things as they are rather than through the filter of a distracted mind and promotes a more enlightened response to our present circumstances.
Knowing self and others more deeply.
The process of checking allows us to become aware of the state of mind of another person. When we direct our attention to them, we invite their response to the nature of their experience. It can be through a simple question like “How are you?” is something that we ask others sometimes several times a day. When we check in with that question, we are really asking that as a question, and not offering it simply as a greeting. In doing so, we’re likely to get a very different response.
Interpersonal check-ins are vital since everyone’s experience changes continually. If we are attuned to where our partner is at this moment, we are more likely to be sensitive to them which enhances the possibility of creating a satisfying interaction.
Having a regular time of day can be helpful.
We don’t need to conduct this kind of inquiry every time we start a new conversation, but it behooves us all to check in with each other at least occasionally so as to orient ourselves to the other’s current state. We both have made a habit of checking in with each other first thing in the morning before we even get out of bed. It’s been a great way for us to start the new day feeling aligned with each other. Even on those days when we’re not exactly on the same page in regard to our prevailing moods, we have a sense of being connected, which always makes for a good beginning to the day.
These check-ins promote feelings of mutual trust and understanding. Showing a sincere interest in another person’s experience out of an intention to more fully understand them is also a way of showing respect, and care for them which enhances the relationship.
Another form of checking in is through touch. In the late 1970s, Dr. William Masters renowned sex researcher and sex therapist has been quoted as having told his trainees, “Tell your couples that twenty-four hours must not go by without some sensual touching.”
Strengthening the lovers component of the partnership
Without having daily connections, we run the risk of becoming roommates, business partners, or co-employees doing the job of parenting, and home management. The juice of the relationship will inevitably dry up if it is not infused on a frequent (daily) basis with ample amounts of validation, interest, acknowledgment, appreciation, gratitude, generosity, and any other expressions of love. Even when there are physical separations, regular connections by phone, email, letter, text, Skype, or any other means of contact continue to enhance our relationship.
Developing the habit of frequent check-ins can also mean the difference between a meaningful, truly fulfilling relationship, and a practical arrangement. In the latter, couples may have done all the right things, but the element that is missing is the spirit of love that is often lost in the tasks inherent in creating a life together. Deepening a loving relationship is not the same as sharing two lives. For the potential of committed partnership to be fully realized, time, attention, care, dedication, and nurturance of the relationship is required.
Developing depth of connection
It is not merely the time that successful couples spend together, but the depth of the connection that makes all the difference. They are sharing with each other on a feeling level, speaking about things that truly matter to them. They are not just exchanging information such as pass the salt, and who is picking up the cleaning? They are relating in a personal way.
The daily habit of checking in out of a sincere interest in your partner’s experience is a powerfully effective way to show love. When you add to the many other ways in which we can show love, like sensual touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, and occasional surprises of little gifts, we co-create an environment in our relationship in which love will thrive.