When was the last time you gave your relationship a checkup?
Relationship truism: All marriages and relationships need a check-up.
Think about your car—do you wait for major problems to arise before having it tuned up? Cars require regular scheduled maintenance for a good reason: periodic check-ups often prevent major problems.
The same goes for your relationship: Prevention is the best medicine. Unfortunately, many couples falsely believe that their relationship is immune to problems (“don’t fix it if it ain’t broke”) and they wait for problems to arise before seeking help.
Relationship Help: How do I give my marriage/relationship a checkup?
The first step in conducting a relationship check-up is to figure out where to start. When you go for a physical exam, your medical doctor evaluates you systemically. For example, s/he will check your heart (pulmonary system), lungs (respiratory system), stomach (digestive system). Your doctor has a roadmap that guides him/her to the different areas that need to be examined.
Just like your doctor, you need a roadmap to help guide your relationship check-up.
Use the ten categories below to carry out your own relationship check-up. While these categories are listed separately, in reality they interrelate and affect each other (for instance, emotional intimacy may impact your satisfaction with sexual intimacy).
Rate each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = this area of your relationship needs a major overhaul; 5 = this area of your relationship is OK; 10 = this area of your relationship is working great).
Your Relationship Check-up Roadmap:
1. Communication – Includes all the ways in which you (and your spouse/partner) express your needs and desires—and how responsive your partner is to your communication.
2. Emotional Intimacy – This has to do with the bond and closeness you feel with your partner. Do you feel like you’re living with your best friend or do you feel alone and disconnected? While many factors can influence emotional intimacy, rate this category on how you generally feel.
3. Sexual Intimacy – How well you and your partner express love and passion through sex. This can include quality of lovemaking as well as frequency. For example, think about whether or not you and your partner have sex as often as you’d like.
4. Ability to Negotiate/Compromise – Inherent to a healthy marriage/relationship is a couple’s ability to work out differences, compromise, and deal with conflict. How do you feel you and your partner rate in this category?
5. Socialization – This involves your level of satisfaction when socializing as a couple and each of you individually. Do you feel the need to spend more time with other couples? Do you or your partner feel the need to socialize separately? Are you satisfied with the friendships you both share?
6. Fun/Play – Do you and your partner have a good time together? Is there a sense of playfulness, a shared abandon? Do you share mutually enjoyable activities? Or has your relationship evolved into a businesslike partnership?
7. Management of Finances – Money (or the lack of) can be a real challenge for many couples. While scoring this category, focus on how money is handled within your relationship. Do you share a financial vision with your partner? Do you agree on how to spend money?
8. Household/Life-task Maintenance – Includes the handling of all the household responsibilities, childcare issues and everything in between. Are you satisfied with how the household responsibilities are shared? Were the delegation of responsibilities negotiated or did these arrangements seem to just “happen”?
9. Extended Family – Part of being a couple involves separating from your family of origin. Some couples are able to achieve a comfortable balance between spending time with each other’s families while developing a separate identity as a couple. Others find it a challenge because one partner may feel the other is too involved with his/her family at the expense of the relationship. Are you satisfied with the amount of contact you have with each other’s family? Does it feel like a comfortable balance has been achieved?
10. Spirituality/Religion – This category includes a shared vision about the role of religion/spirituality in your relationship. Do you share similar beliefs about religion? Do your spiritual beliefs bring you closer together? Do they pull you apart? Perhaps you feel there is room in your relationship for developing a shared spirituality; or perhaps this isn’t an issue for either of you.
Relationship Help: Making Sense of Your Scores
After rating your marriage/relationship across these categories, see which areas of your relationship you are satisfied with (scores of 7 or higher) and which categories need improvement (scores below 5).
Discuss your scores with your spouse/partner and brainstorm on how to increase a category by one point (start slow). What specific behaviors would help you reach this goal?
Continue to work on this specific category for enough time before attempting to tackle a new category.
Congratulations on completing your checkup! Now that you’ve conducted your marriage/relationship check-up, you have a better understanding of the different areas of your relationship that may need a tune-up.
Marriage/Relationship Help Resource
To give your relationship a more thorough checkup, check out my comprehensive relationship checkup.
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro