One of the things that successful couples are doing a lot of that struggling couples are not doing enough of is checking in. This simple practice can mean the difference between relationship fulfillment and relationship hell. Checking in refers to the practice of is taking a brief break from our daily activities and responsibilities and redirecting our attention from the outer world to our inner world, the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations that we are currently experiencing. Doing so enables us to see things from a perspective that is freer from the limitations and distortions of our conditioned mind. In so doing, we become able to view “reality” with more clarity and greater understanding. In bringing this state of non-judgment and accepting awareness into view we become more present with our experience, rather than more reactive to it. Another term for this practice is mindfulness.
This shift in our relationship to what we are thinking, feeling and sensing enables us to relate not only to ourselves with greater awareness and clarity, but it can alter our perception of others, including (but not limited to) our partner, if we have one. This includes any thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations that we may be experiencing. During a check-in we focus our awareness with what’s happening within ourselves, rather than our external concerns. We bring an accepting and non-judging awareness to our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical sensations.
This practice brings us into the present moment and simultaneously quiets and calms racing or agitated thoughts, allowing us to relax and presence ourselves in the moment. Doing so enables us to see things as they are rather than through the filter of a distracted mind, and consequently promotes a more enlightened response to our present circumstances.
The process of checking-in can also refer to the practice of becoming aware of the state of mind or mood of another person. In doing so, we are taking the additional step of communicating our experience to another and inviting them to do the same. This process can begin by asking a simple question such as, “How are you?”, something that we frequently ask others. But the difference when we check in with that question is that 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 than we would normally receive. This interpersonal check-in is vital to all relationships since everyone’s experience changes continually and if we are attuned to where our partner is in this moment, we are more likely to be sensitive to their current state of being and able to (usually unconsciously) adjust the way in which we relate to them, enhancing the possibility of creating a more mutually satisfying interaction.
Obviously, we don’t need to conduct this kind of an inquiry every time we start a new conversation, but it behooves us all to check in with each other at least occasionally in order to more accurately orient ourselves to the other’s current state of being and to reveal our own. Charlie and I 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 day. We sometimes offer support or suggestions to each other if one of us is feeling anxious or concerned about something. But usually, simply listening, really listening to each other provides reassurance that we are not alone, and that itself is often enough to align ourselves to 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 and understood.
Check-ins allow for a feeling of connection that strengthens the bond between two people and promotes feelings of mutual trust and understanding. Showing a sincere interest in another person’s experience is also a way of showing respect, and care for them which always enhances the relationship.
It is not merely the time that couples spend together, but the depth of the connection that makes all the difference. Couples who check in frequently have more emotional intimacy than couples who don’t because they are sharing with each other on a feeling level and speaking about things that truly matter to them. They are not just exchanging information or requests like “pass the salt”, or questions such as “Who is picking up the cleaning? They are relating in a more personal way.
Another form of checking in is through touch. In the late 1970’s, 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.”
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 the marriage is not infused on a frequent (daily) basis with ample amounts of validation, interest, acknowledgment, appreciation, gratitude, generosity and any other expressions of love we can think of. Even when there are physical separations, regular connection and check-ins, by phone, email, letter, text, Skype, or any other means of contact will continue to enhance any relationship.
Developing the habit of ongoing check-ins and frequent contact 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 that are inherent in creating a shared life together.
Deepening a loving relationship is not the same as sharing two lives together. For the potential of committed partnership to be fully realized, time, attention, care, dedication and nurturance of the relationship is required. It is not merely the time that successful couples spend together, but the depth of the connection that makes all the difference.
The daily habit of checking in from a sincere interest in your partner’s experience can be a powerfully effective way to show love. When you add to the equation 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. And who wouldn’t want more of that?