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Couples Inventory

Every once in a while Kat and I do a “Couples Inventory”. Just a list of questions we ask, to make sure we’re addressing the things we need to be addressing. Kat proposed we start doing this shortly after we became parents, and I think it’s been really helpful. Here’s an edited version of that list:

(And keep in mind: these are discussion points. None of these are yes/no.)

  1. Are we talking about things other than #children?
  2. Are we talking about things other than #chickens?
  3. Have we been talking about things that aren’t just transactional?
  4. Is one of us feeling left out?
  5. Does it feel like we’re pairing off with the kids in a way that isolates members of the family from one another?
  6. Is one of us feeling like they’re doing all the work?
  7. Are we having enough sex? Do our bodies feel #dunbandon? Our hearts?
  8. Are we setting aside time each week to be alone? Alone with OURSELves??!
  9. Are we each taking care of our mental and physical health to ensure we are our BEST SELVES?
  10. Are we respecting each other’s outlook and opinion when we disagree? IS IT POSSIBLE THE OTHER PERSON IS RIGHT? ARE YOU USING I FEEL STATEMENTS?!?!!
  11. Are our families too UP IN IT? Are we seeing them enough?
  12. Are we doing our best to enjoy the present together?
  13. Are we continuing to ensure our life paths align?
  14. Do we feel like we’re “MINDING THE GAP”?
  15. Do we feel like we’re each giving an equitable amount? Extending to help the other grow?
  16. Are we doing our best to be gentle with everyone else in the household?
  17. Are the questions we’re asking helpful? Are there any questions we should be asking that we’re not?

Again, even when the answer is “yes” we talk through specifics. When we identify something going awry, we talk about how we could do things differently. A lot of the time just identifying the problem is enough to improve things, but far from always.

I think when we started doing this we did it every couple of months, but now we do it a few times a year.

Some notes on those, since they’re a little jargony:

  1. It’s very easy to end up just talking about this one shared project, when there’s so much else in our lives to talk about.
  2. This was added when we had some chickens living in the dining room, but now maybe applies to pets in general?
  3. One thing that seems like it can happen in relationships, especially with kids, is that all the communication that needs to happen around when we’re going to this place or what needs to be gotten from the store or whatever can take time away from the optional communication around things like “I love you” (beyond the quick, automatic phrase as you walk out the door or fall asleep [though that’s important, too]) or “I’ve been feeling ______ lately” or “Hey, this thing we’re doing together is fun!”
  4. Like, are the kids insisting on hanging out with one of us to the exclusion of the other.
  5. Like, will one kid refuse to let one parent put them to bed.
  6. Most of the time we each feel like the other one is doing most of the work, but it’s helpful to talk through what we see the other one doing/what we feel like we’re doing.
  7. #dunbandon is “abandoned”.
  8. It’s important to get time alone together, and to balance that with time you need alone with yourself.
  9. This one is difficult, and covers so many things. Are we each getting enough sleep? Food? Restorative time? Exercise? Do we feel snappish? Frustrated with the kids/each other all the time? Am I getting headaches because I’m not taking care of my back? Are our bodies hurting in other ways? Are we getting caught up in the vicissitudes of our day-to-day in ways that make us anxious or sad?
  10. I think this started out as one of the first questions on the list. If you’re not familiar with the concept of speaking in I think/I feel statements, I think it’s worth looking up.
  11. Life goes through waves. Sometimes you see your family too much, sometimes not enough.
  12. It’s easy to get caught up in “someday” (when the kids are in high school, when they’re in college, when we retire…), but we don’t want to spend X years suffering and then figure out how to enjoy later. Let’s find a balance now. Also, there’s this statistic about needing five positive interactions to offset each negative interaction – I don’t think it’s that simple, but I do think it’s important to enjoy each other most of the time to help us through the rough patches.
  13. Once when Kat and I were talking to Reverend Charles Rice he used a metaphor about “aligning your life paths” with this hand motion of two index fingers coming together and moving in the same direction. It really stuck with me, this image of all the things we do/all the choices we make being like paths in an N-dimensional space and us trying to make sure that we stay near each other. Making sure I don’t set up my life to take me away from Kat physically/temporally/emotionally/spiritually/…
  14. I think this was from Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. Minding the gap is about making sure we’re acting in accordance with our ideals, and making sure the kids see us correcting ourselves when we do the wrong thing.
  15. Equitable, not equal. This will fluctuate. “Extending to help the other grow” is either directly from or a paraphrase of bell hooks in All About Love.
  16. I guess some of these are a little redundant. Let’s just all try to stay calm and be nice to each other.
  17. Update the list. We probably make a change every second or third time we go through the inventory.
Last modified: 2023-02-11 13:35:16 -0500 -0500 • For full version history, see github
Tags: parenting