You are your own shareholders: How quarterly relationship meetings strengthen our marriage

August 15 2013 | Guest post by Jodi Frisby
Relationship Goals Cake Topper by DixieandTwine

My husband and I recently celebrated three months of marriage. The perfect way for a programmer with a mind for finance and an accountant to augment the occasion was, of course, a quarterly relationship meetings.

There was an agenda and minutes, practical discussion with open and honest communication, and recognition for achievements.

It may sound crazy, but this is our first step in always making our marriage a priority. Here's how quarterly meetings foster open and honest communication while strengthening our relationship…

"No agenda, no attenda."

Agendas are imperative to successful meetings. Not only does it guarantee you won't forget to discuss any important topics, but it gives an end time. Meetings that go on in perpetuity are THE WORST and you want this meeting to be fun, for the most part, and productive.

A week prior is a good time to start drawing it up: For casual meetings agendas can remain open for additional items right up until the moment you have to print them.

Make a S.M.A.R.T. goal

The most important action item in our case was goal setting. When setting goals it is important that they be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive. For two people who consider listening to the NPR Planet Money podcast together a relationship building exercise, it was very easy for us to come up with quantifiable goals. For our purposes, we brainstormed three ideas then selected one for implementation:

  1. Have sex X number of times per week
  2. Go out of town for a weekend getaway, just the two of us
  3. Go out in public and have fun once a week

Because it is winter in Ohio and it is easy enough for us to default to homebodies, three was the clear winner. Item three is indeed specific, attainable since we have the means, measurable and realistic since there is a number involved (once per week), and has the built-in time-sensitive deadline of a quarter. Now for the next three months, one night per week, instead of sitting on the couch watching M*A*S*H we will be going out and doing stuff. What about the particulars? How do we implement? How much we can spend? What the other person does not want to do under any circumstances, etc. We will both keep open minds and give it a chance — it's just a three month commitment.

At the next quarterly meeting we will discuss what went wrong and right and if we want to implement this going forward. I would like to add that we are also free to have sex X number of times per week or go away for a weekend; we will just not measure it. All in favor say "aye." The motion carries.

All the business

Moving on to new business: wait. Old business comes first. It may not be as fun to talk about as shiny new goals, but that's partnership. The old business for our meeting consisted of the detritus of wedding planning. Some thank you cards remain and we set a goal to write two per day until they're done. As was mentioned with goal setting, a deadline is important. Yea, as long as everyone who gave a present gets a thank you it's okay, but what are your standards? Our standards are: we just want it done. Now let's move on to new business!

New business can be all new stuff that may happen until you die, but it's good to start with the upcoming quarter. What is happening in the next three months that affects your relationship? Our parents were a "new business" topic at our meeting: one is having surgery and the rest live in different places. Who can we visit this quarter? Does anyone need anything from us?

The one unifying characteristic to our entire meeting was this: Relationships First. The work being done on our house was irrelevant to this meeting. Focus centered on our relationship to each other then on the relationships with those who we love. Not everything got turned into an action item either. As with most meetings, some discussion was tabled for later in the week (we wanted to mull over which goal we wanted to set) and some was tabled for the next quarter's meeting. But how did we know this?

Have sex twice per week: The minutes from our first quarter marriage meeting!
Have sex twice per week: The minutes from our first quarter marriage meeting!

Minutes

Something else that makes setting goals more effective: write them down. My husband was note taker and will be issuing minutes. (As an example: Our first quarter minutes can be found here.) We made a lot of decisions about a lot of things and we don't want to forget those. You can use the minutes to put reminders on your calendar or just do it the old fashioned way and stick it on the fridge. Just so long as you have a regular reminder of how important your relationship is to each other and that you are both making an effort to grow together.

All this being said, use your best judgment. What you discuss at your meeting, how and when you conduct them and everything in between is your business. You are not a publicly traded enterprise. I came to terms with marriage while I was engaged as follows: the state defines marriage mostly by how it ends, either through death or divorce. We get to decide what the existing, the living parts of marriage mean to us. We make the rules. You make your rules too. You are your own shareholders. Now go make some Action Items.

  1. This made me chuckle. I love seeing another couple's quirky communication style. It may seem weird, but that's also probably why it works, right?

    • I may as well be Joe Friday – Just the facts, ma'am. I'm terrible at reading between the lines, so saying what I mean is the only thing that works for me. I credit that as the reason why my husband and I have never had an argument: everything is discussed rationally before it can be fueled by emotion.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! Although my wife and I talk regularly, I think this is a great way to ensure that we discuss many different aspects instead of what comes easiest. 🙂

  3. I totally love this. My husband and I have a quarterly financial meeting, but I think adding to this other awesome goals really makes the meeting a fun get-together as well.

    For us, we are also a step-family and this can be a time to bring up things that can be left aside. Someone said once that the little stuff feels petty to bring up…but it's the little stuff that makes or breaks a relationship.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Thank you! I love this style of communication because it takes some of the emotion out of things. If there is a problem everyone works together to find a solution. And for a step-family I feel like the idea of kudos in a meeting would be really nice. It sounds a little silly, but being acknowledged by your peer for tackling a difficult situation can make a huge difference as far as outlook. More so even than saying "I love you," or even a public declaration of love on Facebook where the audience is even bigger, specific compliments about how our partner handled a situation is really valuable to both of us. I didn't find that out on my own: I read in the comments of an article here about the Five Love Languages Quiz and learned it from that.

  4. Glad to see we're not the only couple to have official meetings. My husband and I decided when we were engaged to have what we call "High Counsels" once a month where we follow nearly the same model as that you mentioned. After we're done, we then reward ourselves with dinner at a restaurant. I think if more couples did this, it would improve their communication and keep their relationship from drifting.

    • Agreed! I'm impressed that you do it monthly, though it follows Agile Methodology (which we took a bit of inspiration from) a bit more closely. No one ever spins their wheels, no problem gets forgotten, no good deed goes unacknowledged.

  5. I am so going to have to implement this at our house – talking finances as well as goal setting and general review. With a baby at home, we really dont sit down and talk about how things are going nearly often enough. I write personal goals, but I really want my husband to get on board with some as well!

  6. I like this idea too, but actually more for the non-emotional stuff that we usually drag out forever because we're not very organized. If we would concentrate on it more, we could probably be much more efficient.

    Also, since we somehow implicitly apply tasks to one or the other person it would allow each person to realize what the other one is worrying about, etc.

  7. I love this idea! I shared it with my husband, and it was an easy sell. We started our relationship long-distance, which actually forced great communication. When you're living together you can easily get immersed in daily life and not talk about the important stuff that SHOULD be discussed. While living states apart, we got quite good at that, although now that we're living together I do feel like we've lost some of that built-in important communication. And I don't want to get 15 years down the road and realize that we haven't really "talked" in forever, you know?

    So, we shall do this! I've already scheduled our meetings in our Google calendars and have started a shared agenda in Google docs. Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. Hi, I'm doing an assignment and I had to write up a agenda meeting for a wedding project and I would like to ask how would that typically look like?

  9. This is such a great idea. In the spirit of trying new things at the turning over of the year, my partner and I just had our first quarterly "shareholder" meeting for our relationship – and it was awesome! We had frank and open conversations about chores, finances, travel, goals, and we set our first SMART goal! It was awesome, and I think we're going to make sure we get our meetings in for Q2, 3, and 4! It sparked open and honest communication and problem-solving, and I think we'd both consider it a great success. Thank you for sharing your experience and ideas, and your bravery and openness in sharing your own personal goals as an example!

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