My Marriage is Stronger Than Ever Thanks to This Sunday Night Routine

Intimately familiar.

By Brittany Chatburn
Couple sitting on front porch.

My sister introduced me to the concept. “We have a weekly marriage meeting every Sunday night,” she shared, “just to check in with each other and get on the same page.” Immediately intrigued, I asked her to send me her agenda and announced to my husband that our first official marriage meeting would occur this Sunday evening, don’t be late. He raised his eyebrows in (to my surprise) curious interest. “Sure. Sounds good,” he said. 

Later that week, we sat down at the dining table. I pulled up the questions and we got to talking. He was totally game and the further we got into it, the more we realized what we’d been missing. We talk all the time, but this was different. There was an intention behind it. A framework that lent itself to meaningful conversations across subjects—from who would take the kids to the dentist that week to why I felt fully overwhelmed by 5 p.m. every day.

Featured image from our interview with Claire Zinnecker.

Couple laughing.

These meetings began to breathe life into our relationship and set us up for a week where we were on the same page logistically and emotionally.

As the weeks went on, we continued to keep our standing meeting. Oftentimes, moving to the couch or the front porch, we took on a cadence that allowed us to look one another in the eye, listen fully, and be heard. These meetings began to breathe life into our relationship and set us up for a week where we were on the same page logistically and emotionally. As partners, teammates, parents, and lovers. It’s been the linchpin to a thriving relationship and, by proxy, a healthy family dynamic.

Don’t get me wrong. This weekly marriage meeting doesn’t mean we never fight or we suddenly have a “perfect” relationship, whatever that is. We’ve even skipped a few Sundays lately in exchange for bingeing Netflix. And that doesn’t mean we’ve failed in some way. The point of the meeting is conditioning your connection—and recognizing when it’s time to dive back in.

Couple talking.

What are marriage meetings?

A marriage meeting is a regular, intentional time set aside to pause and connect with your partner. It’s a moment to fill up and encourage one another as you journey onwards in your lifelong commitment to a relationship that’s healthy, romantic, meaningful, and full of joy. And when your mental load feels like it’s reached peak capacity, a marriage meeting is how you create space. 

Putting intention behind noticing your partner’s actions during the week is a breeding ground for romance.

Weekly marriage meeting couple talking.

The Benefits of a Weekly Marriage Meeting

I could write pages on the benefits of implementing a regular time to check in with your partner, but let’s stick with the high level. 

  1. It enhances intimacy on all levels. The beauty of relationships is that we’re always growing and evolving, so there’s always something new to learn. Weekly check-ins are an opportunity to connect on intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and even physical levels. It’s also a time to communicate about logistics. Because listen. If you have kids, then you know how quickly those romantic date-night conversations take a swift turn to children and general life management. The marriage meeting creates a space for these topics so you can table them for a specific time and place. 
  2. It lets you get ahead of potential conflicts. Regular meetings allow you to get on the same page and set expectations for the week. It also provides an opportunity to discuss unresolved conflicts or those things you keep meaning to mention.
  3. It keeps the romance alive. Our weekly communication is the enemy of complacency and helps avoid the “roommate syndrome” that can often creep in while you’re not looking. Trust me when I say, a marriage meeting lends itself to intimacy on all levels.
Woman working on laptop.

How to Hold a Marriage Meeting: The Nitty-Gritty

  • Schedule It Weekly. Put a day and time on your calendar and honor it. Make it a habit.
  • Sit Together. Choose a comfortable spot on the couch or at the table and sit next to each other.
  • Limit distractions. Turn your notifications and the television off. If you have kids, hold the meeting while they’re napping or in bed for the night.
  • Bring your tools. Make sure you have access to any calendars or organizational apps you use. Feel free to grab some pen and paper (or just use your Notes app) if you want to jot down anything to remember.
  • Keep it short. A short meeting makes for an easy weekly commitment. But, full disclosure? My husband and I hardly ever adhere to this. Nearly every time we start a meeting with, “Let’s do this fast so we can watch Netflix before bed,” we end up chatting way beyond 30 minutes. Sometimes because we need to. Sometimes because we want to. And oftentimes, because we recognize the sudden urge to skip Netflix and head to bed for other reasons…

And Remember…

Above all, this meeting should never feel like a chore. And if it does, I challenge you and/or your partner to re-frame it. This is what you vowed to do. This is nurturing the relationship just like you promised you would. The key? Make it fun and carry equal ownership.

Know that it’s normal for one partner to take the reigns in the beginning, but try to give equal time for discussion as you go through the agenda. Eventually, you’ll both learn to look forward to this time as you find it instrumental to your relationship. Perhaps even fun?

weekly marriage meeting on the couch
Image by Teal Thomsen

The Agenda: Marriage Meeting Questions

My recommendation is that you grab a few questions from the list below and create a personalized agenda based on your own needs, with the addition of 2-3 questions that might stand out as challenging or not totally applicable. The reason? You never know which question could open up a whole new level for your relationship. 

I keep a note on my phone with discussion points and questions to ask each other each week. Over time, this note has evolved as we’ve removed some questions and added others. It’s a living document that ebbs and flows with the seasons of our relationship. Sometimes I’ll drop notes with our answers, particularly if we’re trying to reach a certain goal, either together or in our individual lives and careers. It gives us a place to check in the following week and keep each other accountable. 

But for the most part, we just open the floor and talk.

Woman working at table on laptop.

1. Start With Gratitude 

Begin by setting a positive environment. We all know there is power when your mind shifts to gratitude. And when you place all that mental energy toward your partner? It’s kind of monumental.

Take turns expressing specific appreciation from the week prior

Acknowledge any moments in the last week you felt particularly grateful for something your partner did. A few examples:

  • Thanks for making lunches for the kids at night so our morning wasn’t as rushed.
  • I really appreciated how you called to sort out that bill because you knew I was stressed.
  • It was so sweet of you to pick up my favorite drink on the way home.

As you get used to this practice, you can jot things down on your phone throughout the week. 

Bonus! Putting intention behind noticing your partner’s actions during the week is a breeding ground for romance. When you put the focus on what they do rather than what they don’t do (which is arguably the default), it creates more connection and affection for the other. It also encourages you to seek out ways to do the same in return—the healthiest of spirals.

Give a compliment

Who doesn’t love a physical compliment? “Your bedhead was so freakin’ cute this morning” or, “The way you wore that dress…” Again, the list goes on. Another bonus? The more you put this intentional attention toward your partner, the more attractive they become. It’s science. 

Couple embracing.
Image by Kristen Kilpatrick

2. Talk Logistics

Once you’re feeling all warm and fuzzy, move on to the to-do’s, appointments, and expectations for the week. Try to keep it short and high-level. Otherwise, it can quickly take over the whole marriage meeting. (And if a certain topic brings up conflict, table it for later.)

  • What does your schedule look like this week? Compare calendars. Are there any appointments scheduled or that need to be scheduled? (Take this time to review any school due dates or activities for kids, as well.)
  • Do we need to divvy up duties in any way? From school pick-ups to household appointments, who does what?
  • What are your top three work priorities for the coming week? It’s valuable to discuss goals at work or at home with your partner. It gives both of you an idea as to what you’re walking into this week and hoping to achieve. You could also swap in a question about a specific goal you know the other is working toward—or something you’re working on together.
  • Check in on your finances. How are your goals coming along? Any areas you need to address?

3. Plan Ahead

Building a life together should be fun! And life is always more fun when you have happy things to look forward to. It’s easy to talk about it, so here is where you dig into the doing. Use this time to intentionally build fun and play into your life.

  • Plan dates. Do you have a weekly date cadence? Schedule it. This is also a good time to plan individual hangouts with your kids.
  • Schedule personal rest days. My husband and I each get one quarterly rest day to do anything we want to do aaaaall by ourselves. The goal is guilt-free rest and freedom to do the things that make you feel like you. It’s a critical time to refuel and to show each other support in your own individual interests. If you have a hard time with the concept of giving yourself or your partner a full day off, zoom out. Is there a reason you can’t put aside four days out of 365 for yourself? Trust me, doing so will benefit both yourself and those you love.
  • Schedule fun stuff. This is anything that doesn’t fit into the above categories: family activities, vacations, time with friends, etc.
20 second hug for a marriage meeting
Image by Joann Pai

4. Address Challenges and Connect

Finally, it’s time to get aligned across the board. Think of this as a problem-solving space, a moment to discuss challenges or areas that need the most attention and care. My advice: Tread lightly at first. Tackle small problems and issues that you know can be resolved. It’s almost like strengthening a muscle—one that’s committed to listening with an intent to understand.

  • Is there any unresolved conflict or things left unsaid that need to be discussed? Let this be a safe space to talk where you’re both resolved to solve a problem. 
  • Check in on your kids. Are there any behavior issues to discuss? How about disciplinary issues? How can you support them?
  • Check in on your spiritual life. This question can be interpreted in a number of ways and open up some surprising conversations.
  • How can I help/serve/encourage you this week? As mentioned above, this question speaks to any areas of your life where you’re feeling overwhelmed and can use some extra support.
  • Check in on your sex life. It’s vital to be open and upfront about intimacy, but it can be hard to find the right time to bring it up. Discussing your sex life in a standing weekly meeting creates freedom and space for the conversation to evolve—and you might just be surprised to hear what your partner brings to the table. You may also be surprised to find that once you get to this part of the meeting, you’re both primed for connection on a “little less conversation, a little more action” level.
  • Close it out. This final part can be especially unique to the two of you. It could be a promise you make to one another this week. Perhaps it’s three things you want to focus on. It could be that you pray together or set a specific intention together. A ceremonial “closing of the meeting” allows you to get out of meeting mode before you… 
  • Show some affection. Have you heard about the benefits of a 20-second hug?! According to psychologists, just 20 seconds of hugging can trigger the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin and decrease stress levels (aka, cortisol). Try it—you’ll literally feel your body relax the closer you get to 20 seconds. You could also high-five. Or kiss. Or take it to the bedroom. Whatever you choose, create space for physical connection—you’ll be happy you did.

This post was originally published on June 16, 2022, and has since been updated