Healthy Relationship Practices: The Check-Out

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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Over the past three years, ever since the end of my marriage and the beginning of my current relationship, I’ve read, watched and learned a lot about how to nourish, sustain and grow your relationship. I wanted to make sure not to make the same mistakes I made ever again. We’ve tried out different practices and fine-tuned others to suit our needs. One of those practices that has had a big impact is the check-out.

The check-out is a very simple practice. At the end of the day, you and your partner sit down together and share, in turns, what you want to share about that day. It can be something you saw, or something you did or a feeling you had. It can be related to your relationship, or your family life, or the rest of your day. Anything goes. As a partner, you listen without interrupting or responding in a way other than to signifiy that you’re listening. ‘Uhuh’ and nodding are fine, rolling your eyes is not. After you’ve told your tale, you signify to your partner that it is now their turn (‘Thank you for listening. What would you like to share?’)

Why is this simple practice so powerful?

Throughout the day you run into situations and feelings you don’t always take notice of. And even if you do notice them, you might not always feel up to communicating about them right away.

For example, we’re driving to school to pick up the children, when my partner responds in a way that takes me off guard (‘I don’t think that has anything to do with it!‘) I might feel surprise or anger rise, and my immediate response will be to shut down. Ideally I’ll share with my partner right away what triggered me and give him a chance to explain his side of the event, but my emotions can get in the way at times.

The check-out at night, when I’ve had time to cool down and the day comes into full perspective, will give me a chance to come back to this incident and share my experience. I might say how I felt and what need or wound of mine was triggered (I got angry because it felt to me like you were dismissing my words), or I could apologize for something that happened (I was stressed this morning so I didn’t take the time I want to connect with you before we each start work.)

What are the rules of a check-out?

Apart from listening without interrupting, there aren’t any rules, really.
Check-outs can be quick or they can last long. If it feels more comfortable to both of you, you could set a time for how long you will vow to listen to each other, (5 minutes each, for example). You can build in time to respond to the other or leave that out. You could end each turn by paraphrasing what the other has said, to make sure you understood them correctly.

What are check-outs NOT?

Check-outs are not a way to go ahead and tell your partner what they did wrong the entire day. In all conversations it’s important to focus on your experience, your own feelings and how the other person’s words and actions affected YOU. It is impossible to know the intent behind your partner’s words unless they tell you about it, so keep an open mind and, above all, an open heart.

Feel free to let me know if you tried it out, and what happened. If you have any questions or bump into obstacles, you’re always welcome to share them below. Perhaps others might share the same troubles.

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