Skip to content

What Is a Relationship Check-In, and How Can It Save Your Marriage?

This simple habit can go a long way in improving communication and building intimacy.

Ask any couples therapist what the foundation of a healthy relationship is, and they'll likely say communication. In long-term relationships, though, communication often falls by the wayside due to busy schedules and other priorities or responsibilities. That's where relationship check-ins come in. These sessions allow you and your partner to share what's working—and what isn't—in your relationship. And according to licensed therapists, this small habit can actually save your marriage.

"Especially when you live together, it's so easy to get caught up in life," says Christine DeVore, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist at Birch Psychology. "You're technically spending a lot of time together, but you don't have time to intentionally connect."

So, how can a relationship check-in improve your marriage? And how can you go about having a conversation that's productive, informative, and, most importantly, respectful? Read on for some expert insight into why check-ins are so beneficial and what you can do to create a safe space for them.

RELATED: 7 Words of Affirmation to Make Your Partner Feel Loved.

What Is a Relationship Check-In?

couple sitting on the floor talking
SeventyFour / Shutterstock

"A relationship check-in is a scheduled or spontaneous conversation between partners where they discuss the state of their relationship," says Rachel Goldberg, LMFT, founder of Rachel Goldberg Therapy.  "The purpose of this check-in is to assess how things are going and identify any areas that may need attention or improvement. It's an opportunity for both partners to share their feelings, concerns, and feedback in a safe and constructive manner."

According to Rainier Wells, LMHC, a licensed therapist at Grow Therapy, these discussions can cover a wide range of topics, from divvying up the housework and having a more fulfilling sex life to carving out more quality time for each other. During these check-ins, you can assess your satisfaction in different areas of the relationship—like trust, communication, intimacy, and romance. You can also express specific needs or desires, or confront your partner about something that's bothering you.

Scheduling a check-in can be advantageous because it allows both partners to gather their thoughts and emotionally prepare for the discussion, says Wells. If you don't schedule one in advance, you'll first want to ask your partner if they have the bandwidth and energy to talk about your relationship before airing anything out.

These check-ins can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more. It all depends on the unique needs of your relationship at any given time. You may find that if you're able to conduct more frequent check-ins, you can keep them shorter.

RELATED: 5 Things You're Not Texting Your Partner That Therapists Say You Should Be.

The Benefits of a Relationship Check-in

older couple talking, sitting on couch

"A relationship check-in serves as a proactive approach to communication," says Jessica Lamar, LMHC, co-founder at The Bellevue Trauma Recovery Center.

When you and your partner don't make dedicated time to discuss the quality of the relationship, it's easy to sweep small issues under the rug. But those issues can quickly snowball into mounting resentments and other more destructive problems. That's far less likely to happen, though, when you have a chance to express your needs and concerns on a regular basis.

A relationship check-in also gives you and your partner peace of mind that you'll have an opportunity to discuss things that you may not have been able to deal with at the moment.

For instance, if your partner said something hurtful but you weren't abe to address it because you had to leave for work, that's something you could bring up at the next check-in when you're both feeling calm and less activated or emotionally flooded. Or, let's say you've been anxious to talk to your partner about where you're going to spend the holidays, but you've both been too busy to address it. Scheduling a check-in provides reassurance that you'll be able to talk it out at a time when you aren't too tired or distracted.

These check-ins can also help to clear up potential misunderstandings. You can use these sessions to ask your partner for clarification on something they said or did rather than making assumptions about their intentions.

Think of it this way: Just like your car requires standard maintenance multiple times a year—even when nothing is broken or damaged—so does your relationship. You don't need to wait for problems to arise—instead, you can use check-ins to prevent them from arising in the first place—or at least prevent them from escalating.

RELATED: The 5 Love Languages and How They Can Help You Communicate.

Does Every Couple Need to Have Check-Ins?

Two women talking in the kitchen and drinking white wine

"Every couple can benefit from having relationship check-ins," says Goldberg. "While it's not always necessary to schedule formal appointments for these conversations, the idea is to create a space where partners can regularly connect and communicate about the relationship."

However, this habit may be more critical for some couples than others.

"Couples facing external stressors or challenges like work demands, parenting responsibilities, or dealing with a chronic illness can especially benefit from relationship check-ins," says Goldberg. "These stressors can sometimes overshadow the relationship, creating feelings of disconnect or neglect. Regular check-ins allow couples to prioritize their relationship amidst these pressures. This proactive approach helps strengthen their bond and maintain a sense of connection and intimacy, even during challenging times."

Lamar points out that relationship check-ins tend to be especially needed during times of transition—like moving in together, getting married, having a child, or making career changes.

According to Wells, people who tend to avoid conflict may also find check-ins super helpful because they provide a dedicated time and space for tackling challenging topics. Knowing when and where the conversation will happen can allow a conflict-averse partner to show up grounded and ready.

DeVore notes that couples who are feeling generally disconnected should also consider having frequent relationship check-ins.

RELATED: These Are the 36 Questions That Lead to Love.

How Often Should You Have a Relationship Check-In?

middle aged couple talking on couch
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

There's no one-size-fits-all frequency for these check-ins. How often you should have them depends on several factors, including the health of your relationship and what you and your partner are trying to work on.

On the whole, experts agree that check-ins should happen at least once a month for most couples. If you're navigating a more challenging time, Wells recommends aiming for weekly check-ins.

On the other hand, if things are running supremely smoothly in your marriage, having a check-in every three months or so may be sufficient, says Genny Finkel, LCSW, a licensed therapist in private practice.

The one advantage to having less frequent check-ins, says Finkel, is that you're able to look at the big picture rather than get caught up in small and potentially insignificant interactions. You may have an easier time looking for problematic trends and patterns in your communication and relationship at large because you won't be focused on isolated incidents.

Finkel notes that more regular check-ins can also prove beneficial when you're newly married because they allow you and your partner to build trust and establish healthy and productive communication habits.

"It's important to strike a balance and avoid overwhelming the relationship with constant discussions about its status," says Goldberg. "The key is to find a rhythm that works for both partners, where both partners feel heard, understood, and supported."

RELATED: 8 "Small But Toxic" Things to Stop Saying to Your Partner, According to Therapists.

How to Have a Relationship Check-in

overhead view of Couple talking and chatting on the couch

In order for relationship check-ins to work, both partners need to be committed and invested, says Goldberg. Provided that both you and your partner are willing to have them, here are some tips to ensure more productive conversations.


Picking the Right Time and Place

A restaurant, coffee shop, and public park are all great locations to spend time with your partner—but not necessarily ideal for having intimate discussions about your relationship.

"Date nights are great, but it may be best to wait until you're home to have a check-in," says DeVore.

In a public setting, you may feel too self-conscious to be honest in sharing concerns with your partner, and you may not feel comfortable enough to express emotion. That's why experts advise opting for a neutral, private setting—like your living room, dining room, or backyard.

Keep in mind that timing is just as important as location. Goldberg advises having check-ins when you and your partner are less likely to feel tired, stressed, or rushed—say, on a lazy Sunday afternoon or a Thursday night when you got home early from work.

Eliminating Distractions

Ditch the phones and other devices during your check-ins, says Goldberg. Getting texts and social media notifications can be distracting, and you and your partner need to give each other your full and undivided attention in order to foster understanding and intimacy.

Trying the Sandwich Method

Consider starting and ending your check-in with something positive, says Finkel. For example, you might begin by letting your partner know how much you appreciate them helping out with cooking meals lately and finish the conversation by expressing how much you've been enjoying some quality time with them on weekends.

This helps ease you into a conversation about the more negative or problematic aspects of your relationship and also ensures that you leave the discussion feeling hopeful.

Picking Your Battles

Struggling with multiple issues in your relationship? Goldberg says it's a good idea to limit these check-ins to two or three key issues.

"This focus can ensure that the discussion remains constructive and manageable," she explains.

Focusing on Solutions Rather Than Problems

"Rather than dwelling on problems, try to move the conversation towards finding solutions and making constructive plans," says Lamar. "This can involve setting small, achievable goals or brainstorming ways to overcome challenges together."

If you start to notice that the conversation is lingering on everything that's going wrong in your relationship, you can try asking your partner: "What do you need from me in order to feel more satisfied in this relationship?" That simple question will steer the discussion more in a solution-minded direction.

Planning for Repair

"After discussing potentially touchy subjects, it's important to have a plan for repair and closure," says Goldberg. "This could involve watching a favorite show together, giving each other space if needed, or even hugging to physically reconnect. These practices can help reinforce the bond between partners and remind them of the reasons they're together, even when discussions get heated."


Digging up the Distant Past

It's one thing to tell your partner that something they said last week bothered you. It's another thing to start confronting them about every upsetting thing they've ever said.

"They don't need to be a laundry list of all the wrongdoings of the past few weeks or years," says Finkel.

Making Blanket Statements

As a general rule, Wells advises avoiding words like "always" and "never" during your relationship check-ins. These words are usually exaggerations, anyway, and since they feel accusatory, will only put your partner on the defensive.

Interrupting Your Partner

"One key thing to steer clear of is defensiveness," says Goldberg. "When you automatically jump to defending yourself, it can close off the conversation and hinder understanding. Instead, try to listen to your partner's perspective and understand where they're coming from."

Starting Sentences With "You"

"Avoid accusations and criticisms," says Lamar. "Instead, use 'I' or 'we' statements to express feelings and needs without blaming. This can reduce defensiveness and emphasize cooperation."

Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more