Long-term, committed relationships can be tough. You’re co-existing with another complicated human. Maybe they lose some of the luster they had during the early days, or maybe work, kids, and just life itself get in the way. This undeniable challenge is not a knock on commitment and monogamy; rather, it’s a reminder that, as with all good things, long-term relationships require regular maintenance.
But it doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think. When I work with long-term couples in my practice, regardless of the issues they’re dealing with when they start working with me, I almost always recommend one very simple strategy: a 10-minute talk at the end of every day.
Sure, it sounds simple, but taking care of your relationship often is. It just requires awareness and attention, and one effective way to offer that to your relationship every single day is by setting up a dedicated daily practice.
How it works.
Often, people don’t intentionally communicate with their partners outside the normal day-to-day small talk until something’s gone wrong, and by that point, many of us are not communicating very well, anyway. Creating and abiding by a daily end-of-day conversation ritual means intentionally setting aside a time and place to reconnect every evening and to share how your day went.
Importantly, this is not a time to bring up current relationship conflicts. Instead, this talk should give you and your partner the space to chat about whatever else is on your mind or in your heart outside of the relationship. This is a time for you to really express compassion and empathy for your partner’s feelings and thoughts without judgment. It’s an opportunity to really “take your partner’s side” in all things in life without the pressure of discussing conflicts between the two of you. And because you’re not discussing issues within the partnership, it’s so much easier to be understanding of your partner’s worries or concerns.
Clinical psychologist John Gottman, Ph.D., of The Gottman Institute, refers to these daily talks as “deposits” in a couple’s emotional bank account. There will likely always be withdrawals throughout the relationship, often on a day-to-day basis: times when we interrupt, snap back, or shut down. But if you intentionally make time daily to deposit love and energy back into your relationship and into one another, you’ll find that both of your emotional banks often balance.
Your evening conversations don’t have to be complicated or drawn out. In fact, they can simply be referred to as “How was your day?” conversations—in other words, short, connected check-ins that ensure you both feel heard and supported.
That being said, a little bit of structure goes a long way in ensuring that your end-of-day check-in doesn’t become just another task on your to-do list—one that you get to begrudgingly and half-heartedly, if you get to it at all. Here are five guidelines to follow to make sure your daily conversations are truly effective at increasing communication, deepening your connection, and solidifying your long-term commitment:
1. Connect intentionally every day.
Before you begin your end-of-the-day chat, I’d recommend making some agreements. Agreements help to bring clarity and importance to your unspoken expectations.
First of all, agree on the timing. Try scheduling your talk for an exact time (e.g., 8 p.m. every night), the immediate 10 minutes after you both get home, or any other easy-to-remember 10-minute interval in your day. Some people want to connect the moment they walk in the door from their day; others (myself included!) need to decompress on their own before they’re ready to engage. Agree on a time that you both feel good about. When my clients agree on a time that has the needs of both of them in mind, they feel more understood and seen by their partner—which leads to more intimacy and connection.
Secondly, be intentional about having the end-of-day conversation even when you are tired. When my husband and I are especially tired (hello, we have a 19-month-old son!), we like to lie on the bed facing one another, hold hands, and talk casually for those few precious minutes we’ve agreed to spend together. Then we go on with our evening.
2. Be present.
When you ask “How was your day?” make sure you’re in a space to hear the answer. It’s easy to think that if you’ve asked a question and your partner has answered (or vice versa), then you’ve checked communication off your list of relationship to-do’s. But truly communicating with your partner requires deep presence—not watching TV, cooking dinner, or disciplining the kids—as you communicate with each other. As they’re speaking, really pay attention to the emotions being conveyed so you can follow up and help them unpack the experiences they’re sharing with you.
3. Ask the right questions.
Asking questions highlights your presence and indicates your interest in what your partner has to say. Be genuinely curious about their day and express that interest through open-ended questions that invite them to dive deep. By presenting questions that require thoughtful responses, you’ll show your partner that you truly care about connecting more deeply with them—and you may even learn a thing or two!
4. Focus on connection, not conflict.
As mentioned before, I recommend leaving conflict off the table in your daily communication sessions. That’s not to say you should avoid tough conversations; just try to make your daily check-in a sacred space. Make this a time and space to share in each other’s worlds outside of your relationship. Try avoiding topics of personal conflict, and focus on how you can connect to and be empathetic toward one another’s daily lived experience—whether that’s inside or outside of your relationship.
Importantly, remember to welcome all thoughts and feelings. This talk is a lovely space to vent about anxiety or stressors, big and small. You should also allow this space to be a place of celebration. If you have a win at work or as a parent, share that! Beyond discussing concerns and worries, a relationship is also about sharing and celebrating meaningful victories of life together.
5. Take turns listening.
Finally, remember that this is a conversation; for as much as I encourage you to ask questions, this is a two-way street. Make sure you both have an opportunity to share and feel supported. When it’s your turn to share, be open and honest. When it’s your partner’s turn, practice active listening: Engage fully in not just what they’re saying but to the overall message they’re communicating with body language, tone, emotion, and more. Give your partner your full attention—and garner the same in return. You’ll see your connection deepen day after day.
Taking 10 minutes to talk to your partner every day may not seem like a revolutionary relationship tool, but when put into practice, the results can be transformative. This daily check-in is an opportunity to not only connect with your partner and unwind from your days; it’s a simple way to remember and grow the love that you share. By making it a daily practice that you both show up for, you’ll find that you’re connecting and communicating so much better over time—in good times and in bad.