As with most things, the idea for this article started as a personal issue. My new-ish partner is an ER doctor who currently has monthly four-day, 16-hour marathon shifts. Seeing patients every second of the day and sleeping the few hours between driving to and from the hospital leaves no time for us to catch up. So we take space. Or, more accurately, we took space. When we were newly dating, that felt okay. But as our relationship bloomed, so has our desire and need for daily connection and support. Those marathon shifts of space and time spent apart—which might I add require a prep day and comedown day on either end—soon felt like too much time with no contact. We were living completely separate lives a quarter of the time.
We were both feeling totally disconnected, even when we were sleeping next to each other. Does that feeling sound familiar? Hint: you don’t have to be spending weeks away from your partner for the answer to be yes.
Why does this all matter? Because it happens to everyone, especially in this unprecedented era. While my personal situation is certainly not "normal" (though, shoutout to fellow first responder partners), it’s just as easy to become disconnected when you’re working right next to your partner day after day.
What happens when you’re working alongside a partner every day? You lose polarity, intentional connection, and those special, intimate moments—which can lead to a rut in your relationship. Enter: The couple’s check-in. I discovered this concept on my feed one day, thanks to wellness entrepreneur Sophie Jaffe. Let’s note: She and her husband, Adi, have always been relationship expanders for me—since before my boyfriend and I even got together. They run the IGNTD Podcast, where they delve into topics like shame, motivation, recovery, relationships, and intimacy. So they’re obviously pros when it comes to cultivating connection in trying times.
What Does Checking In Mean?
First things first, let’s define what a check-in actually means because we’re not just talking about a "How are you feeling, honey?" situation. Jaffe defines a couple’s check-in as something that helps two people in a relationship "drop-in" and connect. Oftentimes, life seems to get in the way of intimacy, and this informal check-in helps two people find each other again.
How To Put It Into Action
Whether you’re like me and have literal distance between you and your partner, or like Jaffe and juggling children and far too little distance between you and your partner, there is a way to format the check-in for your relationship. As Jaffe says, "the check-in is a time to connect on a deeper, more intimate level."
- Carve out five to 10 minutes without distractions, phones, or the news to create the safe, loving bubble your relationship craves.
- Begin with the following topics Jaffe posted on Instagram and adjust—if need be—to better suit your relationship needs:
- Your highlight of the day
- Your challenge of the day
- Something that I appreciate that you did/are doing
- Something I’m working on is…
- Where I could use some support
- Allow one person to have the floor to respond to all five prompts, while the other listens with no comment. Then, you swap roles. This is extremely important as the check-in itself isn’t the conversation. If something needs to be touched on further, that conversation comes after both partners have spoken their piece. That said, a lot of times my partner and I end up just sitting with each other’s responses for processing purposes. According to Jaffe, that’s normal. She shares that "some days our check-ins lead to really great conversations, others days they result in us snuggling or having sex, which is a fun added bonus."
I’ve never (yet!) left one of our check-ins upset. But it is important to note that this isn’t the time to skirt around an issue. The check-in is the time to be real with your significant other. If asking for support in a certain area feels funny or could activate your partner, say it. That’s what makes the check-in effective.
Jaffe does warn that the most important thing to remember during the exercise is to stick to "I" statements. This isn’t about anything you’re fixing or anything your partner has done "wrong."
In my particular case, since we utilize the check-ins on my partner’s very full hospital days, we do them on Marco Polo. While it’s not ideal, there is also no time for us to connect in real-time on those days. By utilizing the app, we can see each other's eyes, tears, and chuckles. It also allows us to revisit the recording if there is something we want to make sure we talk about when we reconnect in person. I’ve learned to be concise in my check-in answers as he listens to them quickly before hopping into bed far after I’m already asleep, but the connection component is still strong and goes so much further than a text or voice memo. I watch his video when I wake up in the morning, which helps ease my anxious attachment qualms regarding whatever is stewing in those childhood wounds of mine that day.
If you’re in the same physical space, I highly recommend doing these check-ins sitting face-to-face, looking into each other's eyes. Now, get connecting love birds. And drop Jaffe and me a note if you have questions or want to share successful check-in moments.