One of the things that going to therapy as a couple provides is an accountability factor. This comes from knowing you are working on your relationship. If you are in counseling, your therapist holds both of you accountable to do the work.

All couples need to have a method for helping each other stay focused or accountable to their relationships. One of the things I believe in strongly is having a weekly relationship meeting. This is where you discuss your feelings openly, so you keep resentments from taking root.

The goals of the weekly relationship meeting are for you to increase awareness, develop deeper communication, bring greater peace and harmony into your lives. The support and understanding that can come from these meetings will make your relationship richer and deeper.

Here are some simple guidelines to help you get started. Remember that all relationships are different and not every step may be exactly right for yours, so be creative and adjust the guidelines when necessary.

1. Connect with your partner. Do this by holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. Verbally thank each other for participating in this process. This lets your partner know you are present emotionally as well as physically. Ask each other how you are feeling right now.

2. Keep it upbeat. Begin by acknowledging what the two of you have done well over the past week. You can start the discussion by talking about the nicest things that happened. Encourage each other to talk about feelings, not just tasks. This will make it much easier to make changes.

3. Make the commitment to do this every week. Consistency is the key to making this process and your relationship work. In a short time, you will enjoy the focused attention and look forward to this time together.

4. Remember the basic rules of communication. There is a speaker and a listener, the speaker speaks while the listener listens without getting defensive or accusatory. Start by each of you taking three minutes to say what’s on your mind.

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5. Talk about things that matter. Don’t hold on to feelings that are making you uncomfortable. This is the time to present your issues in a calm and constructive way. In areas where there have been difficulties, point them out gently and don’t be punitive.

6. Help each other heal old issues. Is there anything that is still unresolved? Did you both keep your commitments? Make sure you follow up on past decisions so that you keep the trust in each other and the process. Once you agree that an issue is resolved, there is no need to rehash it.

7. Discuss future plans. Talk about the calendar for the coming week and the future, both near and far. Happiness comes from moving toward what you want, so make sure you always have goals and dreams.

8. Fun of some kind should follow each meeting. Some couples make this their weekly date night, and others cook together or get takeout and a DVD. Whatever works for both of you is fine, as long as you’re having some fun.

9. Work toward compromise and consensus. Win-lose is the same as lose-lose. Avoid this situation by talking until you both agree or at least agree to disagree. Remember that the purpose here is to bring you closer together. Encourage one another to participate fully in the meeting.

10. When the discussion ends, consolidate the gains you have made and share the vision and the goals of your relationship. It may be helpful to write down your decisions. Be sure to acknowledge each other for participating in this process.

Adapted from Emotional Fitness for Couples by Barton Goldsmith PH.D, Reprinted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc.