Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Temperature Check: A Marriage Tool

I look forward to Erik’s annual e-mail. One year, several years ago, he asked a question about relationships. I wrote him this letter. It’s a tool Robyn and I learned about from our wonderful friends Jeff and Laura. It’s something we’re religious about and it’s worked for us. We’ve missed our weekly temperature check less than 5 times in our whole relationship, I’d estimate.

Hope it’s helpful to you.

June 12, 2014

Robyn and I set aside time every week to talk about our relationship. We setup a structure, called temperature check, that we modified from some great friends of ours - they are married and have a kid. It's worked well for them. This check-in happens every week on's something we have committed to. You don't have to do it weekly, that's just the pace that works for us.

Anyway, we take turns sharing on each of the following topics, in this order. We also alternate who speaks first for each topic on a weekly basis:

1 - Appreciations: We talk about what we've been appreciating about the other recently. These could be small (e.g., I appreciate that you swept the floor) or large (e.g., I appreciate that you stayed up with me all night when my family's dog was sick). We always use "I messages"..."I appreciated it when you..."

2 - Issues: We talk about issues that we're having. It could be a self-issue (e.g., I'm having a hard time staying up so late), an issue about the other (e.g., I'm worried about how stressed you are at work), or mutual (e.g., I think we're not spending enough time with our families). Or it could be anything else. The key is, these issues can't be humongous. When we have bigger issues we say, I have this issue, let's set a time to talk about it. Temperature check is not designed for huge conversations, it's a check-in. Hopefully if you bring up small issues early, you have fewer big blow-ups.

3 - Requests for Change: We talk about small requests for the others. Keyword - small. (e.g., could you please not use metal utensils on teflon pans) That example is smaller than our average, but you get the idea.

4 - Other stuff: It's often easy to forget that your partner has his / her own stuff going on that affects them. We take the end of temperature check to catch up on all the news from other spheres of life outside our marriage. Work, family, ideas we have, societal issues we're thinking about, books we're reading, friend news...whatever. It's nice to know this stuff because it contextualizes where your partner is coming from and what external factors are affecting your relationship.

5 - Logistics: Finally, we discuss logistics for the week. Different meetings, social plans we have, grocery lists, whatever. It makes sure we have time to spend with each other and we both have the right expectations about the other's activity and stress levels. It's a chore, but it prevents us from squabbling about little stuff.

A note: Remember about all this, it's really important to create a safe environment to have this discussion. Listen actively, don't allow distractions, commit to it every week, and empathize with the other person. Temperature check is useless if it's not in a completely open and safe forum.

Hope this helps!