Using agile techniques to manage your personal life can help you stay strong as a couple in long-term committed relationships. Here's how it works:
Start with running "relationship sprints":
If you're reading this article, you will probably know that Scrum is an Agile framework for completing complex projects. A "sprint" is a set period of time during which specific work is completed and made ready for review. If you and your partner are not sure if you want to stay together, you can start running "relationship sprints". After each sprint, you assess if you want to continue, but this also works for improving long-term committed relationships:
Every relationship benefits from continuous improvement
The most powerful aspect of Agile is continuous improvement. Instead of just investing in doing work, you improve the way you work. Continuous improvement is an aspect that every relationship can benefit from, no matter how happy you are right now as a couple. In Agile Scrum, continuous improvement is achieved through retrospectives, in which the team reviews what happened during the sprint. Here's how you can do regular retrospectives with your partner:
How to run relationship retrospectives:
Have a regular meeting in your calendars, for example on a weekend, once a month. Try to eliminate distractions, meet each other in a quiet place and prepare to be open with your partner. This regular meeting should last about 90 minutes and follow a set format:
1. Review previous actions
Which successes can you celebrate? What wasn't done? Agree on either dropping incomplete items or putting them back on the list for the upcoming month.
2. Review the month
Each person should report how the last month was for them, regarding work, hobbies, health, activities as a couple, changes and experiences.
3. Set an agenda
Which topics should you discuss in this meeting? Chose a reasonable amount of topics to address in this session. You may not be able to cover everything in one session, so keep in mind that this is a continuous process.
While talking through the points of your agenda, it can help to ask the following questions:
- Ask yourself: What happened and how did I feel?
- Ask yourself: How do I want to feel?
- Ask your partner: How did you feel and how do you want to feel?
- Ask your partner: Why did you feel that way?
- Ask yourself: What can I do to support my partner?
- Ask your partner: Is there something I could have done differently?
- Ask yourself and your partner: How can we be a better team?
- Ask your partner: What is the outcome you would like to achieve?
- Ask yourself: Which outcome would I like to achieve?
In order to avoid emotional discussions which may lead to frustration, it can help to first individually write down your thoughts and then share them. Taking the time to write down your thoughts will help to structure the meeting and will eventually help you both in becoming a stronger team.
5. Action points
Name specific, achievable actions which will take things in a better direction. Continuous improvement is incremental, so make commitments for the following month: For example, agree on how you want to act and communicate to each other, or how each of you wants to improve individually. Practicing self-love is often the key to a happy relationship. All actions you agree on should be specific and actionable. It will also help to record and share the action points by email.
Don't spend the entire meeting focussing on problems. Instead, name positive things which you appreciate about your partner and your relationship. Always try to leave your retrospectives on a positive note.
Why Agile Scrum will help you with your relationship:
A relationship retrospective creates a safe space for discussing emotional topics, it's a conscious investment of time and energy and it's a strong mutual commitment. It's structured and will therefore help you to feel safe while you express your thoughts and feelings. It helps to listen to each other and to appreciate being part of a dynamic, changing and improving relationship, because you are continuously taking steps in the right direction.
Continue reading: How bilingual couples therapy can help build a cultural bridge.
I'm Natalie Marby, an English speaking therapist in Hamburg, Germany. I offer psychotherapy and couples therapy in English, especially for expats living in Hamburg. To contact me, you can send me an email or call me: +49 40 40 46090233. (Please don't forget to send me your phone number and the times I can reach you). I look forward to hearing from you!
Read more about my therapy method: Healing the inner child.