The 5-point couple checkup: Resetting realistic relationship expectations

It’s easy to begin a new romantic relationship with high expectations, especially while you first get to know each other and experience all the emotions (and hormones) of new love. But fast forward a few years (or decades), and your life and relationship will look a lot different. Your circumstances, responsibilities, and needs have evolved; therefore, your expectations in your relationship need to evolve as well. 

Couple Checkup 1 - Black& White Holding Hands

*Disclosure: I only recommend products and services that I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are my own. As an Amazon Associate and affiliate partner of certain other brands, I earn from qualifying purchases. This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) when you sign up or make a purchase through these links.  Please see the privacy policy and terms of use to learn more.

Why every couple should do a couple checkup

By planning a routine couple checkup with your partner, you can evaluate the health of your relationship and re-establish realistic expectations for the future.By having high (but still realistic) standards,” relationship expert John Gottman states, “you are far more likely to achieve the kind of relationship you want.” And to keep your standards realistic, you need to regularly assess and reset your expectations as the dynamics of your relationship change.

What is a couple checkup? 

Think of a couple checkup like you would a checkup with your doctor, except instead of evaluating your physical health, you (and your partner) are assessing the health of your relationship. Your checkup is a time to review all aspects of your relationship, diagnose any issues, and prescribe a game plan to maintain or improve your relationship.

(Sorry for the medical puns here, I couldn’t help myself.)

Couple Checkup 2 - Couple talking on couch

How do you do a couple checkup?

The good news about a relationship checkup is you can do it in the way that feels best for you and your spouse —from the comfort of your home, out on date night, or even on a video call if you have to. There will be some points (namely, point #1) that you should take some individual time to consider, but most of these topics you should discuss as a team. 

The only things you need to do your checkup are: 

  1. Dedicated time to focus on your relationship
  2. Honesty and respect for yourself and your partner
  3. An open heart and mind (Keep those defenses down, please!)
  4. The desire to make your relationship the best that it can be

How often should you do a couple checkup?

Each couple is different and should establish a personalized schedule for how often they need a relationship checkup. Some couples may choose to do one every year, while others only do so after big life changes (such as a new baby, a move, or a career shift). 

Every duo is unique and should do what makes sense for them. However, to maintain a happy and healthy relationship, you should incorporate these discussions proactively and avoid waiting until the connection is strained.

Couple Checkup Infographic - 5 Parts of Couple Checkup

The 5-point couple checkup

Are you ready for your relationship checkup? Set time aside to walk through these five points to examine how well you and your partner function as a couple, where there are opportunities for improvement, and map out your long-term path together.

Start with point 1 (the basics) on your own, then get together to discuss your observations and work through the rest with your significant other.

1. The basic relationship foundations (Self-reflection)

Couple Checkup 3 - Women journaling in chair

While it may seem obvious that you should expect respect, trust, and honesty in your relationship, remember how easy it is to forget these essential habits in our busy daily lives. Consider that little white lie you told your spouse last week or how they tend to snap when stressed. It’s hard to be perfect all the time, and unfortunately, those closest to us see these bad habits most clearly.

Each partner should reflect individually on the relationship at its most fundamental level and ask themself if these basic needs are being met.

  • Do you respect your partner and feel respected by them? 
  • Do you trust your partner? 
  • Are you always honest and accountable in your relationship? 
  • Is there compassion and empathy between you and your partner? 
  • Do you understand each other, even if you don’t always agree?

Suppose you or your partner uncover any foundational relationship gaps through these questions. In that case, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart to dig into the underlying causes and find a way to resolve these issues. Lay out your concerns from your reflections, being mindful not to point fingers and explain from your point of view.  

The first point in the couple checkup is the most basic yet crucial. Take the time to work through any concerns as a team to understand each other better and create realistic relationship expectations for the future. You should feel comfortable that these basic relationship needs are addressed before moving on to point 2.

2. The three C’s: Communication, conflict resolution, and compromise

Couple Checkup 4 - Couple talking at kitchen table

Now it’s time to evaluate how well you communicate, handle conflict together, and ultimately come to a compromise when necessary.

Talk through the following questions with your partner and dig into any issues that come up. The goal is to understand each other’s needs better, not play the blame game or complain. Keep an open mind and see where the conversation takes you.

  • Do we communicate effectively all the time? What factors most often contribute to our miscommunications?
  • When do we have our most productive conversations as a couple? Do we need to create this environment more often to improve our communication? How can we do so?
  • What habits do we have during an argument, and how do these help or hurt us as a couple? 
  • Do we ever get aggressive or emotionally abusive towards each other? If so, how does that impact our miscommunication?
  • What old wounds do we bring into our disagreements, and how can we move past them together?
  • Do we need to take time out during conflict to cool off, or are we comfortable continuing the discussion in the moment without concern that the fight will escalate? 
  • Are we able to come to a compromise together? If not, what does a successful compromise look like?

Hopefully, through this honest conversation, you and your partner can reset expectations as a team on the best approach to the three C’s going forward. Isn’t that the whole point of effective communication and compromise?

3. Fulfilling each other’s needs

Couple Checkup 5 - close couple laughing in kitchen

As time goes by and the newness of your relationship wears off, it is natural that the romantic sparks and emotional affection will also dwindle. Use this time during your checkup to assess your romantic health and ensure you meet each other’s needs.

Bonus Tip: If you and your partner have not read and discussed the best-selling bookThe Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, now is the time! This insightful read will help you identify how you each show and prefer to receive affection. The relationship-changing revelations within this book can help couples communicate and express their emotions more effectively —not only during the periodic couple checkup but on a daily basis!

Here are a few talking points to start the conversation.

  • When do you feel most loved and appreciated? Do you ever feel neglected or unappreciated in our relationship?
  • How do you prefer to receive affection? What can I do to show you I care more often? 
  • Do we spend enough quality time together? If not, how can we incorporate dating into our routine?
  • What activities bring us the most joy as a couple? 
  • Do we touch (hug, kiss, hold hands, have sex) enough or not enough? Are there types of physical touch that you do not enjoy?

Have fun with these questions! Understanding each other’s emotional needs and how to make each other happy is the most rewarding privilege of being in a healthy, loving relationship.

4. Tackle the logistics

Couple Checkup 6 - Kitchen counter layout

If only relationships were the picture-perfect “happily-ever-afters” the fairytales taught us. Alas, the reality is far from the fairytales of our youth —as is evident in the overflowing list of household chores, work deadlines, carpool pickups, and errand-running that is modern-day adulting.

Luckily, you are not alone in this game of life; you and your partner are in this together. Take the time to evaluate your responsibilities, reassess or shuffle around priorities, and tackle the logistics to manage your life with a team mentality.

Do an overall audit of all the responsibilities in your life, highlighting where one or both partners feel overwhelmed or underappreciated. 

  • What aspects of our life stress us out the most?
  • Do you ever feel like you bear the brunt of any one task? Do you resent your partner for not sharing specific responsibilities? How can we alleviate some of this frustration?
  • Are there any responsibilities we have been neglecting? How can we prioritize these in our routine?
  • What obligations can we let go of to freego to free up time and mental energy?

Talk through your list of duties and roles, identifying the pain points for either partner. Work to find opportunities to lighten the load together and for each other, whether taking over a task to give your partner a break, hiring additional help, or giving up something altogether. 

Yes, life feels busier than ever in today’s fast-paced culture —but that does not mean one or both of you must suffer in exhaustion trying to handle it all. Put your heads together to find a solution, reset expectations, and make your life more manageable. By doing so, I promise you’ll be happier individuals and as a couple.

5. Planning your dream life

Couple Checkup 7 - Classic house with white picket fence

Arguably, the best aspect of being in a committed relationship is the honor of creating a life with another human. To share in the joys and triumphs, the burdens and losses, and to build a future designed for and by the two of you. 

A proven way to find joy is always having something positive to look forward to. It’s essential to plan your future as a couple to stay positive through everyday challenges while maintaining a healthy, happy relationship. Imagining your dream life is an exciting and important endeavor for every couple, allowing you to set long-term goals and map out the best path to make your ambitions a reality.

Discuss your individual and combined dreams to create a vision for your future together.

  • What do you want for our immediate future as a couple? Kids? House? Jobs? Travel?
  • What are your personal and professional aspirations in life? What do we need to adjust to help you achieve these goals? How do those align with our future as a couple? 
  • What scares you the most about our future? How can we minimize these concerns?
  • How do we want to spend our later years together? Where will we live? What will we do? Are we planning financially to make this happen?
  • What is holding you or us back from creating our dream life together? 

Remember that planning your future as a couple is not about sacrificing individuality or compromising personal dreams. It is about supporting each other’s aspirations and building your most beautiful life together.

Other fun ways to encourage meaningful conversations

Couple Checkup 8 - Smiley couple giving piggy-back ride

Sometimes, having these serious, heartfelt conversations with your partner can be fun without the formality of a prescribed agenda. While there are benefits to following the 5-point couple checkup to assess your partnership occasionally, there is no right or wrong way to incorporate these discussions into your routine. I encourage you to make these conversations fun, engaging, and enjoyable —the more fun the discussions are, the more likely you are to be in tune with the health of your relationship!

There are many free couple’s quizzes available on the internet and Pinterest. Cultivate a meaningful dialogue with these conversation starters, or enjoy a silly “Would You Rather?” game with your spouse.

One entertaining way to bring up these topics is to use a book or a game to spark a lively chat. The couple’s journal, “Questions for Couples Journal,” is a great resource, and my husband and I loved completing “A Year of Us” together. For a gaming alternative, the couple’s edition of We’re Not Really Strangers includes questions for light and fun conversations.  If you want something more serious, we love the {THE AND} card game to encourage more profound discussions. 

Cultivating realistic expectations for a happy, healthy relationship

A regular couple checkup with your spouse can be a powerful tool in resetting relationship expectations and ensuring a happy, fulfilled partnership. As life throws you new challenges and the occasional curveball, healthy couples must be willing to adjust their expectations accordingly. By taking the time to assess and address any areas of concern or misalignment, couples can proactively build realistic expectations rooted in understanding, empathy, and growth.

Embrace life’s ever-changing landscape with an open heart and shared responsibility with your partner.  It is only by working together that you can ultimately create the life and relationship you dream of.

Couple Checkup Product Recommendations

*Disclosure: I only recommend products and services that I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are my own. As an Amazon Associate and affiliate partner of certain other brands, I earn from qualifying purchases. This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) when you sign up or make a purchase through these links.  Please see the privacy policy and terms of use to learn more.

Have you and your partner ever done a couple checkup together? What creative ways have you found to make these conversations more natural or productive? We would love to hear your tips in the comments below!

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  1. This is a great resource! Thanks for charing! I really like the idea of consciously making a decision to talk about a book or play a game together with our partners as I think it’s so easy to get carried away with daily issues and problems, and sometimes it’s really necessary to just switch off and spend time together not thinking about problems.

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