On Saturday morning I woke up and stretched my arm across our king size bed reaching for my husband. He sleeps on the very edge of the bed, so it’s not unusual that I have to try a few times before I hit his shoulder. But that morning, around 6:30am, the bed was empty. As an LEO (law enforcement officer) family, this is pretty par for the course. Bill works at night, from about 4pm until 2am, so when he still isn’t home when I wake up, it’s no big deal. I know he was kept out late from a car crash on the interstate, a domestic dispute in a remote Vermont town, or responding to an alarm at a general store. This particular morning, I got up, brushed my teeth, meandered downstairs to turn on our Christmas tree and read a book until Bill got home. Sure enough, just as I was walking downstairs (around 7:15am), he pulled into the driveway. My day was just beginning. His day was coming to an end.
During the week, Bill leaves for work around 4pm, while I come home from the office around 5:30pm. There are sometimes several days in a row when we literally only see each other passing on the road, roll down our respective car windows, and wave to each other as we go our separate ways. Yes, many times I have waved to the wrong guy (they all look alike in their cruisers!).
We’re both busy with work and have other projects and goals we’re working on. Especially, pre-covid, our schedules were unpredictable with afterwork meetings, additional trainings, and travel. As an LEO family, my husband and I could easily be two ships passing in the night if we didn’t make it a priority to get on the same page so that we are continuing to grow together, instead of apart.
Enter, the weekly family meeting.
While my family only consists of myself, Bill, and our 14 year-old mutt, Karma, every Sunday we all show up in the dining room around 11am for our weekly family meeting. Bill makes the coffee. I bring the calendar, checklists, and financial spreadsheets. Bill is not a fan of these meetings (at least he wasn’t in the beginning). I am a planner and Bill is the exact opposite. He lives in the now and is able to stay remarkably present and centered no matter what’s going on in our lives. He would be perfectly content just enjoying that cup of coffee on the couch with me. While I’m bored in about 20 seconds and need to break out a list. So, we compromise. I bribe Bill with protein pancakes, bacon, and berries and he indulges me as I keep us on task and the meeting moving along.
The first month or so of these meetings were forced. But once we both started to see the results (i.e. more money in the bank and less bickering during the week), these meetings became a welcome ritual to stay on track with our marriage, finances, and our life goals.
A few tips before you get started implementing these meetings at home:
- Prepare ahead of time. There is nothing worse than sitting down for your weekly family meeting and then spending half the time arguing with your spouse about where the bills are, why they forgot their laptop, or what the password is to your car insurance account. Been there, done that!
- Keep them to 1 hour or less.
- Make them fun!
Here’s what’s on our agenda each week:
- Calendar Review – schedule workouts
- Financial Review
- Discuss Goals
- Make Big Decisions
We have full lives, careers we are passionate about, and not a lot of time together. During the few hours (about 20 hours tops together a week) we have, the last thing we want to be doing is talking about who has to pick up dog food, who’s going to drop the reno permit off at the town office, or what Bill’s schedule is for the next two weeks. We table those conversations for the kitchen table on Sunday. This allows time for us to just be together as a couple – whether that is cooking dinner, talking about our day and how we’re feeling, kayaking, going for a walk, or watching Turn: Washington’s Spies.
These weekly meetings have been such an important part of our marriage. Since the inception of these meetings years ago, we have paid off all of our non-mortgage debt, planned several Caribbean vacations, completed house renovations (and are currently planning our next one) – all without killing each other. There is a lot of value in the results that we were able to achieve by checking in with each other on our goals each week, but the real value came in consistency communication.