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How healthy is your relationship? Do an annual review before the end of the year to find out

December 29, 2022, 4:02 PM UTC
Lesbian couple talking on couch.
Annual reviews aren't just for work.
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The end of the year marks a time of reflection for many—a time to look back on personal and professional goals and set new ones. But what about your relationships? While annual performance reviews have become ubiquitous in workplaces, experts argue we should apply the same thought and care to our relationships.

“We have these apps that show us our year in review, and it’s important to do that in our relationships,” says Alyssa “Lia” Mancao, a Los Angeles-based licensed clinical social worker and a wellness contributor for The Knot. “It’s so easy to step into autopilot and just focus on getting through the day and making sure we’re set up for the next day. That’s where we start to lose the essence and the nuance of what makes a relationship a relationship, which is connection.”

Having “emotional heart checkups” for our relationships’ health isn’t unlike our regular doctor and dentist checkups, she continues. “We’re constantly evolving, and we’re not the same person we were yesterday,” she says. “So being able to approach these conversations with our partners to recognize that we’re growing individually and together is necessary.”

Before setting aside time to review the highlights and lowlights of the year with your partner, Mancao encourages people to spend some time reflecting on their own.

“Oftentimes when we’re having these conversations we’re constantly focusing on the other person—what the other person can do better, what the other person is doing wrong—in order for us to feel better,” she says. “But we also need to [reflect] internally and ask ourselves some hard-hitting questions.”

These questions might include:

  • How do I feel about the way things are going?
  • What are some things in the relationship I need to see more of?
  • What are some things in the relationship that I need to see less of?
  • Are there things that I can shift within myself to improve my satisfaction in the relationship?
  • What are some things that I can release?
  • What are some things I need to focus on?
  • How is this relationship supporting my growth as a person?
  • Is there anything I need from my partner to feel supported in my own growth?

Mancao also suggests checking in with your own emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical needs and asking yourself how satisfied are you in each category.

“It’s not your partner’s job to fill those buckets,” she says. “It’s your job to fill your buckets as well.”

After your self-assessment, bring in your partner

It can be helpful to first explain to your partner why this exercise is important to you and how it can benefit you as a couple.

“People tend to have more investment in something when they can understand what this means to you. If you can identify what your why is and communicate that, that would be really helpful in putting the suggestion out there,” says Mancao. “You also want to be able to share it from the perspective [that] this is for us so that we can grow together, so we can heal together, and we can have more satisfaction in our relationship.” 

Consider asking your partner: 

  • How do you feel about our quality time?
  • What’s been the best part of our relationship in the last year?
  • What’s been the hardest part of our relationship in the last year?

The need to check in is especially crucial for parents.

“With extra responsibility comes extra mental load, and with children, the mental load drastically increases,” Mancao says. “It’s less about who washed the bottles and who put the baby to bed, and more about what goes unseen, such as who’s doing the planning? Who’s making the grocery list and arranging the babysitter? The mental load is less concrete, but it takes up so much emotional bandwidth.”

These conversations can be difficult if you or your partner tend to shut down, especially if you grew up in a home where there wasn’t a lot of communication, she adds. To counteract that tendency, she suggests writing down what you want to say in a notebook and bringing your notes to the conversation.

Keep checking in regularly

After conducting your annual review for the past year, Mancao encourages couples to make these check-ins a more regular habit, perhaps starting with monthly reviews.

“This is more than the checkups you have during dinner or when you find time together at the end of the day; this is a very intentional sit-down where you are starting to get to know each other again, where you’re taking the time to be with each other, feel each other’s pain and joy, and fully show up for your partner,” she says.

As with your annual reviews at work, you’ll want to be mindful of when you schedule your relationship review and intentional about how you show up. Mancao recommends avoiding having the conversation in bed or before bedtime and planning it in advance—leaving ample time beforehand, during, and afterward to prep, discuss, and process.

“It’s a meeting, just like a work meeting, but that doesn’t make it less sexy,” she says. “It’s really beautiful when you can make time for each other.”

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