Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jenn Labin.
When I shared our original plan for a family scrum, and then again when I updated it a year later, some of you reached out with wonderful comments and reactions. I also received a few questions that really got the gears turning. One of the (paraphrased) questions was, “How does the family scrum help with a healthy, strong partnership?”
Before that question came, I hadn’t really thought about how the scrum process contributed to my relationship with my partner and kids. The family scrum was just something we evolved to solve two problems — miscommunication and gargantuan To-do lists. But upon reflection, I realized just how impactful the family scrum is to our family relationships.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: I am neither a credentialed therapist or a certified relationship coach. I would never claim to speak for anyone besides myself. The thoughts shared in this post are opinions based purely on my own experiences.)
Specifically, the reason why the family scrum makes such an impact on relationships comes down to three factors:
- Explicit and Descriptive Willingness to Work on the Relationship
- Declared Mutual Trust and Respect
- Proactive Communication
Those aren’t rocket science, I know. But hear me out.
1. Explicit and Descriptive Willingness to Work on the Relationship
The old advice, “relationships take work,” is just as true (and just as ignored) as “get eight hours of sleep per night.” But, for some reason, everyone thinks that their marriage is different, that because they’re in love they will magically get telepathic abilities and anticipate every need, want, etc.
Or, as I’ve heard from a lot of acquaintances, they see “perfectly happy,” in-sync couples who don’t need to work at their relationship and feel like they must be doing something wrong if they have to put forth effort to really “fix” their relationship. In reality, those in-sync couples probably do work at their relationship, but they do it privately so that it’s not apparent to others. This thought is so frustrating to me! It just adds fuel to the guilt we already heap on ourselves! Why do we need to work so hard at this, it’s so easy for others. That’s bananas. Relationships are not easy for any couple 100% of the time.
(ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: In no way would I advocate that people stay in an unhealthy relationship. If you are unsure if your relationship is a healthy one, consider finding a mental health professional to help you sort it out.)
Those same “in-sync” couples probably are explicit about their willingness to work on the relationship, too. I consider that explicitness a must-have — not just in theory, but in practice. So, get explicit. Describe what it looks like to work on the relationship. Maybe you can plan on doing a staycation one day a quarter to talk about the various aspects of your joined lives and how those are going. Perhaps a weekly date night is helpful, where a planned a portion of the evening is spent discussing gratitude and praise for each other (instead of it turning into a weekly complaint and blame session).
You know another great way to share an explicit willingness to work on the relationship? Yep, you guessed it, scheduling a regular family scrum. It may seem decidedly unromantic to schedule a date night or kind of cold to use a family meeting to share relationship-oriented ideas like, “I’d like you to be more affectionate.” However, I’ve personally found that it’s sometimes the only time of the week my partner and I can completely focus on each other. I suggest incorporating a few thoughts about the relationship at the beginning of the scrum. For example, talk about what worked well that week (“I really appreciate you cooking dinner on Thursday when I had to work late. It was a relief to come home and have that done.”) and what didn’t (“It’s been a while since we’ve gone out just the two of us. I’d like to make that a priority.”)
2. Declared Mutual Trust and Respect
I know mutual trust and respect is a tough one. Most couples would say they trust and respect each other in public. But in private some of those couples probably don’t declare it, while others don’t proactively work on expressing trust and respect. I think both of those are mistakes.
I don’t want to pull my own marriage in too much, but this is one area where my partner and I excel. Even though verbal affirmation isn’t necessarily in his nature, he has learned to verbally express trust in my decisions and respect for my efforts. In return, any time we’re working on something difficult, I try to acknowledge what is good about the situation — starting from a place of trust and respect — before we move onto its stickier aspects.
Mutual trust and respect needs to be a focus for both partners. First, partners need to discuss the ways they feel trusted and respected (i.e. verbal affirmation? physical affection? acts of service and kindness? Thoughtful gifts?). My partner and I spent years intentionally discovering which behaviors felt impactful for each of us. The point is not to assume that the behaviors you default to for showing appreciation are the best methods for your partner to feel appreciated.
So how do you start to work on declaring trust and respect? My suggestion is a family scrum. That process allows for plenty of opportunities to acknowledge what you appreciate, to show trust in your partner’s capabilities, to express gratitude and respect for their contributions, and to push back when you see that they need to grow in an area.
3. Proactive Communication
Communication? Okay, yes, communication is an obvious idea. But I’m not just saying, “Talk more.” Proactive communication means setting aside unhealthy communication behaviors, such as using “always” or “never” language or being passive aggressive, to reach a stronger relationship together. Here are some examples of unhealthy behaviors and their proactive counterparts:
In my family, the main device we use to make our feelings more transparent is the family scrum. The scrum gives us permission to share how something impacted us. I’m not claiming the family scrum process has eliminated all fights or emotional moments, but it has really improved our ability to identify trigger situations and move through them to a positive resolution more quickly.
So Now What?
I hope some part of this article either helped you think about your relationship in a new way or gave you a tool to help you navigate a challenging situation.
I really encourage you to try out the family scrum if you haven’t already. You can read about the process here. Also, think about how you can improve even just one of the three areas I’ve mentioned.
Ultimately, bringing focus and intention to your family scrum improves your family’s effectiveness, reduces friction from every day miscommunication, and creates a stronger bond with your partner. (Tweet this.)
P.S. If any of the ideas in this post resonated with you, and you’d like to dive into these ideas further, I suggest you speak with Angela Wheeler. She does this work with her clients and could be a really great resource for you!