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My wife and I both have a lot on our plate, and we like it that way. Well, usually.
We’re both ambitious, overly committed, and get really into every project we pick up. We thrive off of each other’s successes, often teaming up to help get projects done; she’s one of the producers on my YouTube series and I copyedit her blog. I’m self-employed, which means my work schedule is all over the place, and she works full-time while also doing grad school.
Being so intensely committed to the projects in our professional and “extracurricular” lives means that we often struggle to manage the more basic day-to-day things, like cooking, doing dishes, and sweeping the floor. It also means that when we’re really overloaded, we default to activities like plowing through a whole season of a TV show in a weekend. It’s not exactly a recipe for intentional togetherness.
Back in February, it hit a breaking point. My partner walked past my office and I asked her if she could do the dishes when she had a break from work. She said that she would try, but probably wouldn’t have a break. And then I started crying at my desk while saying “Okay, I’ll do it.”
The next day, she came up with the idea of having a weekly staff meeting.
It says a lot about us that it took a few weeks for us to realize that our “staff meeting” was similar to a “family meeting” that some people also have. But for the two of us, who both have experience supervising teams, calling it a staff meeting felt more appropriate. It’s the task and project management within our relationship that puts the most stress on it and causes the majority of our conflicts.
We’re a few months into our weekly staff meeting, and I can honestly say that this one chunk of weekly intentional time has had a bigger effect on our relationship than any date night we’ve ever gone on. Many of our partnered friends struggle with similar things, and now, we’re shouting the praises of our weekly staff meeting from the rooftops in the same fervent way people ask, “Have you heard about the air fryer??? It’ll change your life!”
Here’s how it all happens.
We don’t resent each other for household tasks, because they’ve all been clearly delegated.
How we run our relationship staff meeting
Our staff meetings happen weekly, typically on a Sunday afternoon. We sit down with a drink, give each other a kiss, open our laptops, and get started. A quick word to the wise: I don’t recommend rushing through your staff meeting. Give it the time it needs, because it’ll help you later in the week. Our quickest has taken just 45 minutes, but our longest took three hours. Plan accordingly.
Our staff meeting isn’t a time to unpack any conflicts or talk about big, emotional things that are happening. It’s just a time to get organized at a task level so that we can both start the week prepared. The only exception is if a big emotional thing is affecting someone’s ability to do particular tasks. In that case, we’d give context for why we’re not up for doing whatever task that week.
For example, I was the person who made almost every customer service phone call in 2020. We had just bought a house, and I ended up logging more than 100 hours on the phone with customer service departments. I carry a lot of frustration about hold music (even my dog notices now), so my wife picks up 80% of these.
If we were ever to get into an argument on, say, a Sunday morning before a staff meeting, we’d likely just reschedule our meeting to Monday so that we had time to release the tension. When we have conflicts or one of us is In Our Feelings, we make sure to talk through it either in the moment or within 24 hours, which means that it rarely (but not never) affects our staff meeting.
With all that in mind, here’s our agenda:
- Review of the prior week
How did everything go? Did we drop the ball on anything? What came up unexpectedly?
- Who is working late when?
Some nights, I teach until midnight. Other nights, my wife is doing grad school homework until bed. Knowing each other’s late-night work schedules helps us figure out things like who will cook dinner, but also helps allows us to plan for our solo downtime. We almost always go to bed at the same time, so this helps us know when we’re going to bed (and decide if we’re just going to call it and head to bed early, solo).
- Who do we need to call or email?
These aren’t work-related calls or emails, they’re household-related. They include tasks like making a follow-up doctor appointment, calling the DMV, or getting a quote for a new AC unit. During our staff meeting, we divvy up these calls so that they’re not falling on just one of us.
- What do we need to buy?
Again, these don’t include personal or work purchases; they’re household. This category includes things like “blinds for the bedroom” or “shelf for the garage.” Random stuff that we might otherwise forget and push off indefinitely. We purchase many of these items during our staff meeting, and if we can’t do that, we schedule a time to go pick them up in-store during the week.
- What do we need to do around the house?
Some tasks, like dishes, are simply daily. We don’t bother with those during staff meetings unless there is an ominous pile in the sink. These are bigger things, like “fix the fence that blew down in last week’s storm” and “mount the dishwasher to the countertop” and “install the blinds you just bought.” Most of these tasks require both of us, but some things can be assigned to just one person.
- What extra do we need from each other?
During a week when I might be teaching late into the night, my “extra” is that I need food brought to me in my office, otherwise I’ll forget to eat. At our most recent staff meeting, our extras were simple: My wife needs a haircut and I need some cuddles after an upcoming medical procedure. This section is our opportunity to talk about extra emotional or physical needs that we may have for the upcoming week.
- Make the meal plan and order groceries
If we want to eat during the week, we need our meal plan written out. We use an app called Plan to Eat for this; we store our favorite recipes in it and then just drag and drop them to their assigned days. It also generates a grocery list, which we use to place a grocery delivery order. In a pre-pandemic world, we used to go to three different grocery stores. Now, we pack everything into one order as often as possible. We schedule our grocery order during the staff meeting, too.
- Reconcile the budget
Although we’re married and we have joint checking and savings accounts, the vast majority of our expenses come out of our personal accounts. So, each week, we go through the prior week’s transactions (using another app called You Need a Budget) and figure out how much we owe each other. Then, we pay each other back and fund our joint account.
At the end of our staff meeting, we ask if there’s anything else we need to know about the upcoming week. Once we’ve discussed any final things, we kiss and say “happy staff meeting!” (this started playfully and now it happens every time), and then we’re done!
Our weekly staff meetings have been so incredibly helpful in our relationship. We don’t resent each other for household tasks, because they’ve all been clearly delegated. We’re never surprised when the other has to work late because we put those nights on our calendars. And it helps us to have time to intentionally connect and prepare for the week ahead. That intentionality is something that we slowly lost during the pandemic, but our staff meetings have helped to bring it back.
Now, we get to plan how we want to spend time together during the week. We can anticipate each other’s needs. We can figure out how to best support our life together as a team, not just as individuals. We’re seeing the things that we are each contributing to our relationship, which has helped us be more grateful for each other.
And now, neither of us is crying at our desk over a pile of dishes. Because together, we’re figuring it all out, taking care of ourselves, and taking care of each other. And that feels really good.
Have Your Needs Met
Learn helpful tips to establish healthier communication in the on-demand workshop Couples Communication, led by Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC.