Illustration by Grace Lee
This week, my husband and I convened our second annual “I Got You” meeting. A little over a year ago, we realized that while we see each other every day, the busyness of our life meant that we rarely sat down to really plan our future and lend each other support. We’re also the parents of a middle school kid. Which means that more often than not, our daily catch-up revolves around her and what can seem like her Kardashian-level social/activity schedule!
For the first one, we both took the day off and headed to a conference room I’d booked at a coworking space. We
spent two hours in planning mode. He had prepared a Keynote presentation for the occasion—show-off! I did me: giant poster-sized sticky notes andneon markers. There was much on the docket, including:
What was working? What was not? What did we hope to get out of the year ahead, and how could we help each other reach those goals?
I work freelance. My husband is an entrepreneur. And just like so many couples, we find our finances can feel like a precarious “cross your fingers and wish for the best” scenario. We didn’t want this to be a budget meeting per se, but we each mapped out two to three goals that would make us feel good and be on the right track for us. For me, more often than not, that means having enough money in the bank to travel. Nothing motivates me to tighten my belt and save like having a trip on the horizon.
• Health and fitness
We talked frankly about our health and how we’d let it go on autopilot in the rush of work and parenting. I revealed my desire to lose weight and how I loved my Spin classes but was doing a lousy job of meal planning. My husband shared that in an ideal world, he’d go to the gym at lunch but that it just didn’t make sense for his workday and how frustrating that was. We talked about whether we could afford to meet with a nutritionist, even for one or two sessions, and if it would even be helpful.
Now more than ever, we feel the pull of being a sandwich generation. We have a kid in middle school and parents in their 70s. We also have extended family that we assist financially and with other resources from time
to time. He’s supportive of my sending money, but to be perfectly honest, he isn’t always aware of the amount or the regularity. It felt worth hashing out: How much can we afford of our time and cash?
• Charity and community
There are a handful of charities and other causes that we give both our time and a little bit of money to. This is a big source of contention—my husband thinks we are spread too thin. He’s not wrong. But I grew up in a starkly different situation from his middle-class upbringing. I am all too aware of what it means to have scholarships and people who go out of their way to create opportunity for you. My instinct is to say yes to everything I’m asked to do, which ends up being more than I can reasonably handle.
Illustration by Grace Lee
After the “I Got You” meeting, my husband and I went out for a lovely lunch to celebrate. Our meeting is a reminder that for all our goals and aspirations, what we have at this very moment is solid: our health, our daughter, a shared vision of what makes a good life, and a partnership that we are both collaborating on, every day.
So how can you make the “I Got You” meeting work in your life? My top five tips:
1. Think big picture What would make you happy in your personal life if you were able to accomplish it over the next year—a beach vacation in the middle of winter? A weekly Pilates class? Not having to cook dinner three nights a week? Happiness is really the focus of these meetings, not who’s going to call the plumber or reorganize the basement. We wove in career goals too, because that’s an important part of our lives and how we cheer each other on, but if work stresses you out and there doesn’t seem to be an end to that in sight, leave it off the agenda. The focus here is on actionable, feel-good, live-well stuff.
2. Remember that it takes time for some things to change—in our case, meal planning, workouts and making time to set up appointments. Designate a day for certain things so that you can form new habits. For example, I made Monday my “Taking Care of Business” day and set aside two hours each week to look at the list of appointments that need to be made and things to follow up on. Be kind to yourselves while you’re adapting to new goals.
3. Schedule (Gentle) Check-ins Nobody needs another thing on their to-do list. What we aim for is to really pay attention to the other person’s moods, and I recommend you do the same. If your husband or partner seems tired or bothered or stressed, go back to the goals you’ve set and ask how you can help.
4. Stay on track When you feel you’ve veered off course, schedule a breakfast or a lunch. We treat this like we would a work meeting: outside of the home, away from distractions and with enough time allotted so we can truly feel seen and heard. Which in many ways isn’t just about the items on a list but about strengthening the foundation of our marriage.
5. Set up this meeting with anybody who loves and inspires you One single mom I know had an “I Got You” meeting with her teen daughter as a way of helping her see how you can conscientiously craft your future with the same goal in mind—planning and actualizing the life you want.
Courtesy of Veronica Chambers