The Love Tank Check In
Although love is natural, you can enhance the love in your life by learning new skills. So how do we learn to love better?
Too often we sweep aside feelings of discomfort in our relationships because we don’t want to rock the boat. Those negative feelings don’t just go away. Over time they can add up into bigger and potentially damaging resentments. You can prevent this by addressing the negative feelings as they arise. One useful skill to learn to improve the quality of our personal love relationships is to start with a simple check in. I call it the Love Tank Check In.
The Love Tank Check In is a simple three-step process I created as a handy guide for how to foster more positive feelings in your relationship.
Here are the process steps:
Step 1: Share a Highlight/Lowlight of the week
Step 2: Make a Bold Request
Step 3: Follow Up
Let’s break down what each of these looks like.
Step 1 - Highlight:
Think about something that your partner did that made you feel good about yourself and/or your relationship. Share that with your partner then go beyond just telling what happened and explain to your partner why it matters to you. What exactly did their action/behaviour mean to you? Some examples of why something was a “Highlight” might include feeling taken care of, supported, loved, cherished, closer to your partner, known / understood by them, grateful for their thoughtfulness or whatever strength you are reflecting on. The Highlight has two parts - the action/behaviour and your positive feelings about it. Tell both parts to your partner directly. This is excellent practice in countering the toxic assumption that our partners “SHOULD know what I think/how I feel already! Of course I’m grateful!” No one has psychic powers so the more direct and specific you can be with your partner, the better.
Some Highlight examples:
- “My highlight was when we snuggled together the other morning. I felt loved.”
- “When we watched my favourite TV-show together, I had fun and felt connected with you.”
- “When you told me you were proud of me about how I tackled my work project, that was sweet.”
- “When you brought me home chocolate, it made me feel good, like you were thinking about me.”
- “When you cleaned the house before my parents came to visit. I felt cared for.”
What was something you may have felt challenged by in the past week, to do with your partner or partnership? A Lowlight also has two parts - the action/behaviour and your feelings about it. Try to phrase your concerns with “I felt” statements and then stick to the facts about the situation. The purpose of the Lowlight is not to attack your partner, but rather to reduce negative feelings by expressing them respectfully.
Examples of Lowlights:
- “I felt angry when you didn’t do the chores like you said you would on Friday. I had to remind you three times.”
- “I felt stressed when you were late for our date. I worry you don’t care as much about me as you used to.”
- “My lowlight was when we had that miscommunication about the kids. I felt tense for hours after.”
The practice of Highlights and Lowlights brings into focus your areas for growth as a couple and it helps keep negative feelings from being suppressed (which only makes them grow stronger).
Step 2 - Make a Bold Request:
Asking for your needs and desires can be incredibly empowering in a relationship. Your Bold Request can be for anything your heart desires. You could ask your partner for a daily smooch, to be brought breakfast in bed, or for the moon. Practicing asking for something that you might not normally request is an exciting opportunity to expand your comfort zone and improve your communication skills.
Important Bold Request note - prepare to (possibly) hear a “no”! No one likes to feel rejected, however, learning to hear “no” and to accept it is also an excellent interpersonal skill. It can open the door to negotiate an alternative. For example, perhaps your partner can’t commit to giving you an hour-long full-body massage, but they are willing to give you a ten-minute foot rub instead. Get creative, compromise, and have fun practicing asking for things that would make you feel good.
Step 3 - Follow Up:
After the Highlight/Lowlight and Bold Request shared in the Love Tank Check In, take some time over the following 24 hours to celebrate the “Highlights”; the ways you are rocking it by helping them to feel loved. Also take time to validate your partner’s feelings around their “Lowlight” concern with care and curiousity. Try to bring more joy and pleasure to your relationship by responding to their Bold Request with a ‘yes’, or a ‘no and’ then negotiating an alternative or compromise.
Ongoing intentional relationship attunement like this can contribute to a happier and better-functioning relationship in the long and short terms. Like building any new habit it will take some time and effort. For consistency, you might choose to put a Check In on your calendars and set your reminder alarms! Recommended frequency for doing the Check In is once per week with a set time like “Sunday at 8:00 PM”. It’s still beneficial to do every other week or even monthly – it’s just less effective if it is less frequent.
Check Ins can be done in person, on the phone, over text or email messages. Whatever floats your and your partner’s proverbial boat.
ADHDers are a creative bunch overall and we like to put our own spin on things. You can make this Check In your own – tweak it or reconceptualize it completely so it fits for you and your partner. Add 10 things, or keep it to a simple highlight/lowlight check-in. Or do choose a weekly Bold Request exchange and chuck out the rest.
If you or someone you know may benefit from the Love Tank Check-In, print out the PDF or jot down the steps and put them somewhere you can see for the visual prompt. Most importantly, have fun with it.
Take gentle care.