How Do I Know if My Relationship is Good? Meet the Relationship Temperature Check
Do you want some tips to help you and your partner improve your connection, empathy, and communication? Here is a simple practice called the Relationship Temperature Check (a.k.a. RTC). It only takes 15 – 20 minutes to complete and includes five steps. The RTC helps both a long-term relationship and a budding relationship build and maintain a strong foundation along with providing an easy, DIY relationship assessment tool.
“I want to love you without clutching, appreciate you without judging, join you without invading,
invite you without demanding…if I can have the same from you,
then we can truly meet and enrich each other.”
– Virginia Satir –
What is a Relationship Temperature Check?
The RTC is a structured approach to help you gauge the health of your relationship, and also a way to care for it by building a daily time to connect and reconnect. The RTC helps to evaluate your relationship, addressing issues before they become big problems. Also, relationships thrive when we nurture them regularly. The RTC helps you maintain and care for your bond through a practice of:
- New Information
- Concerns with Recommendations
Emotionally Focused Therapy focuses on the connection between partners, otherwise known as attachment. This attachment “provides a safe haven: a retreat from the world and a way to obtain comfort, security, and a buffer against stress” (Feuerman, 2021). We grow in vulnerability and safety as we create time to care and connect with the one who is most special to us.
Stanley Keleman describes that safety in loving someone is “having the courage to show them who we really are.” Relationship Temperature Checks can support EFT sessions, facilitate clear communication, and help partners become more open with one another.
Why should we use a Regular Relationship Check-Up?
A Relationship Temperature Check can help couples by:
- Helping you keep tabs on the all-important question, “How are we doing?”
- Building a habit of preventative relationship maintenance
- Assessing the emotional climate of your relationship. What is the emotional temperature between you?
- Increasing connection, attachment, and bonding. Turn up that relationship thermostat!
- Making the inner feelings known, including developing a deeper understanding of your cycle
- Transforming cyclical patterns of communication
- Rebuilding trust after it has been broken and repairing attachment injuries such as an affair
As a result of a Relationship Temperature Check, you and your partner can:
- Avoid storing up a complaint or resentments or leaving feelings unexpressed
- Help one another to feel heard, seen, and known
- Express yourself, increase vulnerability, and show one another more of yourselves
- Become comfortable and accept one another’s’ differences
- Feel more confident in yourself and securely attached in your relationship
- Experience more warmth in the emotional temperature between you
Ground Rules for a Relationship Temperature Check
The following tips help to keep time balanced, create open communication, and set up expectations for what the Relationship Temperature Check will look like:
- Arrange a time of day or week that works for both of you. Pick a time where neither partner has to compromise or feel squeezed for time.
- Meet in a comfy place and sit close together so you can easily reach out to touch, comfort or care for one another.
- It may sound cheesy but starting sentences with “I” helps to focus on sharing your own experiences and helps us to remember not to judge.
- Each partner gets a chance to share. The other listens without interrupting.
- If a question is asked, each partner can choose whether or not they’d like to answer one another’s questions. The important part is that the question is allowed to be asked and is listened to by the other partner. This choice to answer or not helps to create a safe haven.
- Like anything new, it might be a little awkward in the beginning. As you keep meeting, you can find this time can really help to give you time to talk about what’s important. Each time you and your partner connect in a healthy way, this can create a corrective emotional experience to replace negative patterns of communication.
- Don’t worry if you find yourselves somehow feeling triggered or even arguing when you begin working together to implement the RTC. If you notice this beginning to happen, see your awareness of feelings of agitation as progress too! In EFT, we normalize that all couples can get stuck in a negative cycle, even when they’re trying to do something positive in their relationship. We can’t work on a negative cycle until we are aware it’s happening. Try to slow down, and give some space for each of you to unpack the surface feelings and the deep-down feelings that arose.
- It’s important to note that the Relational Temperature Check is not a back-and-forth conversation; no resolution or solution needs to be reached for this time to be effective and bonding. The goal is for both of you to listen to and understand one another, and the outcome will hopefully be to get closer and have a more intimate connection.
What are the Steps to a Relationship Temperature Check?
Honoring your partner with appreciations and excitements, no matter how small, can create a connection between the two of you. Some therapists recommend sharing five appreciations with your partner, but you can start with even just one. These can be simple comments like, “Thanks for taking out the trash,” or more complex, for instance, “I felt safe sharing my fear with you the other day.” Whatever is shared helps to bolster the two of you for the conversation and know you are on the same page.
- Acknowledge your partner.
- Try to be specific and authentic.
- No matter what stage or situation your relationship is in, you can always find something to appreciate about the person you love. Especially during periods of stress, crisis, change, or uncertainty, this practice is care in motion and can help soften you to one another.
- I really liked it when…
- Thank you for….
- I am proud of how you…
2. New Information
Create space for sharing new info, so your partner can receive and share details they may not find time for throughout the day. New information helps to keep each other up-to-date on what’s happening in your life, whether it’s something significant or minor. This could be, “You have a dentist appointment on Friday,” or, “I found out my job is changing.” From minor to major, here is the place you can share the details of your lives.
Space for sharing information significantly helps with:
- busy families
- work schedules
- social events
- financial information
- upcoming decisions
- I want to tell you about…
- I heard today that…
- I would like to remind both of us that…
This part of a Relationship Temperature Check creates room for exploration, clarification and enhances mutual understanding. This is where you can address real concerns and clear up mysteries before they become false assumptions or resentments. Most problems turn out to have simple explanations, and this time allows space to find those out. However, when you ask questions, you may not receive specific answers or may not like the answers you get. It’s simply an important step to make sure you are getting the complete picture of your partner.
An excellent way to start is by thinking:
- What assumptions are you making about your spouse or partner that you haven’t checked out that could be affecting your attitude, beliefs, or actions?
- I am worried about…
- I don’t understand…
- I’m not sure why…
- I care about…
Your partner can respond in many different ways:
- Give you more information to answer or shed additional light on your question.
- Let you know that they’ll give your question some thought and would like to talk about it later.
You can then thank your partner for sharing and leave it at that. Asking questions offers the opportunity for answering but doesn’t require your partner to answer.
4. Concerns with Recommendations
As a couple, it’s essential to know how to handle complaints, conflicts, and differences without going down a destructive downward spiral or cycle. Can you focus on what your emotional needs are vs. complaining or criticizing? With this step, you can express what you need, validate hearing about your partner’s concern, and hear more about what you each hope could become different. These hopes can open up space for figuring out solutions together.
- Keep in mind, the ways we deal with or choose not to deal with differences can be hurtful.
- When giving feedback, be specific about the behavior you’re concerned about without attacking, judging, blaming, or criticizing.
- Express how you feel when the action happens.
- Ask specifically for what would be more helpful. If you offer a complaint, choose your delivery carefully, and offer your complaint with request for what you need emotionally.
- It’s hard for me when…
- I feel ______ when…
- I hope we can change this by…
- I would rather…
Both partners dream and visualize how you imagine your future. Bringing these into awareness is vital for honoring you as individuals and a couple and moving towards fulfilling your mutual and independent dreams.
Regularly sharing dreams/hopes helps to:
- Encourage support from those closest to you
- Increase chances for these dreams to be accomplished
- Bring partners closer to each other and deepen love, intimacy, and connection
- I would love to…
- I really wish that…
- My dream is…
Relationship Temperature Check Tools
If you would like to use a written tool for this exercise, you can check out the following resources:
- PAIRS DTR App to fill out with your partner
- PAIRS DTR Worksheet to get you started
Our hope is that as Emotionally Focused Therapy takes root in your relationship, you are able to break old patterns and share from a place of vulnerability and compassion. With its focus on listening, the Relationship Temperature Check can also create a structured space for you and your partner to communicate outside of sessions, understand each other’s perspectives, develop empathy for one another’s emotional experiences, and hopefully, develop a more secure attachment.
If you are interested in learning more about Emotionally Focused Therapy and would like to sign up for couples or individual counseling sessions, please contact us at 303-513-8975 to find a counselor you can connect with today! Schedule Appointment
DeMaria, Rita. (September 19, 2020) Orange The Daily Temperature Reading – A Skill for Committed Relationships.
Feuerman, Marni & Snyder, Carly (February 10, 2021). Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples.
Gold, Ben. (June 26, 2020). The daily temperature reading (DTR) – a powerful couples communication tool.
Hooker, Jonathan. (N.D.). PAIRS Daily Temperature Reading.
Keleman, Stanley. Perez, Vincent. (1985). Emotional anatomy: the structure of experience. Berkley, CA.
Satir, Virginia. (1978). Your Many Faces: The First Step to Being Loved.
Sollee, Diane. (N.D.) Lessons from the Smart Marriages® Conference.
Zahnd, Walter. (June 2009). Themes of Temperature Reading.