The new year is for many of us an occasion for reflection, on ourselves and our relationships. But at the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Breheny Wallace suggests something more. The headline: “Give Your Husband a Performance Review – Why limit year-end progress reports to the workplace?”
It’s an annual event in her house. “What started as a joke between us 10 years ago—over piles of socks left on the floor—has become a yearly tradition: our year-end review as a couple.”
It seems all her friends are at it.
Several couples I know have their own version of a yearly performance review. One refers to it as the “State of Our Union.” Another takes a more serious approach to what they call their annual “Board of Directors Meeting,” complete with a formal agenda in four sections: personal, professional, philanthropic and spiritual. A couple with adult children makes their review a full-family affair, with a psychologist on hand in case the conversation gets heated. In explaining why he conducts reviews at home, a friend said, “Sometimes I think we’re more honest with people at work than we are with our own family.”
For our own review, my husband and I talk over dinner about our “accomplishments” over the past year as a couple, the “areas for improvement,” the “goals” we want to set for the year ahead and the “next steps” we are going to take to get there. Comments run the gamut from petty complaints, like laundry on the floor, to important goals, like setting time alone as a couple. These reviews force us to focus and reflect on the big picture, to give priority to what’s really important to us in our very busy lives.
The tone of her own spousal appraisal “tends to be tongue-in-cheek”, but if your want a more serious option, consider her friend’s approach: the “hamburger technique”.
Structure your review as if it were a hamburger: soft bun to start (ease in with compliments), solid meat (the big criticism), lettuce (room to grow), then finish with another soft bun (more closing compliments).
And just when you thought the whole thing couldn’t get any ickier, this:
In a controversial move, my husband took the initiative last year to write up a review of my mother. That’s right, a review of his mother-in-law. He handed her an envelope on Christmas morning with the words “Year-End Review” plastered in bold across the front. Pale-faced, she opened it—and then started to smile as she read her glowing reviews as a mother and grandmother. Scanning to the bottom, she found an area for improvement: Meatball production down from peak in 2010.
The review worked. We now always have a freezer full of meatballs.