L: See I usually start-
M: It feels good, right?
L: It does. I usually start strong and then it falls apart, but yeah, I’m hoping to like, kind of keep that up and, you know, if we can never leave the house again,
L: I feel like that might be a really good time to get reading going. What have you been doing to take care of yourself Megan?
M: Well, so, we just recorded a Queer Cuts. If you’re not a part of our Patreon go join so you can hear it. We did like a deep dive into self-care, but I will quickly say what you already know, Leigh, today that I told you. I actually spent a whole day devoted to calling my Medical and being on hold for an hour and figuring out my next step to going to a new psychiatrist to get medication, which gives me so much anxiety.
M: And I finally did it. So that’s a huge thing. I’ve been posting about it a little bit on Instagram ’cause I have a new Instagram. I call it my vanilla Instagram. It’s @himeganashley. It’s so different than when I was camming and stuff. But anyways, I posted that, “Oh confession time. I haven’t been taking my med properly.” And how it’s like a cycle every few months
M: I stop. And so many people reached out and said, “I’m bipolar. I do the same thing.” And I even had people who said, “I’m not bipolar but I take medication and I do the same thing and I stop taking it.” So it’s a common thing.
L: Yeah, I think it’s really common.
M: Yeah. And I- Every time I think, “This is gonna be the time that maybe I’ll just get off of it for good and I don’t need it.” But within a month it catches up to me. And so that happened. And so now, of course, I have three Prozac pills left and like, three anxiety pills left and I won’t be able to see my psychiatrist for a month. Well, not a month, April 2, so like, three weeks, I guess.
M: But at least I know that I will be seeing him. And it’s a man, which I was hesitant about, but that’s the first one that I could see, so I figured, “I’m just gonna do it.” You know?
L: Yeah. Totally. I’m proud of you. I think that happens where you really do, just doing it, just making the call’s sometimes harder than going to the appointments.
M: It really is. I’ve had so much anxiety. And Medical’s so confusing. I didn’t know which number to call.
M: And then I’ll be on hold forever. And they’re like, “This was the wrong place. Here’s the number you do have to call.” But I finally did that. And it was like, I had to tell myself that that’s what I was gonna do that day and not have other plans or else I wouldn’t have gotten it done.
L: Totally. Alright, so, what are we gonna talk about today Megan?
M: I’m so excited. I’ve mentioned this in so many episodes. We’re gonna talk about running Agile Scrum on our relationships,
M: the relationship check-in that I’ve mentioned so many times. We’re gonna devote the next 30 minutes to it, or so.
: Yeah! And so, to give a little background on this, there was an article
written for Medium, by someone named Alanna Irving in 2016. And so this was kind of going around the relationship world online for awhile. I know that the podcast Multiamory did an episode on this also, based on this article. But that was, yeah, that four years ago. And I know that this has definitely been a tool that I’ve used myself and that I’ve suggested to my coaching clients as well. But I know that Megan, you use it pretty regularly. So why don’t you give us a little like what is it and how do you use it?
M: Okay. So I’m just gonna read a little bit from here ’cause that’s what I do best.
M: It says, “Scrum is an Agile framework for completing complex projects. It was originally for software development but it works well for any complex, innovative scope of work.” So basically, hold on, where is my mouse? (laughs) My computer’s acting up. So this is a very simplified take on Agile Scrum,
M: what they call Relationship Retrospectives. So I call it the monthly check-in.
M: And I love that in the beginning of this article she says that her and her partner are processing nerds, because I’ve always felt that way. I used to call myself the feelings fairy, a processing nerd too. So I started this when I was in a polyamorous relationship and it felt very important. But now, even in a monogamous relationship, I find that it’s still something that I love. I have a journal dedicated to it. And so I’ll go out to dinner with my partner and I’ll say, “Let’s do a relationship check-in.” It’s about the time of our anniversary every month we try to do it.
M: So it says, “Number one: Review previous actions. Celebrate success, and notice what wasn’t done. For the incomplete items, decide to drop them, put them back on the list for upcoming month’s actions, or add them to the agenda for discussion.” So when I was polyamorous, this was super handy because I felt like there was always so much to talk about. And it was nice to have a point every month where I knew we were gonna do it. So like, if I had something to talk about but I didn’t want to ruin in the moment or I didn’t want to bring it up in that moment, it would be like, “Well, okay then. I’ll write this down and we’re gonna talk about it at our relationship check-in.”
L: Yeah. When I suggest this to folks who are using it like, in their relationships, I think it is equally helpful for monogamous or polyamorous relationships. I also think it’s helpful, even if you’re going to couples therapy, as a way to, either if you’re going to therapy, say once a month, you could do a little quick check-in once a week. Or it could be a, kind of like a post-therapy processing. To use more like, corporate words like agile scrum, there’s also the idea of like putting something like in the parking lot,
L: which is taking something and saying like, “Yes. We’re gonna address this but we’re gonna like, you know, put a pin in it, if you will.” And so that can be really helpful if you’re noticing something come up but you’re not in a place, like you said, where you want to talk about it. You can say like, “Hey, let’s add this to our next check-in or scrum or therapy,” or whatever you want to call it.
M: Mmhm. Should I go to number two.
L: Yeah, sure.
M: “Number two: Review the month. Each person talks through how the last month was for them, naming events, changes, experiences. This can be individual (what’s going on at work, health issues or hobbies) or mutual (we went away for the weekend, we had an argument). Report the facts, and if something needs further discussion, add it to the agenda. The other person practices active listening.”
M: I would always geek out about reviewing the month. I like, like actually even bring the calendar and like, talk about certain things that happened at the certain dates. So for me, when I started this with my partner and the one I’m in a monogamous relationship with, when we first met she was in sober living. And so I would write down things that happened on certain days and like, we would talk about the feelings, which that, we’ll go into that more as the numbers keep going. But I love that. I love checking in about things that happened in the month, even big events or small events and just things that maybe I had feelings about that I didn’t really get to articulate.
L: Yeah. I think it can also be really nice just to like, especially if you’re in a longer term relationships, sometimes you kind of, you get into routines and you kind of forget like, what you did for fun. It can be really helpful just to be like, sort of, “Look at these nice things we did in the last week.” Or I mean in the last month.
L: My side story. My dad keeps- I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this or not. My dad keeps a journal but mostly just of events, not so much like, his feelings about it. He’s a runner and so there’s this runner’s journal where you keep track of miles and things like that. But it’s like a planner, you know, it has several lines for each day. And so he keeps track of everything that he does that’s like, some kind of activity. And I remember very clearly when I was like 9 or 10 and being kind of like, “I didn’t do anything fun this year.” And my dad pulled out all his journals and
L: told me all the cool things I did. And like, it’s really sweet. And you know, he still has them. He’s been doing them for like, more th- I think he started doing them when I was like a few years old, you know, so like, 35 plus years.
L: Yeah, and it’s just like, and you know, again, it can be nice. It’s awesome to like, journal about your feelings but it can also be nice to look back and be like, “Oh, we saw this concert. We did this thing. We tried this restaurant.”
L: Like whatever. So yeah.
M: Yeah, that’s very sweet.
M: (laughs) I love that.
M: I write down on my calendar all the stuff that I do every evening. So I like to look back at that. And that’s really cute that eventually I’ll have these journals and notebooks to look back on to be like, “Hey, remember when we did this?”
M: Okay, so, “number three: Agree the agenda. Surface all the topics that could use discussion.” I really love this point, that is says, “It’s important not to cram too much or feel overwhelmed.” Because this is a continuous process so you don’t need to solve everything right away. So if there’s something you need to talk about and you don’t have time that day you could just keep it for another time.
L: That’s great.
M: Okay, should we go straight to number four, the discussion?
L: I think we can because like, I think that’s cl- I think that one point, I think you don’t want to go outside, it’s called scope creep sometimes, which is just like, going like, trying to shove everything in at the same time can really make it feel like- Like you don’t want this- Yes, it’s work. But you don’t want it to feel like a slog, you know?
L: And so I think- Do you have a timer when you do it?
M: But I-
L: For some folks that might be helpful.
M: You know what? That might be helpful for my partner because she doesn’t get as excited about it as I do. And sometimes she gets like, “Oh no. We’re gonna do this thing.”
M: And I think that’s just her personality. ‘Cause it’s not like we tal- You know, we don’t go into bad things usually. But-
L: Yeah. I think it just has to do with how people process. So, yeah. If you’re with a person, either if you’re both hardcore and you’re like, “Oh god. We’ll do this for hours,”
L: or if one of you is like, “Yes, I’m on board, but this isn’t like my communication style regularly.” I could be really helpful, like if you’re, you know, talking to a partner about starting this, to be like, “Hey, let’s try it out.” You probably want at least an hour, but, you know, if you’re trying to try this out, you could even try half an hour to get started.
L: But putting some kind of limit on it can be helpful for people who feel overwhelmed by the process.
M: That’s true. I’ll have to try that next time.
L: There you go
M: See, you learn new things all the time. I’ve been doing this for years, but now I’ll finally start with a timer and see how she feels about that. (laughs)
L: Totally. And, you know what, there’s another timer thing, but let’s talk about it, I think we can talk about it in the discussion part. That’s something I think that I learned from a therapist that can be really helpful. But do you want to tell us about the main part, the discussion part?
M: Yes! This is the best part!
M: So you, “Talk through the points in the agenda.” I really like the questions listed. Like, “What happened? How did you feel? How was that from your perspective? Why was that upsetting for you? Is there a bigger issue behind the situation?” I really love this one, “Is there something I could have done differently.” “What can I do to support you? How could we create a better dynamic? What is the outcome you’d like to achieve?” So I love that. I always go back to those questions. And then the notes here says, “These discussions are often quite emotional. Sometimes they are challenging […] Sometimes they are sad […] Sometimes they are happy and involve celebration and congratulations.” So I love the questions about how did that make you feel
M: because I think it’s, you know, when you’re in your day-to-day life, we can forget to ask, “How does this thing make you feel?” And this is a perfect time, when you’re sitting down and you’re devoting this time, without distractions, to each other, to go into that and kind of check in. Because sometimes we don’t even think about how something made us feel until we’re, you know, reflecting on it later.
L: Yes, absolutely. I also like the- I mean, I think we all know the kind of like, when we’re, especially when it is something a little more contentious, to use like, “I feel” statements. You know, not like, “You did this.” But more like, “I felt this.” Another way that I’ve heard that is framing it as like, “When you did X, I felt Y. I’d like to ask if you can do Z.” So an example, a polyamory example would be, “When you went on that-” Let’s see. “When you scheduled a date last week, it made me feel like, left out, because that’s usually the night that we do things together. Next time, can I ask for you to give me a few days notice if you’re going to schedule something different.” Or whatever. And the idea is you can’t blame somebody for how you feel and you can’t tell them that they need to do something differently but you can ask for something. And if they say, “No. That doesn’t work for me.” Well that’s another discussion, which is like, “Can we make this work? Can we not?” But rather than just like, it’s also hard to hear, like, “Oh, you did this thing and it made me feel bad.” So adding that action step is really helpful, which is like, “This thing happened. I felt this thing. But I think it could be fixed by this very clear change.” I don’t know. Did that make sense? I feel like that didn’t make a ton-
M: No, that was a perfect example, because I think, going through those questions, when I was polyamorous, it was always about time with others and scheduling things and I really like, “Why was that upsetting for you?” And, “Was there a bigger issue behind the situation?”
M: So when I was polyamorous, my primary partner- We had much different communicating styles.
M: So it was so important. I think that’s where I grew to love this check-in, is because it gave her time to really tell me her feelings in a way that normally just driving in the car or talking to someone between your life activities doesn’t.
L: Yeah. I also think, especially in the past, I’ve noticed like, that I’m a person who has very strong emotional reactions to things. (laughs)
L: But also I don’t need a lot, in proportion to my reaction. Like, I may have- Like, I hurt my own feelings a lot, you know. And like, I may have a really strong reaction where all I really needed was someone to be like, “Hey, thinking of you today.” (laughs)
L: That’s it, you know. So I think like, yeah, being able to communicate both sides of that can be really helpful.
L: Let’s see. Oh, and this is also a place where I was saying the timer can help, again more if you are in a kind of, you know, well it’s even saying, “These discussions are often quite emotional.” So that’s a better way to put it, just saying, you know, if there is that sense of like, not feeling heard, because you’re both really wanting to get in what you have to say, setting a two minute timer, where like, let’s say there’s an issue. You’re both gonna talk. You both have a lot of strong feelings about it. You want to make sure you’re heard. One person talks for two minutes or four minutes. I wouldn’t go more than that, with a timer, where the other person cannot say anything. They cannot.
M: That’s so important.
L: And they cannot ask questions. They cannot whatever. And if it’s something where you feel like you have to ask questions, then you can even take notes. But you have to let the other person talk and then you get your turn. And if you’re in a place where there’s a bit of a communication breakdown in your relationships, you can even, after the person talks, you repeat back what you heard them say. Like, so if it’s like, “I feel blah blah blah blah blah.” (laughs) And then your timer’s up and then your partner says, “Okay, what I heard you say was…” you know. And then they say it in their own words.
L: And then they give the other person the chance to even correct, to be like, “No that wasn’t what I said” or, “That wasn’t what I meant.” And then you take turns. And again, it can seem kind of formalized.
L: But, as most people know, when we have non-formalized fights, they’re much more likely to end up in, you know, door slamming or yelling or silent treatment or whatever your way of like, reacting negatively to emotional triggers is. So it may seem silly to do things like set a timer, but I think it does eliminate some unnecessary conflict.
M: That’s so important. Because I remember like, my partner and I now, we haven’t had many fights yet. I mean, we’re still so new in our relationship and we’re not polyamorous. So sometimes I do feel like, “What are we gonna talk about this month?” But there’s always stuff to talk about.
M: I can be very horrible at just active listening, like I’ll hear what she’s saying and in my head, I’m like, “But wait! Remember this?” So I literally have to like sit on my hands
M: and be like I- For some reason that helps me. I think, being a teacher I used to remember that like, when you’re trying to do observations on children and you don’t want to help them with something, I would sit on my hands.
M: So I’ll still do that now. I’ll like sit on my hands and be like, “Okay, just listen. Don’t say anything.” (laughs) You know? That’s really hard for me.
L: It’s also hard for me. I feel like I am both a really good listener and an interrupter. Like, I think both of those can happen at the same time. I get excited. If it’s positive I get excited because I want to really make sure somebody understands that I know what they’re saying or I can relate and so I want to add things. And if it’s contentious I want to make sure like, I over explain. And I know that that’s a trauma response. (laughs)
L: But, you know, if someone’s saying something where I’m like, “Wait! That’s not how I felt it!” It’s really hard for me to. So I think sitting on your hands is a great idea if you are- Especially if you talk with your hands like I do
L: because it’s kind of like hushing yourself.
M: Yeah, I do too. (laughs)
M: Okay, number five is action points. Let’s see. So, “Capture the commitments each person is making for the following month. Sometimes they’re about relationship issues (such as how we act and communicate […]), and sometimes they’re, “individual improvement (because becoming out best selves is key for a good partnership).” They are, “meant to be specific, not vague and abstract. The key word is ‘actionable.’ “
M: “Continuous improvement is incremental. The actions are recorded and shared (usually one of us captures the notes and e-mails them to the other).
L: Do you do that? Do you take notes and share them? I mean, you said you keep a journal.
M: I just take notes but I don’t share them. We just kind of both have access to it.
M: So one of the things that comes up every month for me is my mental health management because, like I said, I’ll stop taking my meds and my partner can tell when i do it. And she’s like, it’s important for both of us that I don’t do that. Because when I turn into a mess like, it affects her too. And so this is always one of the things about our action steps. It’s like, “Okay. This month I’m gonna try not to do this.” (laughs) “I’m gonna try to take my meds on time. And I’m going to notice how I feel and journal about it myself.” ‘Cause sometimes I’ll be very reliant on her,
M: which isn’t really fair. But again, when you’re just in the moment, I don’t realize that. So that’s why these things can be so helpful. Like, my action steps, it makes, it helps my anxiety,
M: to know like, what I’m gonna work on and if I need reminders I can just take my journal and look and be like, “This is what I’m working on.” And sometimes it seems silly, right? Like, the self-care that I have to do can seem so silly and like, “Why am I even focusing on this?” But when I look at the bigger picture, it reminds me, like I have to take care of myself to be a good partner. I have to take care of myself to be successful work. Like, to basically function, I have to do these things. So it reminds me to look at the big picture.
L: Yeah, and I think when you both have like, personal action points, you know, that aren’t necessarily related to the other person, it takes the blame off. I know that like, when I’ve used this in a previous relationship, you know, my personal stuff was always around like, how am I managing my illness or how am I managing my mental health. And like hers was a lot around like, how is she remembering to take time for herself and how is she like, working on time management. You know, like, none of those things were better or worse. We just had different things that we needed to focus on.
L: And yeah, I think that combination of like, what do we need to do together and what do we need to do separately to better show up in this relationship are really good.
Both: (talking at the same time)
L: Sorry, go ahead.
M: No, go ahead.
M: No, you go first.
L: Okay. The only other thing I was going to say, and this is kind of like, this is a longer conversation, but just in a real simple way, is if you are in a polyamorous relationship and you do have like, a relationship with your metamour or metamours, being your partners’ partners, like if you are a polycule, if you do have like, discussions, sometimes it can be helpful to have these kind of conversations as a group, occasionally, you know, kind of like a check-in for the polycule. That has been challenging for me in the past. But also like, the one of two times I’ve done it in past relationships, it has actually been really helpful.
M: That’s awesome. I’ve never had a discussion like that with metamours, but it seems like- I remember wishing that I was like heading in that direction before.
L: Yeah. Like there was a time when there were some more like practical things going on in the lives of partners or partners’ partners and, where, it made more sense for all of us to have the conversation and yeah. I think it turned out to be a really positive way to do things, especially if, you know, everyone does want to talk, and you don’t want to do the like, you need a little more than a group text, but you don’t want to do that triangulation, like you tell the one partner, they tell the other partner. It can be good to just set up, even like a coffee shop or lunch break to do it
L: Awesome. And then…
M: Oh, what I was gonna say is, I think you can relate to this, is I feel like a nurturer and like a caretaker in all my relationships. That’s just a role that I always take on.
M: So when I’m talking about like, this is what I work on, this is what you work on, it also helps me to realize like, don’t overstep into people’s own self-care.
M: You know, like, don’t try to do something for someone that they don’t need to be done. So it’s always a really good reminder for me to like, “I’m not responsible for what you do.” You know? (laughs)
L: How dare you Megan?
M: I need that reminder.
L: I take my codependency very seriously.
L: No, yes, a hundred percent. That is probably the thing that I am working the very most (laughs) in my life, is like, “I am not responsible for other people’s happiness. I am not responsible for other people’s self-growth. I’m not respon-” Yeah. Yeah.
M: And like, what is it about me not wanting to take care of myself but being like, “I wish that I could call your doctor for you.” You know? (laughs) Like, “I wish that I could do all these things for you, but it’s not my place and I can’t do it.” But like, why am I willing to do it for someone else but not me. It’s just so much easier.
L: Yeah. I mean, I have a lot of theories around that.
L: I think one of the main ones is like, a lot of it comes from like, you know, “Were you told to put other people’s feelings before yours?”
L: or modeled that other people’s feelings come first. And then if you’ve struggled with any kind of low self-esteem you don’t always think that you’re worthy of the same care that other people are worthy of.
L: And if you get a lot out of validation, if you do something for somebody and then they thank you and validate you, that feels a lot better than doing it for yourself, where, no one cares. (laughs)
M: Everyone’s like, “Yay! You did the thing you had to do. Good job!” (laughs)
L: Right? And if you’re in that place like, it’s much better. I mean, it’s not. But it can feel so much better to have somebody be like, “Thank you so much. You’re the best!” versus you being like, “Hey self. Good job!”
L: Which, you know, we’ll get there. It’s a process. But, yeah.
M: Okay, the next step is the sweetest step.
M: The appreciation round!
L: I love this.
M: And- Yeah! Me too. It’s so sweet. It says, “It’s very easy to spend most of the time […] focusing on the problems,” but “it’s important to remember all the good things, what is working, and why we value our relationship.” So, “Each person speaks while the other listens, naming positive things they appreciate about the other person and the relationship and expressions of gratitude.”
M: Things you appreciate from the other’s character, “recognition for ways we’re lucky, compliments, noticing and saying thank you.” I love that. I think that’s- That’s the part that always makes me emotional.
L: Yes. And I actually, you know, obviously if this is something that you’re going to do in your relationships you can follow this exactly. You can take the parts you like and leave the rest. A thing I do like is starting this way also, not with the full round, but at least with like one nice thing,
L: Like especially if you’re looking at this being something where like, a topic might come up that’s contentious. I think starting with like, one affirmation to the other person like, one word of appreciation from each of you at the beginning, can be really good too.
L: And then you can spend a little more time at it here at the end. But yeah, I love this. And I think we don’t do it enough. We don’t talk about it enough. I mean, we say, in long term relationships, we start saying I love you so often, and that’s awesome, but that it doesn’t have as much behind it. But it can be nice to give really like, specific compliments or expressions of gratitude.
M: Yeah. And I just can’t enough of hearing things like that so I always love that part. (laughs)
M: It’s like, you can say this to me all the time, but after a deep discussion where we’re being very vulnerable like, “Here’s what I love about you.” And I just, awww I love that part.
L: Yes. Or even just like thanking for each other for doing this work. Like, “Thank you for showing up for me. Thank you for committing to doing this work.” When my ex and I were going through couples therapy even after we broke up, I feel like, often after therapy we would thank each other, you know, kind of acknowledge, like, “Hey, I know that this is hard and we’re not together anymore, but thank you for doing the work to help fix this relationship.” Or, “repair the hurt done by,” whatever. I don’t know. I think that makes it feel a lot better.
M: Yeah. I like this quote at the- almost at the end of the article. It says, “I often say to my partner, ‘I don’t need this to be fixed immediately, as long as we’re taking steps in the right direction.’ ” I think that’s a super important point of all this, is you might not leave feeling like everything’s fixed or everything’s solved, I mean nothing might ever be fully fixed or solved, but as long as you’re taking steps in the right direction that you feel comfortable with, it was a success.
L: Amazing. I love that. Oh, I’m also looking at the very bottom. Do you see that there’s an update?
M: No. Oh, update two years later.
L: So the couple that, the person who was talking about this, they got married, they bought a house, and they had a baby. And they continue to do these Relationship Retrospectives.
M: Oh my god! That’s so cute!
L: I know, it’s adorable. I love that too. Another thing is, this can be helpful if you are doing like, structured ways to have meetings with someone too. I mean, obviously, if it’s like work, you can do actual Agile Scrum, which is, it’s like a project management tool. But if you’re doing more like, like the kind of work Megan and I do, like we schedule meetings.
L: We should say nice things about each other more often.
M: Yeah! That’s so sweet.
M: (laughs) I mean, when we do the minimal work, we’re like, “Yes! We’re doing this thing!” So I think we’re good on that.
L: We do a good job of that. We do a good job of being like, “Look at us! We recorded!” (laughs) “Twice! In two weeks!”
L: No, I think you’re right. I think we are. I think we do a good job at like, collectively boosting ourselves up for doing work and acknowledging that like, you know, that it’s not easy. I mean, here’s the thing. We don’t really get paid for this. We so so so appreciate all of you who are part of the Patreon. That is our only income. That, and some like, occasional sponsorship opportunities, an Instagram post here or there. That’s our only income from this. And so we love that and we appreciate that. But also like, we do this ’cause we love it. And we continue to thank each other. So, hey, thanks.
L: This is episode 17. Thanks for sticking with me. (laughs)
M: Yay! Thank you. Thanks for always being so knowledgeable on things.
M: I’m always like, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m gonna say because I don’t know anything about this.” (laughs)
L: You do know things.
L: You’re sweet. I’m glad we got to do this because I know that this is something that we’d wanted to talk about before and because I have no memory and friend my brain
L: years ago and never know if we’ve talked about something or not. So thank you for confirming that we had not gone through this so that we could go through it.
M: Yeah. It was fun.
L: Yay! So yeah, if any of our listeners have used this before or used something similar in their relationships, let us know what works for you. Yeah. I think we’re done. Right on time.
M: This was a quickie.
L: It was.
L: It was. And that’s cool.
L: I’m gonna hit stop.
M: Hope we didn’t sound too bad.
L: Please excuse our not perfect but hopefully okay sound quality. All right. We’ll talk to you next time.
M: Bye. Have a good week everyone