A few months ago, I was at the hair salon enjoying some rare “me” time when my husband called asking what time I’d be home. I was sure we had talked about this already! Yet he seemed surprised and frustrated. “I already told you this!” I said, exasperated. I could sense the annoyance in his voice as he hung up abruptly to go pick up our children. We were both angry, and I nearly cried in the chair because I felt so defeated.

I thought I had been so clear with him, but it was obvious something about our communication was amiss. We were in a pattern of being caught off guard by each other’s plans or our children’s endless activities, and it was leading to feelings of resentment in our marriage.

I processed this moment with my therapist who told me about her weekly practice with her husband to sit down over a cup of coffee to prepare for the upcoming week. She encouraged me to put a system like this in place. And so began “the coffee talk.”

Our weekly coffee talk has become more than a conversation — it is a time of true connection. Here’s how to put this marriage-changing idea into practice:

1. Finding the time

We needed to determine a time that would work for both of us with limited distractions. We knew we’d be too tired when our kids went to bed, so we decided on Sunday mornings while our youngest babies were taking their morning nap.

2. Tracking our progress

Second, we talked about how to track what we’d discuss. I love my calendar app on my phone, but my husband rarely looks at his — a typical situation in any marriage! So we settled on keeping our schedule in two places — on a shared Google calendar and a whiteboard calendar right in our kitchen. 

3. Talking through the schedule

We’ve learned that talking about the events on the calendar isn’t enough — we must determine who is responsible for what. We need to note what time we actually have to leave the house, not just what time an event begins. It’s about drop offs and pick ups and childcare. We talk about our kids’ needs, our work needs, and our personal needs. It’s also made us think more purposefully about scheduling dates together and individual self-care time. Discussing the week ahead has eliminated the “Are you getting the kids today?” texts and the surprises and unspoken expectations!

4. Planning our weekly menu

Deciding what to cook for dinner has always been a struggle. Now, we work together to meal plan for the week. Looking at the schedule helps us think about which nights we need something super quick versus days we can devote more time to cooking. It has also been an opportunity for my husband to take over some of the cooking. I jot down our grocery list as we go.

5. Checking in on the budget

Our coffee talk gives us a chance to monitor our budget. We can connect on the regular budget items, like bills, as well as on upcoming needs, like holiday gifts or new tires for the minivan. With the increasing cost of living, being more purposeful about our spending has been a shared goal, and creating space for the conversation has made a difference.

6. Deciding our weekly priorities

We write two or three weekly priorities on our white board to help us cross off key items on our to-do list — and to share the mental load. These could be things like “winterize the camper” or “call the insurance company” — you know, the things no one really wants to do. Talking through this gives us a chance to ensure these tasks don’t fall too heavily on one person.

7. Catching up on the other stuff

Sometimes we just need to vent — about our kids, our work, our families. Sometimes we talk about dreams and goals. Sometimes we air out issues that have come up in our marriage. I’ve learned that instead of constantly nagging my husband about little things, I can instead wait until our coffee talk to discuss — and oftentimes the issue is no longer bothering me by then. It’s helped me avoid a lot of small, unnecessary arguments!

Our weekly coffee talk is a system that has helped us manage being full-time working parents of five children. It’s allowed us to better share the physical and mental load. It’s become such a regular part of our routine that our older children even know to give us space. “Are you guys having your coffee talk?” they’ll ask (knowing they can likely have some TV time!).

While the coffee talk certainly hasn’t eliminated all problems in our marriage or our household, it has been a proactive way to help us be better prepared for each week and to do a better job showing up for each other and our children. Plus, having a cup of coffee and an intentional conversation with my husband? It’s something I genuinely look forward to every week!

Dr. Danielle Ricci
Danielle Ricci was lucky enough to grow up in Salisbury, MA with the beach as her playground. Danielle received her B.A. in English and Studio Arts at Stonehill College where she pitched for their softball team. She earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and her Ph.D. in Leadership in Schooling from UMass Lowell. Danielle is currently a high school principal where her background as an athlete has helped her to keep the concept of teamwork at the heart of her practice. Her expertise and research is in cultivating collaborative cultures. Danielle currently lives in Merrimac, MA with her husband and five children - Abigail (2015), Grace (2017), Emilia (2020), and twins Madelyn and Ryan (2023)! When she's not juggling life as a working mom, Danielle loves listening to audiobooks, writing, walking, visiting MLB baseball parks, and cold-water exposure - yes, she swims in the Atlantic year-round!

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