There are many articles that enumerate the types of conversations every couple needs to have prior to getting married, such as discussing their plans for how to parent, and their perspectives on money and religion. But I believe that there are 10 conversations that every couple needs to have on a regular basis in order to keep their emotional connection alive. They can help you realize what areas of their relationship may need to be worked on, whether this is done with more conversation or even with a couples counselor. In 2015, why not commit to having at least a few of these helpful conversations?
By the way, if you want to know when you would use these questions, a good thing to do is an Emotional Check In, which is a weekly time (yes, put it on your Outlook) that you and your spouse sit together for a a half hour, no more and no less, to discuss only how the relationship is going. Many couples find this to be useful; it isn't such a long time that the less emotionally expressive partner is terrified, and it is long enough for both people to feel heard. So try a weekly Emotional Check In, and use some of these questions during it. (Note: If you're a devoted reader of this blog, you'll realize that many of these are questions I use in my Functional Couple Fridays interviews. So I walk the walk.)
1. What do you love about me?
This question is wonderful to use on a regular basis. It makes partners feel great to know that there are specific things about them that are valued and appreciated within their relationship. Talking about this can bring partners back to the honeymoon stage, where all you ever did was talk about what you love about each other (and have sex). This conversation topic pumps out endorphins and makes both partners happy.
2. What do I do regularly that makes you happy?
Not only does this give you the happiness benefits of having your effort noticed and recognized, but it can also be instructive to learn exactly what does and doesn't resonate emotionally with your partner. For example, if you're busting your butt to get a delicious dinner on the table every night for your husband, but he never mentions this as something that makes him happy, maybe you can relax and order take out sometimes. This can also lead into a productive discussion about love languages.
3. What is your favorite time we had together this week?
Note I didn't say this month or today. A week is a good unit because you can remember most things easily, but some days are going to go by in a normal relationship without many good things happening. If you can't think of any favorite time within seven days, that's an indicator that you need to make more time as a couple, or that there are underlying issues with the relationship. And reminiscing about good times together, even as recently as that morning or a week ago, builds feelings of intimacy and closeness.
4. What are you looking forward to doing together as a couple?
Looking forward to events can be even more enjoyable than the events themselves, according to research. So, figure out what you're looking forward to, whether it's tonight, next week, this summer, or as retirees. Or all of those! Talking about your plans together makes you feel like a team, and gives you positive thoughts to help you through tougher times in the relationship.
5. When did you first realize you loved me?
Another romantic one that brings you back to the hormone- and endorphin-fueled stages of early love. These sorts of questions make people feel vulnerable and closely connected.
6. What do you think about our sex life?
This should be a frank and honest discussion, where both partners try their hardest to be non-defensive and non-judgmental. If it was 20 years from now, wouldn't you wish you had this open discussion today? People have no idea what their partner wants if their partner won't tell them outright. I have treated couples where a man learned that a wife of decades never enjoyed or orgasmed from things he had been doing every time they had sex. Don't let this be you.
7. What do you think we have in common?
This discussion builds closeness and a team feeling. Opposites don't actually attract; in most basic ways, couples that succeed are fairly similar. Elaborate on the ways that you have similar thoughts, feelings, goals, values, and interests. This will emphasize that you're a unit, and reaffirm your choice in partner.
8. Which of our differences do you think complement each other?
In attachment theory, we've seen that avoidant partners often pair with preoccupied partners. Similarly, assertive partners often pair with passive ones. There are many ways in which two people with the exact same personality traits wouldn't work. One is often more laid back, one more responsible, one more intellectual, one more emotional, and so forth. This conversation helps you learn more about your partner, as well as realize why it may not be a bad thing that your partner is different than you. (Would you want to date you? Really? Completely?)
9. Do you trust me?
Many if not most couples have issues in their history that makes them wary of fully trusting the other, whether this is something huge like infidelity, or something like a partner picking their parent over you during arguments. Trust needs to be discussed, and each partner needs to make a good faith effort to repair trust that has been broken. Often, this can be done with a couples counselor, if open discussion does not work.
10. What concrete things could I do to make you happier?
This should be one to three things that a partner could reasonably do on a daily or monthly basis that would genuinely increase the other partner's quality of life. Having more sex, cleaning or doing some chore on your wife's timeline and specifications, scheduling more date nights, getting up with the kids, whatever. Be open to trying new things with the goal of enriching your marriage and making your partner feel valued and cherished.
Hopefully those questions can make it into your conversation tonight. Let me know how it goes, and share if you found this useful! Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Wants Your Marriage To Be Awesome.