“Do we need milk?”
“Did you hear about the Smiths?”
“Do you want to see a movie tonight?”
If you have been with your partner a while and life together has settled into its own comfortable rhythm, you may feel like you know each other inside out and those long and meaningful conversations were left behind with the heady days of dating.
Whilst it is natural and important for our relationships to change and become more settled and comfortable, enormous gain can come from continuing to foster a deep sense of curiosity about your partner. Relationship expert and author of Wired for Love, Dr Stan Tatkin refers to this as having each other’s “user manuals”. According to Dr Tatkin, it is for the greater good of the relationship to have a deep understanding of each other’s nuances and inner-workings.
This alone can reduce conflict because your partner’s seemingly odd behaviour is no longer a mystery to you. You know what others outside your relationship do not. For example, perhaps when your partner becomes clingy you soothe, where others may become irritated because you understand how and why this happens and you know how to make it better.
It may feel a little odd or awkward asking some deep or hard-hitting questions in amongst the daily grind, and of course blurting them out as your partner scrambles out the door late for work may not elicit the best response.
However, well-timed, open questions or statements that reveal your partner’s deeper thoughts and feelings can be really useful in becoming closer as a couple and boosting intimacy levels. It is in our nature to crave to feel known and understood by our partner. We want them to be curious about us and at the same time we want to feel like we are in safe hands and that the person we are intimate with knows what makes us tick – how to make us laugh, how to be with us when we are sad, what our insecurities are and generally why we are the way we are.
If this sounds like something you would like more of in your relationship, I have included a list of questions below that could act as prompts to help you get started. I don’t advise tackling all of these at one time. A couple would be plenty and save some for a rainy day!
These kind of conversations, even if they go well, can be taxing and it is best to just dip in and out of them as the opportunity arises. Enter these conversations only when there is enough time and space for them to be relaxed and pleasurable. Ensure you can have physical contact with each other to soothe or reassure if needed.
Delivering honest responses always comes with the risk of hurt or misperception and you may need to calm your partner down so they can understand you without being overcome with defensiveness. Obviously, don’t try this of you are on the brink of or in the middle of an argument – not going to go well! Try to bring along qualities of curiosity and willingness to truly understand your partner on a deeper level for the greater good of your relationship.
Even though it may be difficult do, try not to become defensive about your partner’s answers. If they do trigger a strong reaction in you try to use this as grist for the mill. Be curious about your own strong reaction and as you notice what is happening relay what you are noticing about your reaction to your partner. Your feelings about their responses also provide really important information about your relationship. If you decide to use the prompts below, make sure your partner feels ok about doing it – give them the run down and make sure you both have a turn answering each prompt.
- I feel our sex life is ……
- What I need more from you is…..
- Sometimes it upsets me when you….
- What you bring to my life is…..
- What I appreciate the most about you is…..
- I find it hard to talk to you about….