Happy Valentine’s Day!
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Christine Baumgartner, the dating coach from ThePerfectCatch.com. She had a lot of good advice, not just for singles but for anyone in a relationship. One of the ideas she stressed was doing the work to know yourself and love yourself. And even if you are in a relationship and thinking about a Valentine present for your partner, you can consider giving yourself a loving Valentine gift as well.
As part of Christine’s “gift” to us, she is allowing me to share her top 10 relationship questions to facilitate honest, open dialog and get to know your partner on a deeper level. I hope you enjoy.
Christine said, “I recommend asking some of the following questions once every few months, and others on a weekly basis.
For best results, clear all distractions from your environment. Clear out any and all extraneous things that could potentially ping their way into the space that you are creating and handle them ahead of time. It’s unbelievable how much even a 30-minute, distraction-free, emotional block-busting session once per week conducted from the comfort of your bed can do for your entire relationship.
Give it a try and see what comes of it. If you don’t like it, you never have to do it again. But this exercise could be the exact thing you need to take your relationship from surviving to thriving.”
1. Is there anything I can do for you in this moment to help you feel more comfortable or loved?
Assuming that you are kicking things off right by lying down together in a distraction-free room, it’s always good to ask if your partner needs anything before you start leaning into the heavier stuff. Just like symphony orchestra members tune to each other before they play a concert, you and your partner might need to touch base before you get into the good stuff.
Maybe they want to lie in silence for a minute and breathe deeply. Maybe they want you to hug them and show your love with your eye contact first. Or maybe they need to quickly go and make sure that their cell phone is completely switched off. Whatever they need to settle in let them settle. It will be worth it.
2. How can I better support you in your life?
Sometimes this question will spark something for your partner, and sometimes it won’t, and that’s okay.
Maybe it will come out as something as simple as “Could you please kiss me in the mornings before you get out of bed even if you haven’t brushed your teeth? It really affects my day for the better if you kiss me before getting up and getting dressed.” Or it could be something as large as “I’m about to take on a really huge project at work and I really don’t know how much mental bandwidth I’ll have by the time that I get home. Would you mind making dinner for the next week and I promise I’ll make it up to you after this particular work sprint dies down?”
Whatever favor they ask of you, you aren’t contractually obligated to comply. But simply by asking the question and letting them voice their honest thoughts, you will be engaging in the dance of intentional intimacy.
3. Is there anything I have done in the past week that may unknowingly have hurt you?
This is where we start to head into the emotionally uprooting territory of this exercise. While I don’t believe that you need to shine a light on absolutely everything in the dark subconscious of your mind in order to have a healthy relationship, it is good to uproot the major things that get swept under the rug.
Whether it was something that you thought was insignificant or an argument that you had that you thought was thoroughly squashed, your partner’s answer to this question might surprise you.
Receive it lovingly, with patience, and let them tell their entire side of the story without interrupting. Truly listen to them. Recognize that, even if you didn’t mean to hurt them in the slightest, it takes real vulnerability and courage for your partner to voice frustration, resentment, or discomfort with something that occurred between the two of you.
Sincerely thank them for sharing their thoughts with you (it’s not an easy thing to do for most people) and follow up by apologizing for the incident or asking what you can do or say to help them feel more complete about the event.
4. When you come home from work, what can I do or say that will make you feel the most loved?
Depending on what kind of job your partner has and how they are as an individual, they might want something entirely different than what you expect as their preferred method of being greeted.
They might want to have as little communication as possible for the first few minutes as they settle into their new environment. Or perhaps diving right into physical affection is their way of relating. Whatever they need, all it takes is one simple question in order for you to better understand your partner and to go deeper in your relationship.
5. Is there any kind of physical touch that I can engage in more that helps you to feel loved?
This question refers to non-sexual touch. Is there any kind of physical intimacy that they feel is lacking? Do they want to hold hands more? Do they love it when you play with their hair? Do they adore when you come up behind them and wrap your arms around them?
Ask to get clear on what would make them feel more loved, and then incorporate that kind of touch into your daily schedule to the best of your ability.
6. Do you think you will need more closeness or more alone time over the next couple of days?
Our individual needs for independence and intimacy vary greatly from day to day. Maybe your partner has been having an emotionally charged week and they need an extra large dose of words of affirmation, physical intimacy, and compliments.
Or maybe they are charging full steam ahead in their career and they need a bit more space as they grab their life’s steering wheel for a little while.
A greater need for independence and alone time doesn’t mean that they love you any less, nor does a greater need for intimacy mean that they are needy. People simply have emotional needs that fluctuate depending on a huge variety of elements in their ever-changing lives. And the more you can accommodate your partner, while still being conscious of your own mental and emotional needs, the better.
7. Is there any argument that we had this past week that you feel incomplete about?
Similar to the third question in that this one directly brings up potential wounds from the previous week. By asking this in a different context, your partner gets to consider whether they thought your arguments felt complete.
You might have a gut-level resistance to asking this one (“But if I ask this, won’t they remember that they were mad and then get mad at me again!?”), but working through this uncomfortable moment together will make it so that the unspoken, underlying tension is allowed to dissipate.
Have you ever heard the expression “Saying no hurts for a moment, but saying yes hurts for months”? It basically says that when we are assertive and direct with our desires, it can be uncomfortable. But if we don’t, the trade-off would be the low-lying anxiety that we feel by not being true to ourselves.
This question works much in the same way. It’s so easy to ignore the difficult moments from the past week. What takes courage and strength is intentionally working through it so that the dirt between you isn’t given the chance to grow into resentment. So be proactive. Your relationship will thank you.
8. How do you feel about our sex life lately?
One of the main differences between your intimate partner and every other relationship in your life is that you (hopefully) have sex with your partner. And yet, along with money, what is ranked as the most common topic that couples cite as the most stressful thing that they don’t discuss that break them up? You guessed it: sex.
Ask your partner about their level of satisfaction with your recent sex life. Ask them if there’s anything they would like more of, less of, or even different sex acts than you’ve been having. This question will be easier to answer the longer you’ve been in the relationship, so have some patience if you’re a new item.
9. What are the main stressors currently in your life, and is there any way I can alleviate that stress for you, if only a small amount?
An open-ended question that gets people to dig deep and show their soft underbelly. This question is the easiest way to get a window into your partner’s mind by directly asking them what they’re currently struggling with.
As with any of the questions mentioned, feel free to calibrate the wording to how you naturally speak. Anything that gets across the subtext of “How can I lighten your load?” is a surefire way to increase the feelings of depth and connectedness in your relationship.
10. When do you find speaking difficult and how can I best support you through those moments?
This one is one of the questions that you can ask every few months or so, and boy is it powerful. Everyone has different emotional triggers that make them feel vulnerable in a variety of different situations.
Maybe your partner feels easily attacked when you do something that they interpret as criticizing them publicly. Maybe your partner tends to shut down when you argue about certain emotionally charged topics like sex, finances, or the in-laws. Or maybe something could happen in the bedroom that makes them feel inadequate or embarrassed.
Whatever the reason may be, there’s always a way around it that could make your partner feel a lot more cared for and loved.
I’m not suggesting that you become co-dependent or obsessed with solving all of your partner’s troubles. And nor does every topic need to be talked to death. Some of these questions will speak to you more than others and that’s just fine. This exercise is merely meant to start the conversation that very few couples ever have with each other.
A lot of things tend to get swept under the rug in intimate relationships. The questions outlined above are simply a tool that you can use to lift up the rug, sweep out the accumulated muck, and get on your with awesome lives as a happily connected couple.