No matter how long you’ve been together, you can never learn enough about the person you love. These six questions will help strengthen your relationship and foster a better understanding of your partner’s needs.
When you’re settled and happy in a long-term relationship, it sometimes feels as if you and your partner have covered every inch of ground, as far as conversation goes. What is there left to talk about after you’ve discussed your childhood, hopes and dreams for the future, and your hopes and dreams for your children?
Plenty, actually. It isn’t that you’ve run out of things to say, it’s that you’re not considering a universe of questions left to ask that will help you both get inside of each other’s minds, hearts and souls. Instead of turning on the television tonight, make the decision to improve your relationship through simple talk — these six questions will help you get there.
1. Do you feel loved?
Of course you love your partner — and he or she probably knows it. But it’s one thing to be able to rationalize feelings and another to feel them with an intensity that you can’t explain in words. By asking your spouse or partner if they feel loved, you’re inviting them to share with you the actions and words you contribute that bring him a sense of security, peace and passion — and you’re also asking them to help you become a better lover. The key here is to not take his criticism personally or allow it to affect you negatively. We can all be better partners, but the only way to get there is by accepting that we aren’t perfect.
2. What’s on your bucket list?
Sounds like a morbid question, right? But let’s be real: No one is immortal and the ability to speak freely about this fact and ensure you’re on the same page in terms of your life goals will only bring you closer together. “Couples can be together for decades and still not know everything about each other,” says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert who gives relationship advice through her Ask April advice column. “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know, and a bucket list item not achieved because it wasn’t obvious or known, is a regret you shouldn’t have. You can always say no, but it’s a lot better to know what your partner really wants to do in this lifetime — and it gives you an opportunity to share your bucket list, as well.”
3. How do you want to die?
Again, it’s important to get past the idea that death is bad or a negative or even avoidable. It’s a natural phase of life and a frank discussion about it will help you both know how you wish to be treated and handled when the time comes (the understanding here is that you are working toward becoming a couple that stands the test of time). “This seems morbid, but if you’re in a long-term relationship, and you’ve never had this discussion or had the opportunity to because you’ve never had a parent or loved one pass away, it’s a worthwhile conversation to have,” Masini says. “There’s a good chance you will be each other’s power of attorney in an emergency, and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know if someone wants extreme measures taken to keep them alive, wants no extreme measures or wants to avoid a hospital at all costs. Simply asking opens up what seems like a morbid conversation, but is actually a very loving and intimate way to get to know each other and feel closer.”
4. What stresses you out most in life?
It might be obvious: Your spouse freaks every time one of the kids gets sick or when they so much as catches a sniffle. But there could also be stressful experience from their past that you aren’t aware of. Gaining insight into the everyday scenarios that cause you both grief will help you to understand why, for example, your partner is always grumpy right before he heads out the door to work.
5. How can I help you become a better parent/partner?
Lots of us feel insecure about our parenting abilities — something we can blame on having far too many responsibilities, not enough time on our hands and simply being human. Unfortunately, we also sometimes fall into the trap of criticizing our partners for not doing enough without taking into account how hurtful it is to have your spouse chastise you for poor parenting skills. Show your spouse that you have their back (he/she should return the favor) by asking what you can do to help. Perhaps it’s as simple as giving 10 minutes to decompress when he gets home for work before he jumps in and plays with the kids (which can, in turn, give you 10 minutes to decompress).
6. What do you want for your birthday?
Good news: Not every question has to be so heavy! “This seems so banal, and yet, it’s one of the most discussed issues on my relationship advice forum,” Masini says. “The wrong gift for a birthday, Christmas or an anniversary, creates an avalanche of discussion. Something well meaning, like a beautiful watch can become the beginning of a fight — ‘We can’t afford this, what makes you think you can buy something this expensive without discussion, etc.’ Many times couples will suffer through years of bad gifts and ill feelings because they never have a discussion about what they want, and how it affects the other person. She may keep buying him cashmere sweaters, when he’d really like a camping trip, just the two of them. He may keep buying roses for her birthdays, when she’d much rather be able to skip Christmas at his mother’s house just one year. Ask the question, get the conversation going, and improve your relationship.”