You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s entirely true, so please hear it yet again: the key to a good relationship is good communication. None of us are mind readers – body language and tone, sure, but minds, not so much. Even when you have been in a relationship with your partner for many years, you still can’t take it for granted that you know what the other person is feeling, thinking, wanting, or worrying about. And just so, neither should you ever assume they know the same about you.
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That is, unless you have taken the time to share. When you and your partner truly maintain good communication across the years, you have a much better chance at staying happily together. And the way to maintain that good communication goes beyond just spending time together and regularly chatting, it involves setting aside time to ask each other a few deep, meaningful questions. What’s more, it means setting aside said time for these questions time and time again, be it annually, monthly, or whatever works for both of you.
Here are six questions that you need to ask your partner, and that your partner needs to ask you.
1. What changes in our relationship are you the happiest with?
Relationships change over time, every single one of them. And that goes for the way parents relate to kids, it’s true in how friends get along in different stages of life, in how long-term colleagues interact, and so on. In the confines of your romantic relationship, many of the changes that come with time are expected – a bit less fireworks but a few more inside jokes, e.g.
For some reason, we often see the changes in a relationship in a negative light. Sure, there is less of that excitement and wonder as we get to fully know a partner over the years, but in a healthy relationship, comfort and commitment and a sense of dependability are better relationship goals than fireworks anyway.
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By asking your partner what changes to the relationship make them happy, you are not only inviting some deep reflection and appreciation, but you are making it clear that you, too, are happy with how you have grown and developed together.
It also doesn’t hurt to lead off what may become a deep, profound conversation with a warm, happy question.
2. What is the hardest for you to do as a partner?
In other words, you are asking your significant other about his or her weakness in the realm of the relationship. So, tread carefully here, because this question asked at the wrong time or in the wrong way could come across as an accusation or even an attack, when in fact it’s the exact opposite of that: it’s a well-intentioned fact-finding mission, the goal of which is to help.
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Answers may include everything from the benign, like: “I just can’t bring myself to do more housework” to the more serious, like: “I’ve struggled to stay faithful.” Regardless of the case, if your partner is able to identify their shortcomings as a partner, it means they are also capable of improving in those areas, especially with your help.
3. What is your largest worry about our relationship?
Things had to get heavier at some point, for better or for worse! But by asking this question, you are inviting things to get better. You are also fully opening yourself up, as there’s a good chance you will factor fully into the answer. By making yourself so vulnerable, you also empower your partner to be honest, both with themselves and with you.
In some cases, the worry may be about dying many years hence, whether their fear is your passing and their sorrow or their passing leaving you alone. (And in fact, that’s probably the best possible answer here!) But in many cases, a partner’s worry will be about decidedly more terrestrial issues, from the chance you will cheat on them or worse still, will leave them, to the concern that they will never truly be good enough for you, to the fear that you will grow apart as life changes continue.
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In other words, the answer to this question may well be hard and heavy. But it won’t be any less of a factor in your relationship if it lingers unsaid – out in the open, at least you can address their fears together.
4. How would you change the way we argue?
Arguments between a couple are never a fun thing, but they can be remarkably productive. When we are angry, we tend to speak our minds more freely than we usually would, and in so doing we can get a lot off our chests, not to mention getting it into our partner’s ears. And, if we’re in a good relationship, we hear what they had to say, too, and we learn from an act on it once the disagreement is over and the rift is repaired.
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So, in other words, arguing can be a good thing. But only if the disputes are conducted in a way that each party is comfortable with – not happy with, per say, but is not made to feel unsafe. When in a calm moment, discuss the way you both prefer to interact during flare ups; it will do wonders for your next argument, which will do wonders for your relationship.
5. How can I support you better?
Rather than asking too broad of a question like: “How can I be a better partner?” asking this question maintains the balance in the relationship. It does not imply that your partner is lagging in some way and needs help nor does it put you in a reduced position by implying you know you need to be a “better” partner.
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Rather, this question makes it clear you are here for the person, that you care about them, and that you are open to their ideas and feedback, whether those will point toward changing things you currently do or starting to do new things.
Often, though, simply being truly heard is all the support someone needs.
6. What are you most excited about for us in the years to come?
End a conversation punctuated with deep, heavy questions with another warmer though no less profound one like this. Asking about the future, and about positives in the future at that, will make it clear to your partner that you remain committed to and happy with the relationship and it will give them a chance to reflect and then project.
In so doing, you both might learn something about your shared relationship hopes and dreams, and you might just have a better shot at making them manifest, too. Just remember always that while good communication starts with asking the right questions, it also involves genuine, active listening. And remember that great communication never stops.
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