Sometimes I wish I had a magic wand in my office drawer as I so often get asked this in my couples counseling: “How can we make our relationship even better?”
We live in a society that expects quick fixes, there is an urgency to have everything right now on a plate, and we want to shed layers of emotional baggage in one afternoon. We’d much rather cut corners than put in any hard work.
That’s where the secret lies — work.
Relationships are work. There are no short cuts, no half measures, and no quick fixes — we have to dive in there hook, line and sinker.
Ian and I have been married for over 28 years. We were in for the long haul, and have just returned from an amazing little breakaway and I hear these words: “I think we’ve just hit a new level in our relationship, life really does get better.”
“Where did that spring from?” I asked myself.
That is what happens when you dive that much deeper into your relationship. Once you’ve healed your own emotional wounds and you feel whole and complete, you can start to fill each other’s emotional love tank, which allows you to speak the love language that your partner responds to — you’ll both feel emotionally loved at a much deeper level.
So, let’s look at some questions you can ask each other, as you crave that need to go deeper into the relationship:
1. “What do you find most difficult to put into words and how can I help you with this?”
This is a very powerful question as you are asking what makes your partner feel vulnerable. Showing your vulnerability tells your partner it’s okay to do this and can lead your relationship to a much deeper place.
Perhaps it’s about sex, the relatives, being on your phone, not supporting him when in company with others or feeling inadequate in some area. We all have our own triggers for this. Taking through this and sharing your difficulties will help your partner to voice theirs so you can find a way of helping each other.
2. “Would you like to be physically touched more often?”
I’m not talking sexually right now but I love to be touched and Ian does (most of the time anyway) so perhaps you could ask your partner if they want to hold hands when you’re out, if they’d enjoy a shoulder rub now and again or a gentle pat on your bottom when you’re out with company?
Ask them what specific touch they would like and try it. All these things lead to feeling loved if physical touch is one of your love languages.
3. “What are your feelings about our sex life?”
Following on from touching we can look at your intimacy. This is always a big one as it’s one of the areas (along with money) that are rarely discussed in an open way.
The best way to approach this is to start with what is working for you and then what isn’t and what you’d like to try. Then, gently ask them their views and work out when and how you will implement these. This gets easier over time as you get more used to each other’s needs.
4. “Have I offended you in any way recently?”
Now you might not be ready to hear the answer to this but it’s good to get it out in the open. I have done this many times in the past and it’s been a struggle at first because I always wanted to defend myself and give my reasons. But, hear them out without interrupting and just listen — it’s how they saw it and felt.
Then, comes the hard bit — accepting it.
Follow this with, “How do you think I could behave differently next time?” Now you have your answer to exactly how your partner feels about the event or behavior — this really takes the relationship deeper. I know this won’t be easy for you to hear but it also isn’t easy for your partner to say these things, as they will probably not want to upset you. The more you do this, the easier it gets.
5. “What will make coming home at the end of the day even better for you?”
Never assume your partner wants a cup of tea as soon as he comes through the door and to hear about your day. I’ve learned over the years that Ian likes to tell me about his day as soon as he enters the house, so I take 15 minutes and I just listen, not to fix anything, not to judge just to hear about his day. Then, it’s my turn. It works for us. Then we both go off and carry on with whatever we’re doing.
So ask your partner what works for them. Maybe they want a lot of physical affection straight away or perhaps, no communication at all. There’s no right or wrong, it’s finding out what works for you both.
6. “What are you stressed about right now and can I help you in some way?”
This is a question that I ask Ian regularly and generally get back the reply, “No, there’s nothing you can do, it’s way out of your depth.”
But here lies the “golden nugget” — once we start the conversation, he can then see the situation in a different light and mentions something small I can do to help alleviate the stress. Here again, I show that I do care, even though I can’t resolve it all.
7. “Would you like more time alone or more time together this week?”
A question I’ve struggled with in the past as I didn’t like the answer when it came back to me: “I’d rather have some time to myself this week as I have a lot on and space helps me with clarification.”
I used to find this very hard not to take personally but when I take a step back to be objective, realize it’s not about me but it’s about what Ian needs right now. This is a question I ask weekly. Perhaps you could get into this habit too?
8. “Have I had an argument this week that hasn’t been resolved??
This is a question to ask yourself. I know the first thing that will come to mind is, “I don’t want to bring up will those bad feelings again.”
But the trouble is that if you leave resentment, it festers and grows and will rear its ugly again once another trigger displays itself. So as hard as it is and you know you feel uncomfortable, ask the question, and get it out in the open.
You will both be glad in the end — this is a real relationship strengthener.
9. “Is there something I can do to make you feel more loved?”
This is a great question if you are together in a quiet moment. He may well want more peace and just enjoy being there with you, he may want to be touched more, he may want to have some positive words said about him, he may want you both to start planning your future together, or perhaps he just wants more quality time with you.
The important thing is to ask the question and just let it go.
10. “What’s one thing you feel our relationship is lacking?”
This is one you can ask perhaps on a monthly basis and work towards. If you have it written down, perhaps you’ll be able to brainstorm some steps if you can’t see the answer the straight away, especially if it’s a big issue.
11. “What’s your biggest fear for our relationship?”
Perhaps get clear on explaining your fear first to put him at ease then it will give him the go ahead that it’s ok to be vulnerable and share. This really will start opening up channels that will help to cement your relationship further.
Don’t expect much at first, it’s hard to put into words and also to be totally honest.
12. “How would you describe your love for me?”
This is a question few of us ask and the answer might well change as the relationship grows and you both have deeper feelings towards each other; it’s a great question to ask on a regular basis. Before you launch in with the question as yourself first what it means to you.
So I hope you will take the time out to strengthen what you already have — it doesn’t happen by itself. Remove all distractions, phones, computer, TV, children, and pets. Create a clear space and half an hour purely for each other.
Happy, healthy relationships that have great meaning take work but they can also be the most amazing part of your life.
Your relationship could become the best thing that’s ever happened in your life.
Louise Armstrong is a Family Relationship Coach, Counsellor and Clinical Hypnotherapist. You can find out more about her life coaching here.
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