In a recent survey of my blog subscribers, I asked them to share the number one challenge they experienced in their love relationship.
I'm sure you can guess what the vast majority of the respondents said — communication.
No matter how good your marriage or relationship might be, communication difficulties can erode your closeness and create misunderstandings and conflict that aren't necessary.
The most successful and lasting relationships require mindful communication before a conflict ever arises.
As uncomfortable or awkward as it might feel at first, meeting regularly with your spouse or partner to ask questions and learn more about each other safeguards your relationship from painful conflicts.
The deep conversations these questions foster also will create a new level of intimacy between you.
Questioning is a powerful tool for mutual understanding. I use probing questions as a personal coach to help clients uncover their deeper desires, needs, and fears.
A strong question prompts us to search within to uncover the answer, leading to profound moments of self-awareness and inner growth.
Within a love relationship, mutual questioning provides these same benefits, but also it allows each partner to participate in the awareness and growth of the other.
More important, by actively listening to your partner's responses without judgment or defensiveness, you understand more about his or her motivations, fears, pain, longings, and frustrations.
You offer each other a safe way to be open and authentic, ultimately drawing you closer together and strengthening the bond of love between you.
If you are new to mutual questioning in your relationship, you may not know what kind of questions to ask each other.
I recommend beginning with questions that relate to any issues or common conflicts you experience in your relationship. Of course those questions will be different for each couple.
So I've pulled some questions from my book, 201 Relationship Questions: The Couple's Guide to Building Trust and Emotional Intimacy, that are useful for enhancing any relationship.
Here are 10 insightful questions for couples to enhance love and intimacy:
1. What actions and behaviors can I take that feel the most loving to you?
You may have heard of the book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Chapman.
In the book, Chapman describes five ways couples typically prefer to show and receive love: 1) words of affirmation; 2) acts of service; 3) receiving gifts; 4) quality time; and 5) physical touch.
As you ask this question of each other, discuss your own love language and how you would like your partner to offer love to you through your primary and secondary love language.
Discuss specific behaviors and actions that make you feel loved, cherished, and respected.
If you aren't sure what your love language is, you can take Gary Chapman's quiz to help you.
2. What could I say or do that feels unloving to you?
There are the obvious words and actions that you both know are unloving, such as unkindness, criticism, dishonesty, and indifference.
But there are times we say or do things unknowingly that cause hurt and anger in our partner.
We might trigger old wounds from the past or cross a boundary we were unaware of. What you assume is innocent teasing might feel like a real sting to your spouse.
Your need to spend time alone might feel like abandonment to your partner.
Share with each other what your partner might do now or in the future to make you feel unloved. Discuss how to make a change in those behaviors.
3. How can we revive our love and intimacy when things get boring or distant?
Boredom and disconnection can often creep up on a couple. You wake up one day, and it feels like the spark is dimming and the relationship is flatlining.
Life for most couples is busy with work, children, and other distractions. You begin to spend less time together, communicate less often, and harbor frustrations and resentments that stifle intimacy.
Maybe you feel some of this now with your partner. But even if you don't, you need to insulate your relationship from the creeping poison of apathy.
Discuss together any signs of distance or boredom developing in your relationship. Brainstorm ways the two of you can reconnect should this happen.
4. What makes you feel respected in our relationship?
Respect is “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements,” according to the Oxford Dictionary.
When your partner shows you respect, you feel appreciated and acknowledged. You know your essential worthiness is recognized.
All of us desire to be respected by the most important person in our lives — the person whose good opinion and high regard are so deeply important to us.
However, the feeling of being respected by your partner is different for every individual.
What makes you feel respected might not be the same as what your partner needs to feel respected. Discuss your mutual needs related to respect and how you can show each other the kind of respect you need.
5. How should I communicate a problem or concern to you?
Talking about conflict or difficult topics isn't fun, but these challenging conversations are inevitable in your relationship.
Whether the problem has something to do with a complaint about your partner, or it’s a challenge you must face together, these uncomfortable conversations can stir up a whirlwind of negative emotions.
When you are overwhelmed with these emotions, it's easy to get defensive or angry with your partner. But this is never a productive way to deal with an already painful situation.
Talk about how each of you tends to react when discussing difficult information. How can your partner present the information so you can respond with a clear head and kind words?
6. Am I listening to you in a way that makes you feel completely heard?
Really listening to someone requires much more than simply hearing words.
Active listening is the kind of listening couples should practice with each other as much as possible.
This kind of empathic listening involves giving your full attention to your partner, without allowing distractions or interruptions.
To make your partner feel heard, you can reflect back to him or her what you have heard them say and how you think they feel.
Ask each other if you feel heard and understand by the other. Where do you both need to improve in your listening skills? What changes do you need to make in order to give your partner what he or she needs related to feeling heard?
7. What are your deepest emotional needs?
Every one of us has unique emotional needs.
We want to feel loved and to offer love to others. We want have a sense of purpose, to feel self-esteem, and to express creativity. We desire respect and honesty from others.
These are some common needs, but each individual has emotional needs that are unique to them.
In a loving, intimate relationship, both partners recognize and support the other person's emotional needs. Although you can't meet all of your partner's needs, each partner strives to respond to the other person's needs in a kind and loving way.
You can find a list of needs here to help you define your own. Share your primary emotional needs with your partner and how your partner can help you get those needs met.
8. What words should I never say to you even in playfulness?
There are some words that cross the line for acceptable language in your mind. We all have our own boundaries for what that line might be.
Some playful name-calling might be perfectly acceptable to you, but other names are deeply wounding.
There might be certain words you find so demeaning that you simply don’t want to hear them, even in jest—and never in anger.
Saying words like, “I hate you” or “Maybe we should divorce,” even in the heat of anger, might be off-limits for both of you in order to preserve the trust and closeness of your connection.
Discuss any out-of-bounds words and phrases that you both find hurtful and offensive. How can you both honor each other’s requests related to these words?
9. Is there anything about our sex life that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable?
Openly discussing differences in sexual desires or needs can be challenging. This is particularly true if your sex drives are different, or if you're uncomfortable with something your partner is doing or saying during sex.
If you aren’t sexually compatible, it impacts the emotional intimacy in your relationship, as well as your sexual intimacy.
Only by opening up and discussing your sexual desires and needs can you find a middle ground that feels acceptable and comfortable to each partner.
Create a safe, loving, caring space between the two of you to talk about your feelings related to your sex life.
You both might need to compromise at times in order to meet the needs of your partner. Or you might find that you both desire the same thing, but you just haven't communicated it to one another.
Allow your love for each other to be the guiding force as you seek to create a satisfying and comfortable sex life.
10. What activities can we share together that will bring us closer?
Intimacy develops between the two of you when you spend time together doing things that are fun and engaging.
Maybe you don't share all the same interests, but you can develop mutual interests that bring you even closer as a couple.
Many psychologists suggest reading together, even reading different books, can bring you closer together.
But any interesting and fun activity that involves cooperation and shared experience will tighten your bond.
Fun and play between the two of you can be a cure for boredom and disconnection. Discuss some mutual interests or new activities you can try together. Here are ideas for summer and winter fun activities.
Asking probing questions is a great way to learn more about your partner and yourself. It can strengthen your relationship and allow you to come up with creative and loving solutions to any challenges you might be facing as a couple.
Remember, both partners need to enter the practice of mutual questioning with an open heart and mind, putting the health of the relationship ahead of individual complaints or concerns.
Consider the time you spend together asking and answering questions as sacred time which is an investment in the long-term happiness and health of your relationship.
If you would like more great questions for couples, please check out my book, 201 Relationship Questions: The Couple's Guide to Building Trust and Emotional Intimacy.