4 questions to help improve your relationship!
“How strong and healthy is our relationship?”
Bart and I ask ourselves this questions on a regular basis. I’ve been with Bart for almost half my life as we started dating at the age of 15. Our relationship has had its challenges and survived a burn-out. Asking each other good questions on a regular basis is our not-so-secret secret.
In this post, we look at how a good and healthy relationship is not something that should be taken for granted, and how taking it for granted could mean trouble down the road. The good news is that having an (even) better relationship can be easy, and I will be sharing four questions with you that will help make your relationship stronger and more fun!
The Days Fly By
Work, family, children, friends, housework, and social media consume most of your time and
You do your best to maintain an organized household, perform at work, and to stay in touch with friends is also essential. It may be a sense of duty or actual enjoyment, but going to the gym regularly and making arrangments to eat healthily is yet another task that demands time.
Growing Apart Because of Netflix?
On those rare free evenings, you drop on the couch with some wine and chocolate, turn on Netflix, and what starts as “just one episode” ends up being an evening of binging. Of course, your smartphone is (always) within reach, and is constantly drawing your attention when notifications vibrate and light up your phone. Not to mention those quick “free” moments to scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed.
Efficiency vs. Depth
So where’s your loved one in all of this? Most likely sitting next to you on the couch with their nose to their phone, and your only real communication is by text messages throughout the day. On occasion, you’ll do something fun with one another, which usually includes family and friends tagging along. If you’re not careful, the conversations with your partner are only about the practical topics. On the surface the relationship seems great, but is it beneficial to you both? Is there enough depth in your conversations? Are you taking each other for granted?
Just a like a car that needs to be serviced, I think a relationship needs to be regularly serviced as well. I am, of course, talking about a good conversation ;). If you don’t take the time to talk about the little things and the topics that you each find important, you could unknowingly be growing apart…
“Not us”–Truth in Numbers:
Everyone thinks they will be the exception, but the real-life numbers don’t lie. I’m not a big numbers person, but I do want to share a few to show you what I mean.
2 in 5 break-up
The chance that your relationship will survive has been smaller than ever. According to numbers of the US Census, the divorce rate is almost 40%. The percentage of unmarried couples that live together and end up separated is more difficult to attain but is likely higher. According to numbers of the CDC (2012), the divorce rate is around 44%. The percentage of unmarried couples that live together and end up separated is more challenging to attain but is likely higher.
Our Favorite Pastime
Something else that we don’t usually think about is the time we spend using our tech devices. According to 2017 research by Nielsen, the average American spends 12 hours and 7 minutes consuming media such as TV, computer, radio, and mobile devices. Media is our favorite pastime.
While we grumble about how busy we are and how little opportunity we have for “quality time”*, we are spending half our day with mostly frivolous activities.
*Sorry, movies and series fall under the TV category… not quality time.
A Healthy Relationship
So how do we keep our relationship strong and healthy, and make sure we don’t grow apart? The foundation is genuine attention for each other. It sounds a lot harder than it is, and takes a lot less time than your media consumption :).
It Starts with a Great Question!
Our experience is that by asking easy and playful questions, you can start a real and meaningful conversation. So, ask your loved one a meaningful question more often – and I’m not talking about whose getting groceries this weekend!
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My personal story:
A good relationship is always “working” – it’s something I can relate to. I, Liz, am a true millennial: easily bored, require a lot of challenges, work hard to perform, enjoy being busy, and maintaining a social life are all things that are important to me. Despite all of this, I’ve been dating the same guy for 11 years: Bart. It all started with high school love.
Looking back, I can think of quite a few moments where we could’ve grown apart.
For instance, after high school, I decided to go to college whereas Bart decided not to. After having lived together for three years, Bart got an international opportunity and moved abroad while I stayed in the Netherlands. I became increasingly unhappy with my situation as the long-distance relationship, expectations at work and school created a lot of pressure and eventually turned unmanagable and became a burnout.
We could’ve chosen the path of least resistance in each of these cases and break-up. Fortunately, we decided to work on our relationship; even during my burnout which was a challenging time.
Our philosophy is always to keep communicating and make sure we give each other genuine attention. We talk about what is keeping us busy, our dreams, and never avoid a robust conversation. At this point you may be thinking: we’re not the type that has hour-long conversations. That is, of course, totally fine because everyone is different and we all communicate differently. That is precisely why we encourage you to ask each other a playful question every once in a while and see where it takes you.
Below you will find four questions with which you can make a start. Ask them to your partner during a walk, in the car, or while having dinner. Sometimes the conversation will get off to a flying start, and sometimes you may have to say “Vertellis (tell me more).” One quick tip before we get started – make sure you put the phones away before asking the questions ;).
Question #1 What recent experience or event was a learning moment?
I’m pretty sure that there’s no relationship where everything is always picture perfect. At some point in time, there will be an argument or disagreement. It’s part of life. The big difference is how couples respond to these type of conflicts, and this too is different for everyone.
You can also see these moments of disagreement as an opportunity. An opportunity to get to know each other better and create an even stronger bond.
In the heat of the moment, it is often too much to ask to look at it this way, and that is why this is question number one.
Reflecting on those types of moments can be an exceptional learning opportunity. Don’t avoid these kinds of conversations, but try to put yourself in the shoes of your loved one. What can we do differently next time? What expectations do you have for each other? Asking “What recent experience or event was a learning moment?” is a powerful question that deserves to be asked from time to time.
Not only disagreements are learning moments. Bart and I recently had a good learning moment when we were away from each other for a week and had some time to ourselves. We don’t only live together (then in a tiny studio in Copenhagen), but we also work together. As a result, we spend almost 24/7 together which is mostly fantastic. When Bart and I spend a week apart, we noticed that this was quite nice as well. When Bart returned, we both noticed we had renewed energy, creative ideas, and appreciation for each other. “You don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone.”
We learned a lot from this experience and decided that we would build-in this alone time more frequently. This way we can break any routines and habits, and see things in a new light. Breaking these routines can be a fantastic learning opportunity by itself.
Question #2. In what kind of joint activity would you like to take part in the near future?
When the initial butterflies disappear, and the obligations of everyday life come back into the picture, we spend less time focusing on our partner. As the day-to-day routines take over, the initial attraction and the feeling of togetherness subsides.
The good news is that you can activate these feelings once again!
Doing activities together, especially new activities, can bring you closer together as it releases certain hormones. Dopamine and oxytocin are two hormones that increase the feeling of togetherness. Ocytocine is released when we cuddle and kiss. Dopamine is released by doing new, fun, and challenging activities together.
So, what will you do to get the dopamine and oxytocin flowing? 🙂
Question #3. If you didn’t have to take anyone into consideration, what would you do this month?
This may seem like a strange and silly question as you do have people in your life to take into account. Questions like these work wonders when it comes to thinking out-of-the-box by taking away restrictions. It is good to think about and express what you want to accomplish in life. What are your deep-seated wishes? Besides knowing them yourself, it is also essential for your partner to be aware as they will influence your relationship – whether you realize it or not.
Besides that, maybe it doesn’t have to stay with just being dreams, and they might be a lot more attainable than previously thought.
Moving to a Villa in Spain might be a bit complicated, but we typically long for the little things in life. Some time ago we asked this question to our Vertellis community and received answers such as “10 more minutes in the shower – which is impossible because of the kids” or “finally finishing that book” and “having family dinner at the table more often.”
By talking about these types of wants, you can think about how you can (partially) make them a reality. Make sure you think in possibilities as we sometimes tend to dismiss things as impossible.
Some time ago, when Bart and I were still working full-time for a boss, we hired a cleaner. This allowed us to spend more time together and also took away the “who does what” conversations. Getting this new freedom and peace of mind was well worth the cost of getting the cleaner.
Perhaps you have the same or very similar dreams? Having shared goals and dreams creates a band which will strengthen your relationship.
So, take this question as an opportunity to dream together, understand the dreams of your partner, and see how you can make them a reality!
Question #4. What habits do you want to work on in the months to come?
In a relationship, you create habits and routines. They just kind of appear. Some examples are your typical bedtimes, dinner times, and waking up times. The responsibilities of laundry and dishes are usually also divided by routines and habits. It is good practice to regularly evaluate any habits you may have formed as a couple and make sure they are the right ones or if something needs to change.
Understanding each other habits and possibly any issues with them is a meaningful conversation to have. If you do decide to change a specific habit, it is a lot easier to do so together. A good example would be “eating healthier.” It’s challenging to eat healthy if, during your Netflix evening, your partner pulls out the chocolates, chips, and soda.
Bart and I are currently working on waking up earlier. Although we’ve never been big on sleeping in, pushing the wake-up time to 6 am would be a tough habit to create alone. In all honesty, I think that the snooze button would win most of the time…
Looking for more?
Considering that you read the post all the way to the end probably means that you’re ready to get started with these questions. Awesome! But, you know as well as I do that we tend to forget. To solve this, and to work on your relationship in a fun and playful way, we’ve created the Vertellis Relationship Edition. This edition was designed with the input of 150 professionals such as relationship psychologists and wedding officiants and only has one goal: asking each other the rights questions.
Did you find this post inspiring? Share it and tag friends that might enjoy it as well :).
The questions I shared with you today are questions that work for me and my relationship. Do you have suggestions for questions that work in your relationship?
Let us know in the comment section below
Want to let u know in private? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward hearing from you!
Liz, Bart, Lars
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