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In every relationship, when we aren’t creating who we want to be for each other, we are reacting to who we’ve been.
When we are not actively expanding our relationships, they are automatically contracting. The depth, longevity, fulfillment, and intimacy of every relationship is a function of the kind of questions we ask each other, the requests we make of each other, and the agreements we create together.
Relationship evolution is an active process of revealing what’s coming up for us in a non-accusatory way, checking our own assumptions, questioning our judgments, and getting curious about our partner’s values and desires. It is so easy to go into default mode and allow the relationship to get stale and stagnant.
But it doesn’t have to. It’s also easy to keep the relationship forever fresh and exciting and new.
If you are ready to hit the “refresh” button on your relationship and re-create who you want to be for each other, then take time to independently answer the following questions, and then set up at least 90 minutes of undisturbed time to thoughtfully and consciously share your responses with your partner.
Suggestions for sharing your responses with your partner:
Turn off all electronic devices. Have this conversation in a place that feels cozy and safe. Make sure you will not be disturbed.
Set intentions ahead of time for how you want the conversation to go and what you both want to get out of it.
Take three deep breaths after each share, before moving onto the next question.
Be prepared to feel intensity when you share and hear your partner’s shares. This is good! Intensity is transformative. It is aliveness. It is not something to fear or run away from. Lean into it. Open to it. But don’t react to the intensity, and don’t blame and accuse your partner when you feel it. Instead, share about what the intensity feels like and what it brings up from you. Convey your feelings without blaming your partner for them.
Check any assumptions you have about what your partner means. Get curious about their perspective. Ask clarifying questions. Be ready to compromise. Be willing to take responsibility.
For an extra transformational effect, hire a coach to hold space for you and guide you through the process of sharing your responses.
And have fun with it.
Okay, here are the questions:
1. What about your relationship do you think works really well?
2. How have you contributed to what works well in your relationship? What ways have you been being that really work (i.e., trusting, honest, vulnerable, playful)?
3. What doesn’t work well in your relationship? (Remember, this isn’t about what’s right and wrong; this is about what works and what doesn’t work.)
4. How have you contributed to what doesn’t work well in your relationship? What ways have you been being that don’t work (i.e., mistrusting, withholding, closed off, judgmental)?
5. What structures/rules would you like to put in place in your relationship (i.e., 10 minutes to connect and make eye contact every day without phones or kids)? (Hint: a request is not a demand. Be ready and willing to compromise.)
6. What are the assumptions you’ve been making about your partner (how they feel, what they’re thinking, what they want)? (Hint: be ready to question those assumptions and get curious about your partner’s truth.)
7. What are some small acts of kindness that you would appreciate from your partner?
8. What question(s) would you like your partner to ask you more often?
9. How would you like your partner to acknowledge you?
10. When has your partner disappointed you? Are you complete around that? If not, what would you need from your partner in order to feel complete?
11. What requests would you like to make of your partner, in any area of life—family, health, fun time, sex life, finances, or your level of presence/connection? (Be bold here—this is a request, not a demand. You can really go for it here and know that your partner can always say no or ask for a compromise.)
12. Is there any sort of routine you’d like to implement with your partner?
13. Do you have any withheld communications/things unsaid that you’d like to say to your partner? If so, what?
14. Who do you want to be for your partner? How do you want to support him/her? What do you want to provide for him/her?
15. Describe your ideal/perfect day in the life of your relationship, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep.
16. Pretend it’s five years from now. Your relationship is flourishing. Give a quick synopsis of the highlights of the last five years and a snapshot of what your life looks like now.