Can you hear feelings and opinions about yourself without becoming defensive? Can you hear honest feedback from someone you love or care about, or do you force loved ones to walk on eggshells around you so as not to offend you? This column is going to challenge you to talk—and listen—openly and honestly with your spouse, lover or intimate partner, and not get defensive, reactive or angry.
When we share our innermost feelings and talk intimately, most of us feel closer and more connected with each other.
So why do I bring up defensiveness in this discussion? Because that’s the easiest and quickest way to sabotage the questions that follow. If you become defensive or upset at hearing your partner’s open and honest answers to personal and intimate questions—frequently thought but not spoken—exactly how close do you think your relationship is going to get?
So honor this good-faith rule before you address the following questions as a couple: no defensiveness, anger, vindictive responses or hostility allowed. This exercise is designed to help the two of you feel closer, not more distant. If you cannot hear what your intimate partner truly feels and thinks, your relationship will never feel solid and strong. These questions come from 365 Questions for Couples by Michael, Stanis and Seanna Beck (Adams Media Corporation):
- Do you believe I know myself well?
- What is your favorite thing about my personality?
- What, if anything, have you learned from me?
- If you could plan a trip for us to anyplace in the world, where would you choose to take us?
- What is your favorite memory about our relationship?
- In what ways do you feel I could make your life easier or more comfortable? What changes or adjustments would I have to make?
- What, if anything, do you feel you need to sacrifice or compromise by being a part of our relationship?
- How well do you think I handle myself when I’m in a crisis situation?
- Do you think that I manage problems in our relationship well?
- What do you suggest I do in order to enjoy life more? Are there any changes you believe I should make?
- What do you suggest I do in order to better enjoy my career? Are there any changes you believe I could make?
- What, if anything, do you suggest I do in order to relax and enjoy our relationship more?
- Is there any topic you wish I was more open about?
- In what areas do you think we need to improve our relationship? Do you believe these changes are possible, or do you think we will always struggle with these issues?
- What are your basic expectations of a partner? Of me as a partner?
- Are there any minor changes that I could make to my appearance to make myself more attractive?
- Do you think I have a lot in common with other members of my family? Who do I most closely take after, and in which ways?
- What would you say if you could only communicate one last sentence to me for the rest of eternity? What would you like me to say to you?
- How do you feel our relationship helps and/or hinders the fulfillment of your goals?
- List the 5 things you appreciate about me the most. The 5 things about me that annoy you the most.
- Is there anything about me that reminds you of your mother or father? How about of past lovers or close friends?
- What similarities in our backgrounds do you think contribute to the strength of our relationship? What differences (in values, religion, culture, siblings, interests or experiences) would you consider to be hard on us?
- What are my talents? What are yours?
- In what ways do you think I can help you with the problems or struggles in your life?
- In what ways do you believe you can help me to become a better person?
- How important do you think you are to me? Do you think my life would be equally happy and successful without you?
- What do you like about my physical features? Which one do you like the best?
- Is there anything I do that makes you uncomfortable?
- Am I usually able to read and interpret the signals that you send? Which ones do I get correctly, and where do I need to improve?
- In which ways do you think we are alike? How are we different from one another?