One of the most important aspects of maintaining a long term relationship, is our ability to remain curious about our partner. What makes them tick? You might think after living together for years that you have a firm grasp on who they are, but it's important to keep making sure that your knowledge of each other's internal worlds (i.e., what the Gottman's call your 'Love Maps') remain up to date. We all keep changing as individuals - the person you are now is not the same person you were five years ago. This seems obvious when you think about yourself, but sometimes we forget that our partner keeps changing too. Then the manner we interact can be based on old assumptions and brain shortcuts we hold that no longer exist (very often this is the basis of arguments). While we spend a lot of time in the early stages of our relationship getting to know each other, we often start neglecting this aspect long term.
How do we do this?
Open-ended questions (e.g., questions that start with What, How) rather than close-ended questions (which end in yes/no answers) are fantastic for getting curious about your partner and invites a conversation. For example:
How do you think we could have more fun in our life?
What is most stressful in your life right now?
How have your goals in life changed recently?
What turns you on sexually? How do you like me to touch you?
How can I make you feel more loved this week?
Once we ask our questions, we also need to make sure that we listen and pay close attention to what our partner is telling us. Checking that we have understood it correctly by reflecting it back can help our partner feel heard, and gives the opportunity to clarify. It also helps to do these types of conversation exploration activities when we are not distracted by other things (e.g., TV, phones, kids, work etc.). Giving our partner our full attention is one of the best gifts we can give.
Here are some more resources to help you tune in and be interested in your partner:
Here too is another great tool/game by The Gottman Institute - The Gottman Conversation Starter. It has some questions pre-filled in the ready-to-print version. You can also design your own version for a fun game.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as counselling/therapy advice or used as a substitute for such. You should always speak to your own counsellor.