I surround myself with a lot of intentional couples; collectively, we’ve created a list of questions which we review with our partners on our ‘monthiversaries’ (the date we met each month).
Speaking from personal experience, taking routine time out to be intentional as a couple has been an important way to deepen, strengthen, reflect, and plan together, although it’s not always easy or fun. One important thing to note: these questions are not the only time these types of dialogues occur, nor are they an excuse to bottle things up and drop a bomb on your partner.
If your relationship is fresh, this is the perfect time to start, and to set this growth-oriented practice into motion. If your relationship is more mature, you might feel as if you don’t want to rock the boat, or uproot old wounds or unearthed issues. I’m of the belief that it’s never too soon or too late to take on this type of practice.
Store your answers in an Evernote or a notebook so you can go back and reflect on the growth, or lack thereof. Try to keep the questions diverse and not over-abundant, so that it doesn’t feel tedious, but covers some ground.
Is your mind swelling with fear, worry or naysaying thoughts?
If so, I encourage you to check in with yourself and ask why.
Then ask yourself why four more times to get to the real reason.
Is it triggering something within you?
For some, it sparks fears of ridicule, criticism, speaking your mind or abandonment.
This response reminds me of the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of the best-selling books Getting the Love You Want: A Guide For Couples and Keeping the Love You Find. He coined the term “imago” which is Latin for “image,”and refers to the “unconscious image of familiar love.”
As shared on ImagoRelationships.org, “Simply put, there is often a connection between the frustrations experienced in adult relationships and early childhood experiences. For example: If you frequently felt criticized as a child, you will likely be sensitive to any criticism from, and feel criticized often by your partner. Likewise, if you felt abandoned, smothered, neglected, etc., these feelings will come up in your marriage/committed relationships.”
They continue, “Most people face only a few of these ‘core issues,’ but they typically arise again and again within partnerships. This can overshadow all that is good in the relationship, leaving people to wonder if they have chosen the right mate.”
Allow me to reiterate that this is an exercise centered around the intention of growth (not finger-pointing). If coming from a place of love and introspection, and if all thoughts are shared with a common vision of their being in service to your relationship, rather than trying to hurt one another, this can be an effective tool. After all, it’s often the things which spark a response in us which are the keys to the areas in which we have room to grow.
The questions are designed to create space both for challenges, as well as for gratitude and appreciation (not just one or the other). There are plenty of things I appreciate in my partner which go unsaid until a moment of reflection like this. Having the juxtaposition keeps it enjoyable. No one wants to keep a practice that is always a downer.
If you’re still feeling resistant to the idea, that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. I encourage amending the questions, structure, frequency, or any other component of it to make it work for you. This is simply a framework off of which to start.