Dr. Susan Edelman is a psychiatrist and associate professor of sociology at Stanford University who, like many others, believes that communication is the key to a long and stable relationship. What distinguishes her from other experts in this field is her focus on questions and not just any...
Dr. Edelman argues that not every type of conversation and any kind of question contributes to strengthening the relationship because it is not always easy to explore sensitive topics in depth or to find out what our partners think without being perceived as snooping or critical. She, therefore, suggests using the 9 questions below, which will help you get to know your partner in depth and make it easy for them to open up to you. If you use them regularly and adjust the way you relate to the spirit of these questions, you will have a strong relationship in which you can talk about everything and raise important issues without fear.
Many couples have topics which are challenging, can lead to a fight, and some which are completely off the table. It may be money, relationships with the extended family, raising children or even something seemingly negligible, such as who takes out the garbage. Dr. Edelman's advice is to attack the subject indirectly and to find a calm time in which to ask your partner that question. You might get a short, snappy and even judgmental answer, but you need to accept it and let the other person express themselves and answer your question. You can learn about the reasons why your spouse has difficulty talking about a particular subject and perhaps even find a way to alleviate this difficulty together.
A sense of gratitude is very beneficial to our mood and joy of life, as many studies have proven. But sometimes because of the power of habit, we take most of the good things in our lives for granted, and that is precisely the situation that this question is supposed to change. When you raise this question to your spouse, as part of a dinner, a trip, or towards the end of the day, when you are both getting ready for sleep, you will achieve two important goals: the first is to awaken the positive sense of gratitude and improve their mood, and the second is to learn what is important to them in life. With this knowledge, you can work better for the wellbeing of your spouse, and, as they are likely to ask you this question back, you can share this important information with them as well.
"How much do you love me?", "What do you think about our situation?" Questions like these are something Dr. Edelman recommends avoiding, and any such question can be seen as a challenge, an "invitation" to a fight or a sign of dissatisfaction from the asking side, which causes the other person to defend themselves. Instead of asking your partner directly if they love you or how happy they are with your relationship, it's better to ask a more subtle question like “how do you see our relationship?” The answer you’ll get will probably provide you with the details you hoped to receive with a direct question, without being too direct or putting your spouse in a position where they have to say things they are not necessarily ready to express or don’t know how to formulate directly.
If you are not regularly involved in your spouse's family life, it is very important that you ask this question from time to time, but surprisingly - you should do so even if you are. The reason for this is very simple: what we see from the side is not necessarily what our spouses experience and we are not always aware of all conversation, fights or events that occur within their family. Beyond the fact that the answer you hear will help you get information about what is going on in your partner's emotional world, just raising the subject can greatly contribute to strengthening your emotional attachment. As long as you do not pose the question in a negative or nosy way, it can help your partner open up to you and improve your communication with regard to this sensitive subject.
It's a "classic" question to end a day or a week with, and it's mostly recommended if you feel that your spouse has confidence issues or if you feel they are stuck in their lives. Your spouse (and you) probably don’t regularly pay attention to this question, but if you start to do so you will find that you both have many reasons to be proud and many positive stories to share. In addition, it should be noted that this question is a substitute for a much larger and threatening conversation that is not always well received, and usually starts with "What is your goal in life right now?" Few of us know the answer to this question and therefore it is not advisable to question your spouse on the subject. It is much more important to focus on the achievements that make them happy and help them build the path to the goal that will make them happy.
In contrast to the previous question, which deals with positive events, here is a negative topic of conversation that should be raised only when both of you are calm and have time to develop a conversation. If your partner responds to the question defensively, try to explain to them that you just want to know what they feel and try to help them deal with the less pleasant aspects of their lives. The event can be from the past week or from any other timeframe and it is advisable not to delve into it too much, as this may increase the negative memory - which is really not your goal.
We all probably would like to change one or two things about our spouses, but this question does not deal with our own desires. Instead, Dr. Edelman recommends that you give your partner the opportunity to share what they feel are their weaknesses and undesirable personality traits. More than this just being a conversation that can bring you closer together and create very strong intimacy, it will also give you the opportunity to see if there are things that overlap between what you would change and what they would change. If you find that this is the case, then you will have a golden opportunity to begin to change and improve the situation together and thus benefit both sides.
According to Dr. Eldman, crying is a powerful expression of an emotion of great significance, so whenever it appears, it carries a lot of importance. If you try to gently explore the exact nature of this importance, your emotional relationship with your partner will be much deeper. Take into account that there are personality types that will have some difficulty answering this question, and perhaps even respond in anger - if this is the case you need to explain that you didn’t intend to cross a line or imply weakness, rather that you just want to understand what moves (good or bad) the other side.