It seems odd to say about the person you have been spending all your free time with for several weeks, or maybe months. But you could likely get to know that person even better than you do now.
It doesn’t matter that you think you know them better than anyone else in the world does. First, they likely have a co-worker who knows more than you about their daily interactions and foibles. Second, that doesn’t matter, anyway, they’re not in a relationship with anyone else in the world.
They’re in a relationship with you. And you need to be actively engaged in the relationship with them.
Couples often mistake their daily routines together for actual intimacy.
“But we’ve been married for years!” You protest. Ahh, great. Then your partner has grown and changed with time, and with the ups and downs of your personal and professional lives. They are not the same person, and you owe it to them to get to know – and love – the person they are today.
It will strengthen your relationship.
But how can you do this? Follow these steps.
Observe your routines more closely
One thing that happens in long-term relationships is that partners tend to stop watching each other. They work into routines for how to act when they come home from work, when they get back from dinner with friends, when they are preparing for work. Sundays take on their own routine, and certain weekday evenings are unintentionally scripted around a few favorite TV shows or a meeting in the community.
People get so comfortable in those well-worn grooves that they forget to check in, and couples often mistake their daily routines together for actual intimacy.
This week, make a note of the “outline” of your life with your partner. Where are the well-worn grooves? How do they strengthen your relationship? How can they be improved to better meet your needs?
Please note that having a routine is not the enemy. It is only a problem if it is a substitute for really spending time together and being aware of each other.
Then once you have the outline prepared, work with your partner to identify a day that could be improved. Become partners in finding new and engaging ways to be together. Take a class, learn a skill, build something. Or maybe you can use that time to do something apart from each other, and return with new stories to tell.
Get to know your partner better
Use quizzes, questionnaires, and other opportunities to get to know your partner better.
The better you understand the terrain around your loved one, the better you can anticipate and meet their needs, or call on their strengths when you need them the most.
The renowned relationships therapist John Gottman calls this knowledge “love maps.” He has a series of questions he asks in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work that are scientifically developed to help you explore various aspects of your partner’s life to reach a deeper, more intimate understanding of them.
- I can name my partner’s best friend.
- I can list my partner’s major aspirations and hopes in life.
- I know what my partner would do first if they suddenly won the lottery.
The questions are not complex or especially “deep”, though the full list includes religious beliefs and hopes and aspirations. The point is to poke at the bubble you’re in, and see if it will expand a bit to make more room for who your partner is now.
The questions don’t even have to be from Gottman, or another psychologist. The occasional Seventeen quiz can help open some of the same doors. Take these examples from a quiz entitled “Do They Like Me More As A Friend Quiz”, used to determine if you should make a move on your crush.
- If you’ve had a bad day they … [send you a text to cheer up] [come over to watch a movie]
- When it comes to Snapchat they … [watch your story] [send hilarious snaps back]
- What’s the last compliment they gave you … [nice outfit] [you’re the coolest]
In this case, answers in the left column point to “friend” status, whereas right column answers indicate you should make a move.
Okay, maybe this isn’t the best test for married couples, but the point is, the better you know your partner, the better you can meet their needs and weather the years ahead.
Struggling with your relationship, or just looking for how to strengthen it for the years ahead? You likely will benefit from talking to a licensed therapist like Sakina Issa.
Luckily, these conversations can happen discreetly and by appointment. They happen using the same tools you have grown comfortable using at work, like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Just click the button in the upper right hand corner.
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