Friday, March 1, 2024

The Questions You Should Ask Your Partner Regularly, If You Want to Stay Together

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Relationships shouldn’t feel like hard work – but, they do take work to stay healthy and strong and sometimes it’s all about asking the right questionsL the love questions!. Relationship Coach Kimberlee Sweeney helps couples who are on the brink of separation to work out if their partnership can be saved, or if it’s better to go in different directions. Here, she tells us the homework she gives couples to strengthen their bond and see if they’re meant to be!

CDC Certified Divorce Coach and Certification Consultant Trained in Gottman Method Couple Therapy, Kimberlee Sweeney from Degrees of Separation says, yet again, she has been busier than ever this January with many women (and men) reaching out to her to move forward with a separation or to try to save their marriages.

“Many are just exploring whether they want to stay and try to make the relationship work, or should they just simply leave!” says Kimberlee. “I call it the ‘should I stay or go’ phase.”

Kiimberlee says about 75% of her clients are in this mindset when they reach out to her – and this time of crisis is one of Kimberlee’s favourite to intervene, as she is passionate about saving good marriages, plus, her Gottman therapy coaching means she can explore all the options from the perspective of both partners.

If you’re feeling a bit wobbly in your relationship, Kimberlee suggests trying everything humanly possible to try and make it work before walking away. “Particularly if you have young children together,” she says, “so you can hand-on-heart say you really did BOTH try your hardest.”

Because, Kimberlee says it’s important to do the work and try your hardest because, “as much as you might think this phase in your relationship is hard, trust me when I say, in most cases, divorce is 100 times harder.”

Kimberlee says there’s a few key ways to really invest in your relationship, which you should instate as early on as possible – not just in crisis mode. And those are to date your partner always – not just at the start of the relationship. “The wooing should never end!” says Kimberlee.

“Show up and be the person your partner fell in love with at the start,” she says. “Put the same effort in that you both did in the early days. If you can do this for each other, relationships would have a lot more longevity. Do not get complacent or take each other for granted. Show love and respect and appreciation daily to keep the love alive.”

Ask the Right Questions

Kimberlee says that one of the key ways to keep the love alive is to be asking questions. She has a list of them that she often shares with her clients to take home and use to see what effect it has on their relationship – sometimes it can quickly bring a couple back together, other times it reveals that it is best to walk away.

Now, she has a few caveats on these. The first is that goal here isn’t to be asking one another these questions all day, every day. “It’s about connection and showing interest in each other and making the other person feel seen, heard and understood,” she says.

“So, when you ask a questions, really listen to the answer and repeat back what they said to you – so that they feel heard – and ask, ‘did I get that right?’ Or, ‘Oh! That is something I never knew or understood about you! Tell me more.’ Turn it into a dialogue – not just 20 questions. By engaging and showing up and meeting each other’s needs or understanding each other’s interests you get to the heart of effective communication and this leads to some harder deeper conversations that allow you to be honest with one another and work on issues more effectively as they arise.”

So, what are the questions she suggests? Here goes!

Wake up each day and ask each other…

  • Can I make you a tea or coffee before you leave/get up?
  • What can I do to help you today?
  • What do you need for you today?
  • Just a simple… how can I help or how are you?
  • What does your perfect day look like? (This all goes a long way to showing care, kindness, and empathy for one another)
  • During the day if you are apart, a short text to say…
  • How is your day going?
  • Thinking about you?
  • Miss your smile!
  • Would you like me to bring something home for dinner tonight?
  • Shall I book a sitter so we can go out one night this week?

When you arrive home to each other at the end of the day ask…

  • Start with a kiss or greeting hug.
  • How was your day?
  • How can I help with the evening chores/routine?
  • What was the best part of your day?
  • Did anything make you smile or laugh today? Tell me…

When you both get alone time together ask each other…

  • What makes you feel thought of and special?
  • What is your favourite place to be on your days off?
  • What activities do you like to do alone, with others and with me or the family?
  • What can I do to make your life… less stressed? Happier? Connected as a couple?
  • What makes you feel your happiest?

Hitting A Stone Wall with These Questions? 

Ok, so you’ve been asking your partner these questions and trying to engage them in asking you them too, but you’re hitting a wall and getting nothing back. Never fear! Kimberlee has some suggestions.

“If you can not do these simple techniques of daily communication, then you will more often than not find one or the other of you are stonewalling or being in contempt or worse criticising the other or being defensive, this will shut down all future communication and lead to either an unhappy relationship or a separation,” says Kimberlee. “The Gottman institute has an antidote for these, what the call the four horsemen of a relationship.”

Conflict at times, is part of any relationship. But, says Kimberlee, what actually determines a healthy partnership or not is how you manage yourself during conflict and resolve issues together.

Here are her tips:

  • Instead of Criticising the other a gentle start up is recommended with I statements not YOU statements and express a positive need you have
  • Instead of contempt which is an attack or insult, try to remind yourself of your partners positive qualities and express gratitude for the good things they do or say.
  • Instead of defensiveness to ward off attacks and blame, take responsibility and offer an apology for the role you played in the dynamic.
  • Instead of stonewalling – avoiding conflict and being distant or disapproving take time out for yourself and practice self-soothing to distract your thoughts and feelings in that moment.

Kimberlee says it is sometimes necessary to ask for time out to reduce conflict, take a pause, take a breather, take a walk, and re-engage in the conversation when you are both less heightened and calmer, so you can get to a point of resolving issues.

“Finding a healthier way to reduce conflict and repair – saves relationships, but both parties need to show up and put the work in for this to repair the relationship”, says Kimberlee. “It comes down to one thing: How willing are you both to try and AVOID divorce in 2024?”

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