Is your relationship a little stuck in the day-to-day to-dos? Do you find your conversations with your partner only focus on the to-do list? Did you pay the water bill? Can you take the dog to the groomer tomorrow? Does the car need an oil change? Connecting with your partner on a deeper level takes continual effort, but it doesn’t have to be hard. One way to deepen the connection with your partner is to ask open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions invite a more in-depth conversation to unfold. These intentional, open-ended conversations will allow you to understand your partner better. When you add open-ended questions into your day-to-day communication, building connection won’t feel like work but rather something you and your partner look forward to.
Why ask open-ended questions?
Remember when you and your partner were starting to date? Maybe you stayed up late, talking and talking. You asked each other questions like, “What’s your major? What do you like about that field?” Or, “If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? What is so exciting about that destination?” These types of open-ended, inquisitive questions helped you learn as much as possible about your partner. And the more open-ended questions you both asked and answered, the closer you felt to each other. You each felt seen and known.
Open-ended questions deepen connections and enhance intimacy. They allow you to reflect upon and put language to your wants, desires, and memories. You tap into your creativity, and the questions invite a sense of playfulness.
The (Common) Shift from Open-Ended to Transactional Questions
As your relationship grows and years go by, it’s common for many couples to move from asking open-ended questions to transactional questions. Transactional questions are essential because you have to get things done day-to-day. However, transactional questions are often closed questions with one-word answers. For example, “Did you put our electric bill on Autopay?” While transactional questions are essential, they don’t tell you much about your partner or deepen your connection.
When was the last time you and your partner reconnected and learned something new about each other? Here are 10 open-ended questions that can be intimately engaging and deepen your connection with your partner.
10 Questions to Deepen Your Connection with Your Partner
- If you could retake a course from school, which one would you take?
- If you won the lottery, how would you spend or invest the winnings?
- If you could go back in time, what would you fix?
- If your future self were here now, what would you ask? Or what advice would your future self give?
- What is one self-accomplishment you are proud of?
- What is a current challenge that you are experiencing?
- If you had to switch careers, what would you do?
- What does feeling content mean to you? How close are you to feeling that now?
- Name how a negative/positive experience has helped shape who you are.
- If you could do more/less of something, what would that be?
The questions are suggestions, but they aren’t magical. It’s essential to listen to your partner. Take the time to take in their point of view, their values, and their dreams. It is not the time to discount your partner or reject one of their ideas. For example, if your partner says, “I’d love to be a professional basketball player!” Kindly hold judgment and refrain from saying, “But…you’re only 5’3″!” Instead, reply, “I didn’t realize you loved the game that much. Tell me about what excites you to be a basketball player.”
What if open-ended questions aren’t helping?
If you find that open-ended questions are not helping you and your partner connect, try to reflect on what’s getting in the way of your connection. Here are a few reasons that open-ended questions may fall short:
- A lack of active listening. Perhaps listening to your partner without interrupting or having your thoughts get in the way is challenging. If you need help building listening skills, check out this article. If you are a hands-on learner, sign up for one of our free relationship skills workshops.
- Family of origin dynamics are interfering. Family of origin dynamics make it difficult to answer open-ended questions for some people. These types of questions may feel more like a test like you are supposed to come up with the “right” answer. For instance, when you were asked a question, did you believe that no matter how you answered, it would be okay? Or did you feel pressure to guess what the person wanted to hear? This distress is a valid reason to work with a therapist so you can experience open-ended questions and connect in a safe and playful way.
- The connection benefit is short-lived. You may get some initial good feelings by engaging with your partner in this way, but the benefits are temporary. If this is the case, reflect on which other barriers are getting in the way of your connection. It might indicate that getting support from a couples therapist is needed. A therapist can help you work through barriers like a regrettable incident that hasn’t been discussed or resolved. This work can support the benefit of these open-ended questions and grow your relationship.
If you live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help you and your partner deepen your connection. Contact us to get started. We do not accept insurance and are considered out-of-network providers. We offer in-person and virtual sessions, including free, virtual 50-minute relationship skill-building workshops. You can join couples from all over the globe who also want to improve their relationship.