When a relationship gets off track, it's a good bet intimacy is missing. I'm not just referring to sexual intimacy, although that may be a concern, but rather emotional intimacy: sharing, connectedness, and bonding. Maybe you've gotten in a rut, you're busy, you focus on work or the kids, or maybe you avoid each other--things have become too prickly to attempt interacting in a deeper way.
So how can you begin to bring back those times when you shared, laughed, learned about each other? The answer is a word you may not expect: vulnerability.
In working with clients as a therapist, I have learned that people are often unsure what I mean about "vulnerability". What I don't mean is susceptible to harm in any way. Rather what I am referring to is the choice to be unguarded and open. Look, here I am, this is me, see me. This sort of vulnerability is not easy because it opens one up to rejection or judgment, and to be vulnerable is the ultimate act of courage and authenticity. This risk is even bigger with the one we love the most, but it is precisely vulnerability and authenticity that creates the deepest connection.
When we are not feeling good in our relationship, vulnerability is not something we step into easily. I get that, and it makes complete sense.
Here's some good news, social science knows how people fall in love and you can apply certain behaviors to get that lovin' feeling back.
Back in the 1960's, a scientist, Dr. Arthur Aron, began to research love. What came out of this study is a collection of three dozen questions that create closeness and engender accelerated intimacy. The theory is that falling in love has to do with the intense excitement, in part, created by mystery and not knowing. As we are in a relationship, we grow accustomed to one another, assume we know our partner, but we are all growing and changing, and you can be in a marriage and loss the curiosity that often marks the beginning of relationships. The years pass, and turns out you may not know each other as intimately as you'd expect. Dr. Aron's questions provoke the vulnerability (not knowing, risk) that we tend to avoid once we get comfortable in a relationship. Sharing in this way creates intimacy and even trust.
So if you want to feel more connected to your sweetie, schedule a night each week for three weeks, get comfy and take turns asking each other the following questions.
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
When you finish, I'd love to hear from you about your experiences! Shoot me an email and tell me how it went! email@example.com
About the author: Melissa Hudson, Ph.D.(c) is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas specializing in couples and marriage therapy, anxiety, and depression. She also works with adults and families on a full spectrum of psychological concerns. Have more questions? Want to get your relationship back on track? I'm here to help you as an experienced couples and marriage therapist. firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-235-8175 | www.counselingsolutionstexas.com