Relationship Rescue Remedy: 10 Questions to Ask Your Partner
Discuss these questions with your partner so that you both feel a renewed sense of belonging, connection and commitment in your relationship.
Begin by sitting and breathing together, and making these 3 promises:
1) Be generous in your assumptions. Assume that you are each doing your best.
2) Don't analyse the past. This isn't a conversation about trying to understand what has already happened, though you'll have a chance to take some responsibility or ownership for your part in it.
3) Don't make plans for the future. This isn't a conversation about setting goals, though you'll have a chance to make new promises.
Here are the 10 questions:
1. What is a vision you have for your relationship, one that you don't dare to imagine or put into words because you don't think it's possible?
It's good to vision big. Maybe you've come to accept or tolerate the status quo of things you don't really like about your relationship, or even about yourself in that relationship. What were you hoping for when you first met your partner? What do you see about other people's relationships, that you wish you had? What does an ideal relationship look like to you?
2. What is the story you tell yourself (and maybe others) most often about your relationship, one that you're tied to and maybe even get some of your identity from?
This question gives you ownership over the things you find yourself saying, and helps you recognize that these are opinions or choices you're making, rather than facts.
3. What would you stand to lose if you let go of that story?
4. What would you stand to gain?
5. What are some promises you made in the past that you no longer really mean?
You can't have consent without creating space for dissent. Sometimes people pay lip service to requests or say yes to things they don't really mean in order not to rock the boat. Sometimes people agree to something and later change their minds about it because it turns out to be too hard, or has unforeseen repercussions.
6. What is a strength that you bring to the relationship that has yet to be recognized or expressed?
We often underestimate our strengths and those of our partners, or have skills from other areas that can bear on our relationships.
7. What can you not promise?
This question is an opportunity to set clear boundaries for yourself in the relationship.
8. What promise can you make now?
It's not enough to have a vision, or take responsibility for the way things have been. This is the first step toward creating change.
9. How can your partner hold you accountable for that promise?
Change in a relationship often (but not always) requires collaboration between partners.
10. What touched you, or moved you in this conversation? What can you thank your partner for, or express gratitude for, that happened in this meeting?
This is huge. Gratitudes provide warmth, good feeling and closure to this difficult conversation. Like watering the soil after planting a seed, they stimulate growth from aspiration to transformation.
These questions are adapted from Peter Block's book, Community: The Structure of Belonging. I've been using them with couples and families in therapy for years, with outstanding results. The questions are difficult. They are difficult to understand and difficult to answer. The questions are designed to make you think about things in a new way.