Long monogamous relationships are, for many of us, the goal. We want to be fulfilled by our bond and nourished by our connection. But long relationships are hard. And, if not looked after properly, they turn stale and boring. To keep your relationship interesting it’s important to keep on connecting – every day.
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of thinking you know everything about your partner. After all, you’ve been living together forever.
You know what they’re like when they’re running on three hours of sleep.
You know how they get when they’re stressed about a deadline.
You know what they say to themselves when they’re alone and think no one’s listening.
It’s easy to feel like you’ve seen and heard it all – but you haven’t. And this is the beauty of a long-term relationship.
If you allow it, the emotional intimacy will keep on growing and deepening. If you want it to, your relationship can keep feeding your soul and making you giddy. Not all of the time – but definitely some of the time.
An Exercise to Keep Your Relationship Alive and Exciting
A few years ago an experimental study was released that looked at how people can connect and, possibly, fall in love by asking each other a set of increasingly intimate questions. These became known as “the 36 questions”.
But they’re not only a great way to get to know someone you’ve never met before – they’re also a powerful exercise for couples who have been together for ages, to connect and deepen intimacy.
And they’re almost guaranteed to help you find out something new about one another.
Set aside an hour for the exercise and mute your phones. This way you’re sure to not be interrupted and can immerse yourselves in the experience completely.
In order to create an intimate connection it’s important to face one another so you can see look into each other’s eyes. Eye contact is powerful.
Read the questions below out loud to one another and take turns answering them. Make sure you’re both asking the questions by taking turns reading every other question.
The questions have been split into three separate sets. It’s important not to skip any questions and not to change the order of them. They’ve been put in this specific order so that the experience can gradually get more intimate and cultivate connection. And this is important if you want to keep your relationship alive and exciting.
The following questions are from the study by Aron et al. (1996).
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.
It can be challenging to keep your relationship interesting when you’ve been together for decades. By doing the 36 questions you’re establishing to one another how important your relationship is, how invested you are in one another and how interesting you find the other person – even after 20, 30 or 40 years. And this – is powerful.
Originally published at Therapy by Leigh.