The passion at the beginning of a new love relationship can be very seductive and quite powerful. We often expect the fire to burn brightly forever, only to become disillusioned when we soon experience conflict and disappointment, or maybe even apathy. Now, our perfect partner has tumbled off her pedestal. But wait, you’re still in love! Even though you’re not always “in like,” we need to understand that long-term relationships do not give us perfection but do give us meaning. They involve work. Especially when you live together, the practical and mundane aspects of daily life can get in the way of both emotional and physical intimacy.
To keep love vibrant, to rekindle the spark that originally brought you together, it’s very important to set aside time to communicate—to purposefully interact in a structured and scheduled way.
So, here are some specific ideas to get conversation going. This will enable you and your partner to reconnect and rediscover the stimulation of the romantic stage that you experienced either months, years, or even decades ago. But before you begin your intentional interaction you must:
- Create a comfortable environment for both of you. This can either be at home, in a quiet restaurant, or even in a tent in your yard.
- Choose a time (at least 30 minutes) where you can count on few or no interruptions. This includes turning off all devices (phones, laptops, tablets, and the television). You must also make sure that the kids and the furbabies are either sleeping or otherwise supervised or entertained.
- Bring a notebook and pen for each of you for any written exercises or for any brainstorms that may occur.
Let the Communication Begin!
Conversation starters are questions that can involve your or your partner’s past, present, or future. They can be specific and down to earth, or general and way out there. The only ground rules are keeping questions positive and respectful—no judgment, sarcasm, or criticism allowed. Follow-up your responses with open-ended questions or statements. For example, if you were to ask your partner, “What is your favorite kind of birthday cake?” and her answer is “German chocolate,” you can then ask, “What were some other birthday memories you had growing up?” As you can see, emotional intimacy is not all that difficult to navigate. For other examples of open-ended questions or statements, just watch interview shows like Ellen or Stephen Colbert and you’ll see how it works. These kinds of questions (and statements), such as “Tell me more,” or “How do you feel about that?,” all encourage lengthy responses, hence more emotional intimacy.
Both of you can choose a list of 5-10 general topics (but stay away from current areas of conflict). General areas might include affection, pets, extended family, spirituality, friends, career, home (just to name a few). Then, individually write 3-5 questions you’d like to ask your partner under each heading.
Give it a try. Then move onto the harder stuff. If you find that you need help, always know that you can reach out to counselors and therapists or try couples’ communication books or articles for more specific suggestions.